After reading the novel Esperanza Rising, questions and test review can help students understand the first half of the book.
Review Questions for the First Half of the Novel
Aguascalientes, Mexico to Las Papas (Potatoes)
1. What is the setting when the story begins?
El Rancho de las Rosas, Aguascalientes, Mexico 1924. The first chapter begins in 1930.
2. What happened to Papa the day before Esperanza’s thirteenth birthday?
He was ambushed by bandits and murdered.
3. Why didn’t Esperanza and her mother stay in the house after her father was murdered?
While the house was left to Mama, the land was left to Tío Luis because it was “not customary to leave land to women" (p. 30). Tío Luis offers to combine their property and asks Ramona to marry him. Ramona refuses.
4. Why does Tío Luis want Mama to marry him?
Ramona Ortega and her husband were well-liked and respected in the community. Tío Luis plans to run for governor and he wants Ramona’s influence. “With you as his wife, Luis could win any election," (p. 33).
5. How did Esperanza, Mama and Abuelita know the uncles had arranged the fire?
Tío Luis threatened that Mama would regret her decision to not marry him.
6. After the fire, why does Mama tell Tío Luis she will consider his proposal?
She is trying to give her family and friends time to prepare for their departure from Mexico without having any further incidents occur. She is also using her acceptance to her advantage by asking Tío Luis to have a wagon sent over, the wagon they will use for their escape.
7. What is in the package Miguel and Alfonso carry on the train?
They carry cuttings from Papa’s rose garden.
8. Why does Esperanza not pull her hand away from Silvia’s dirty hand?
She recalls Mama’s act of kindness to the peasant girl on the train and Mama’s disappointment at the way Esperanza had treated the girl, so she reasons that it must be hard to stay clean in such a dirty place and accepts the little girl’s hand.
9. Why does Miguel choose to work in the fields instead of for the railroad fixing engines?
The railroad will only hire Mexicans to dig ditches or lay track, not to work as mechanics.
10. What else does Esperanza do to demonstrate she is willing to accept the changes that come with her new life in California?
She asks Isabel for help with learning how to take care of the housework and watch Pepe and Lupe.
11. What is Isabel’s advice on how to deal with an embarrassing situation?
It’s best just to face people and laugh if they tease you.
12. Why does Marta want the workers to strike with her? Why do the people at Esperanza’s camp choose not to strike?
Marta says if they all stick together, the ranchers and farm companies will be forced to provide them with better living conditions and more pay since all of their workers will refuse to work. People at Esperanza’s camp choose not to strike because they do not want to sacrifice losing their jobs. They are more concerned with feeding their families at a time when so many people do not have jobs or a way to feed their families.
13. What does Esperanza feed the twins on the first day she must watch them alone? What happens as a result?
Esperanza mashes some plums and feeds them to the babies. As a result, they become sick with diarrhea and Esperanza must change their diapers over and over again. Then she remembers to give the babies rice water to ease their stomachs.
14. Why didn’t anyone say anything about Esperanza’s day with the sick babies and the burnt beans?
The reader can conclude perhaps they felt Esperanza been through enough for one day. No need to kick someone when they’re already down.
15. What caused the afternoon sky to look so peculiar?
A dust storm caused the change in the sky.
16. How does the dust storm affect the people at the camp?
People are forced to seek shelter. The dust covers everything, including the people, and causes them to cough. The fine particles make their way into mama’s lungs. The crops are also covered with dirt.
17. Why do the workers talk about preparing potatoes while they are still packing grapes?
The workers and the farmers must always prepare for the change that comes with the next growing season.
18. What happens to Mama as a result of the dust storm?
She grows weaker, gets a fever, and when the doctor arrives, they learn she has Valley Fever.
19. What does Abuelita’s blanket of zigzag rows represent?
Abuelita’s blanket represents the memories and love that Esperanza’s grandmother sent with her, it represents that she should not be afraid to start over, and it represents that life has its ups and downs.
20. Why is Mama depressed?
In a few months’ time she has lost her husband, her home, her money, and she is separated from her mother. She is overwhelmed with so many sad emotions.
21. What threats do strikers face? What happens to people who choose to not help the strikers?
They might lose their jobs or, worse still, they might be rounded up by immigration officers and sent back to Mexico, even if they are U.S. citizens and have never set foot in Mexico. If workers choose to cross the picket line and work, the people on strike will try to hurt them. They can be injured, frightened, or intimidated out of their jobs.
22. What does Esperanza remember about Christmas in Aguascalientes? What does Esperanza want for Christmas this year?
She doesn’t remember the gifts, only being happy. She wants more work, for Mama to get well, and soft hands.
The 2nd Half of the Novel
Los Aguacates (Avocados) to Las Uvas (Grapes)
1. What did Esperanza do with the money she earned?
She bought money orders and stored them in her valise.
