Hortensia Quotes in Esperanza Rising
Mama looked at Esperanza. “I don’t think it would have hurt to let her hold [the doll] for a few moments.”
"Mama, she is poor and dirty . . . ” said Esperanza.
But Mama interrupted. "When you scorn these people, you scorn Miguel, Hortensia, and Alfonso. And you embarrass me and yourself. As difficult as it is to accept, our lives are different now.”
The child kept crying. Her face was so dirty that her tears washed clean streaks down her cheeks. Esperanza suddenly felt ashamed and the color rose in her face, but she still pushed the valise farther under the seat with her feet and turned her body away from Mama.
Esperanza went to one of the washtubs, put her hands out to her sides, and waited. Josefina looked at Hortensia and raised her eyebrows.
Isabel said, “Esperanza, what are you doing?”
Mama walked over to Esperanza and said softly, “I’ve been thinking that you are old enough to bathe yourself, don’t you think?”
Esperanza quickly dropped her arms and remembered Marta’s taunting voice saying, “No one will be waiting on you here.”
“Yes, Mama,” she said, and for the second time in two days, she felt her face burning as everyone stared at her.
Hortensia came over, put her arm around Esperanza and said, “We are accustomed to doing things a certain way, aren’t we, Esperanza? But I guess I am not too old to change. We will help each other. I will unbutton the buttons you cannot reach and you will help Isabel, yes? Josefina, we need more hot water in these tubs. Andale, hurry.”
As Hortensia helped her with her blouse, Esperanza whispered, “Thank you.”
“What was Christmas like at El Rancho de las Rosas?” Isabel never tired of Esperanza’s stories about her previous life.
Esperanza stared up at the ceiling, searching her memories. “Mama decorated with Advent wreaths and candles. Papa set up the nativity on a bed of moss in the front hall. And Hortensia cooked for days. There were empanadas filled with meat and sweet raisin tamales. You would have loved how Abuelita decorated her gifts. She used dried grapevines and flowers, instead of ribbons. On Christmas Eve, the house was always filled with laughter and people calling out, ‘Feliz Navidad.’ Later, we went to the catedral and sat with hundreds of people and held candles during midnight mass. Then we came home in the middle of the night, still smelling of incense from the church, and drank warm atole de chocolate, and opened our gifts.”
Isabel sucked in her breath and gushed, “What kind of gifts?”
“I . . . I can’t remember,” said Esperanza, braiding the yarn doll’s legs. “All I remember is being happy.”
Hortensia rubbed the avocado mixture into Esperanza’s hands. “You must keep it on for twenty minutes so your hands will soak up the oils.”
Esperanza looked at her hands covered in the greasy green lotion and remembered when Mama used to sit like this, after a long day of gardening or after horseback rides with Papa through the dry mesquite grasslands. When she was a little girl, she had laughed at Mama’s hands covered in what looked like guacamole. But she had loved for her to rinse them because afterward, Esperanza would take Mama’s hands and put the palms on her own face so she could feel their suppleness and breathe in the fresh smell.
[Esperanza] put her hands under the faucet, rinsed off the avocado, and patted them dry. They felt better, but still looked red and weathered. She took another avocado, cut it in half, swung the knife into the pit and pulled it from the flesh. She repeated Hortensia’s recipe and as she sat for the second time with her hands smothered, she realized that it wouldn’t matter how much avocado and glycerine she put on them, they would never look like the hands of a wealthy woman from El Rancho de las Rosas. Because they were the hands of a poor campesina.
Esperanza lay in bed that night and listened to the others in the front room talk about the sweeps and the deportations.
“They went to every major grower and put hundreds of strikers on the buses,” said Juan.
“Some say they did it to create more jobs for those coming from the east,” said Josefina. “We are lucky the company needs us right now. If they didn’t, we could be next.”
“We have been loyal to the company and the company will be loyal to us!” said Alfonso.
“I’m just glad it’s over,” said Hortensia.
“It is not over,” said Miguel. “In time, they will be back, especially if they have families here. They will reorganize and they will be stronger. There will come a time when we will have to decide all over again whether to join them or not.”
On the morning of her birthday, Esperanza heard the voices coming from outside her window. She could pick out Miguel’s, Alfonso’s, and Juan’s.
She sat up in bed and listened. And smiled. Esperanza lifted the curtain. Isabel came over to her bed and looked out with her, clutching her doll. They both blew kisses to the men who sang the birthday song. Then Esperanza waved them inside, not to open gifts, but because she could already smell coffee coming from the kitchen.
They gathered for breakfast: Mama and Abuelita, Hortensia and Alfonso, Josefina and Juan, the babies and Isabel. Irene and Melina came, too, with their family. And Miguel. It wasn’t exactly like the birthdays of her past. But it would still be a celebration, under the mulberry and chinaberry trees, with newborn rosebuds from Papa’s garden.