Meme Ortiz’s family rents their basement as an apartment to a family from Puerto Rico. Louie is the oldest son of the Puerto Rican family, and he becomes friends with one of Esperanza’s brothers. Louie’s cousin Marin also lives with them in the basement. She is older than Esperanza and wears dark nylons and lots of makeup, which she gets for free from selling Avon makeup.
The character of Marin first introduces the theme of sexuality. She is older and more experienced, and her clothing and appearance suggest a kind of sexual maturity that Esperanza finds admirable. The neighborhood is not only Chicano (Mexican-American) but Latino (all Central and South American).
Louie has another cousin who drives up one day in a fancy yellow Cadillac. He lets all the neighborhood kids get in the car and Louie’s cousin drives around the block several times. Esperanza is awed by the soft seats and automatic windows. The seventh time the car goes around the block, police cars appear with their sirens on. Louie’s cousin makes everyone get out of the car and then he tries to race off, but he crashes into a lamppost at the end of the alley. The police arrest him (it’s implied that he stole the car), and the neighborhood kids wave at him as he is driven away.
Louie’s cousin’s crime shows both the darker side of the barrio and another means of trying to escape. Stealing a car is a serious crime, but Louie’s cousin seemingly only wants it to take a joy ride and impress the neighborhood children. This is, in its own way, a kind of dreaming through something more beautiful than real life – in this case a beautiful car. Yet such dreams are only accessible to Louie through theft.