2. How does Mama’s pneumonia cause Esperanza more sorrow?
Esperanza will not be allowed to visit Mama for at least a month.
3. How does Hortensia try to lift Esperanza’s spirits?
Hortensia sends Esperanza and Miguel for the groceries on Saturday.
4. Why does Esperanza’s family shop at Mr. Yakota’s store?
He stocks many of the items they like to purchase, and he treats them like people.
5. In what sort of camp do Marta and her mother live?
It is very poor and dirty with no running water or shelter for the people. They must use an irrigation ditch to wash clothes, cook their food outside, sleep in simple tents or use blankets hung from ropes for their shelter.
6. Why does Esperanza offer beans and her piñata to the homeless family?
She sees they are hungry and has the means to help.
7. Why does Marta warn Esperanza and Miguel about the strike?
She returned one kindness for another. It could also be that she understood Esperanza’s choice to not strike—she had to do what was necessary to help her mother.
8. Josefina asks, “How could anyone starve with so much food around…?" Why is this statement ironic?
It is an ironic statement because while the food is everywhere, it does not belong to them. Also, some of the hungriest, neediest people in the country at the time tried to find work in one of the most bountiful regions of the country.
9. Why did the strikers stop their chanting?
Immigration officials showed up with buses to take people on the picket line away. They would be sent to Mexico, whether they were U.S. citizens or not.
10. Who did Esperanza find hiding in the packing shed? How did she respond?
Marta was hiding in the packing shed. Esperanza decided to help her by providing her with an apron and a bundle of asparagus to help her blend in with the rest of the workers.
11. What does Isabel aspire to become? Will she get her wish?
She wants to become the Queen of the May. Even though Isabel has the grades to qualify to become Queen of the May, the teacher usually finds a way to crown a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl instead.
12. How are Miguel and Isabel alike?
Both Miguel and Isabel work hard but are not rewarded for their merit because they are Mexican.
13. When can Mexicans swim in the pool? Why?
Mexicans can only swim in the pool the day before it is cleaned. Stereotypes within the community condone the idea that Mexicans are, as an ethnic group, a dirtier group of people.
14. What reasons does Esperanza have for being upset about the way Mexicans are treated in the community?
The pool is segregated; Miguel is only offered menial jobs even though he is highly qualified to work on train engines; Isabel has the highest grades, but she is not chosen as Queen of May; strikers speak their mind to try and create a better quality of life for other Mexicans, but they are bussed back to Mexico even if they are U.S. citizens and have never even been to Mexico.
15. Where does Miguel tell his parents he is going? What does Esperanza think about his decision to leave?
Miguel says he is going to look for work on the railroad in northern California. Esperanza thinks he has left because she told him he was still a peasant since he would not stand up for himself against those who had wronged him.
16. How does Esperanza console Isabel for not being crowned Queen of the May? Why does she do this?
Esperanza gives Isabel the porcelain doll her father gave her for her birthday. She tells Isabel it is because she is too old to play with dolls and her father would not like to know that the doll was kept in her valise all this time and not appreciated. Esperanza wants Isabel to know she is special.
17. What news does the doctor share with Esperanza and Hortensia?
He says her mother is doing better and she can go home in one week’s time.
18. What discovery does Esperanza make after checking her valise? Who does she suspect of committing this crime?
Esperanza learns that all of the money orders she has been saving to bring Abuelita from Mexico are gone. She suspects Miguel has stolen them.
19. Why does Alfonso go the packing shed to find Esperanza?
Alfonso and Hortensia received a message from Miguel. They need to meet him at the bus station in Bakersfield and they need to take Esperanza with them.
20. What surprise does Miguel have waiting for Esperanza at the bus station?
Miguel has gone to Mexico and brought back Abuelita.
21. Why did Abuelita not join them in the United States sooner?
Abuelita was being watched and followed by Tío Luis’ spies.
22. What did Abuelita find in the garden at the convent which she interpreted as a sign?
Abuelita found an injured bird that she did not think would fly again. When the bird flew the next morning, she took it as a sign that whatever was wrong was now better.
23. How did Esperanza measure her time since she’d left Aguascalientes?
Like a field worker, she measured time by the fruits and vegetables that grew and what needed to be done to the land.
24. How does Esperanza show Miguel that she has made a connection with the land in California?
She shows Miguel how to listen to the earth’s heart beat.
25. What advice does Esperanza offer Isabel about learning how to crochet?
Esperanza gives Isabel the advice Abuelita gave her: do not be afraid to start over.
These Esperanza Rising questions and test review can also be used as a pre-test, a reading quiz, or the questions can be assigned in small groups at the conclusion of the novel. You might also use them in a power point for whole group discussion and review.
Muñoz-Ryan, Pam. Esperanza Rising. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2000.