That night, everyone returns from the field with aches and pains—especially Mama, whose first day of work in the fields has been particularly hard. Still, Mama gets to work cooking with the other women, and Esperanza lends a hand, too. After dinner, Miguel and Alfonso tell Ramona and Esperanza that they have a surprise to show them. They follow the two men out behind the cabin to an old washtub which has been set on its side, transformed into “a little shrine around a plastic statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe.” At the base of the shrine, Miguel and Alfonso have planted a few stems salvaged from Papa’s rose garden—they kept them damp and safe all the way to California. Alfonso and Miguel are hopeful that “in time,” they will bloom.
The next morning, all of the women bring big washtubs into one cabin so that they can take baths before the fiesta that evening. When it is Esperanza’s turn, she holds her arms out and waits for Hortensia to take her clothes off and help her into the bath—but Mama comes over to Esperanza and explains that Hortensia is no longer their servant, and Esperanza is old enough to bathe herself. Sensing Esperanza’s embarrassment, Hortensia gently tells the girl that they all help each other here—she begins undoing the buttons Esperanza can’t reach, and asks Esperanza to help Isabel get into the water.
Esperanza is still adjusting to the fact that Hortensia, Miguel, and Alfonso are now her and her mother’s equals. Hortensia, though, understands how difficult these changes are for Esperanza, and with grace and empathy turns the moment into a lesson about how now they can all be of help to one another.
After a refreshing bath, Esperanza and Isabel dress in their nicest clothes for the party and help Josefina shell some almonds for a dessert she’s making. Esperanza expresses her nervousness about going to the party—she is worried that Marta and the others will tease her—but Isabel insists she should “get it over with” and laugh along with any jokes people make at her expense. Isabel admits that Marta is a grating presence at these parties for everyone—she is always trying to rile people up and get them talking about a strike.
Even in rare moments of leisure and happiness at the camp, the pressures of the workers’ hard jobs and unfair pay cannot be fully ignored, and the more radical workers among the group insist on making their voices heard.
That night, the center of camp is full of people who have come from neighboring camps, to join the party. People dance and sing together, and someone even brings a box full of a litter of new kittens for adoption. Marta, however, seizes one of the kittens and holds it up in front of a crowd, declaring that their group of workers are “small, meek animals” who allow themselves to be taken advantage of by the camp bosses. She announces that there will be a strike in two weeks, at the peak of cotton season. She urges all the Mexican workers to join the movement. People from the crowd begin heckling Marta, though, urging her to go back to her own camp—as Marta and her friends hop into the back of a truck and drive off, they can be heard chanting huelga, or “strike,” over and over.
Marta is devoted to her radical ideas, and committed to getting others on her side—even in the midst of a banal social gathering. She knows that if she gets enough people talking, she will hopefully be able to effect real change in the camp, and even though she’s booed away from the party, she has a small but devoted group of supporters who share her idealistic passion.
Back at the cabin, Esperanza asks Josefina why Marta is so angry. Josefina explains that Marta and her mother travel for work all over the state and often end up in migrant camps, where the conditions are terrible. On the company camp, where things are relatively good, many workers are afraid to strike for fear of losing their jobs to the droves of desperate Oklahomans coming in every day, even though they know that they deserve higher wages for their work. That night, in bed, when Isabel asks Esperanza for another story about her fancy life in Mexico, Esperanza feels guilty when she thinks about the “richness of her life in Aguascalientes” compared to the pain and toil of Marta’s life.
Esperanza has harbored bad feelings towards Marta, but is now beginning to understand how much she has suffered and endured. Esperanza feels sympathy—if not empathy—for Marta, and for the first time comes to see how her own wealth and privilege back in Mexico were in many ways unfair compared to the plight of so many millions of people living in poverty all around her.
Later, when Mama comes to bed, she tells Esperanza how proud she is of her for working hard and learning to adjust to their new lives. Tomorrow, she says, they’ll go to church. Esperanza says she’ll pray for Miguel to find a job and for Abuelita to get well soon and come to America. When she asks Mama what she’ll pray for, Mama replies that she’ll pray for Esperanza to be strong “no matter what happens.”
Esperanza and Mama are grateful to have one another to lean on, even though times are tough and their situation is still precarious and unpredictable.