Esperanza Rising

by

Pam Muñoz Ryan

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Hortensia Character Analysis

Alfonso’s wife, Miguel’s mother, and the Ortega family’s housekeeper, Hortensia is a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca who takes good care of Esperanza and her entire family and truly loves the Ortegas. Hortensia is almost a second mother to Esperanza, and when Sixto dies, she and her family bring Esperanza and Ramona along with them to California to shelter them from the cruel plots of Luis and Marco. Empathetic, giving, and loving, Hortensia and her family’s relationship with the Ortegas shows how class, wealth, and privilege are on one level only constructs: what’s more important are the relationships one cultivates and the love, support, and care one provides others in their times of need.

Hortensia Quotes in Esperanza Rising

The Esperanza Rising quotes below are all either spoken by Hortensia or refer to Hortensia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scholastic edition of Esperanza Rising published in 2000.
Chapter 4 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Ramona Ortega / Mama (speaker), Alfonso, Hortensia, Miguel
Related Symbols: The River
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

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.”

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Ramona Ortega / Mama (speaker), Hortensia (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Marta
Page Number: 126-127
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Isabel (speaker), Ramona Ortega / Mama, Sixto Ortega / Papa, Abuelita, Hortensia
Page Number: 173-174
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Hortensia (speaker), Esperanza Ortega, Ramona Ortega / Mama
Page Number: 181-182
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

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.”

Related Characters: Alfonso (speaker), Hortensia (speaker), Miguel (speaker), Juan (speaker), Josefina (speaker), Esperanza Ortega
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

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.

Related Symbols: Papa’s Roses
Page Number: 251-252
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Esperanza Rising LitChart as a printable PDF.
Esperanza Rising PDF

Hortensia Character Timeline in Esperanza Rising

The timeline below shows where the character Hortensia appears in Esperanza Rising. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Las Uvas (Grapes)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
The housemaid Hortensia comes in with a plate of sandwiches for Abuelita, Esperanza, and Mama, and urges them... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Miguel is Hortensia and Alfonso’s sixteen-year-old son, and he and Esperanza have been friends all their lives. Esperanza... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Abuelita, Hortensia, and Mama light candles and pray for Papa’s safe return. Esperanza continues crocheting and tries... (full context)
Chapter 2: Las Papayas (Papayas)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...in tears as she tells Señor Rodriguez—one of Papa’s oldest friends—that her father is dead. Hortensia appears and puts her arms around Esperanza, comforting her as she sobs. (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
That evening, Mama, Abuelita, Esperanza, Hortensia, and Alfonso discuss what they should do. Abuelita has money in the bank—though Luis would... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...to work—there is no room for social advancement in Mexico, and even if Alfonso and Hortensia did try to make a life for themselves on the small piece of land Sixto... (full context)
Chapter 3: Los Higos (Figs)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...done—Ramona tells Esperanza, though, that she knows what she is doing, and hurries her, Alfonso, Hortensia, and Miguel back into the cabin so that they can talk privately. (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...others, but due to Marco and Luis’s influence they’d probably have no friends or allies. Hortensia speaks up and says that together, she and Alfonso have decided to go to the... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...a way to discreetly get Esperanza and Ramona new papers for the border crossing. Though Hortensia and Miguel warn Mama that there is only fieldwork in California, she insists she is... (full context)
Chapter 4: Las Guayabas (Guavas)
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Señor Rodriguez hurries Mama, Hortensia, and Esperanza into a secret compartment in the wagon specially built for them. It is... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
As they set out on their journey, Esperanza is nervous, but Hortensia comforts her by reminding her of a night when bandits came to the house to... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Two days later, Esperanza, Mama, Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel at last arrive in Zacatecas. As Esperanza stretches while waiting for the... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...“bad manners.” Quietly, Ramona tells Esperanza that when she scorns “these people,” she scorns Miguel, Hortensia, and Alfonso, too. Mama takes out her crocheting bag and makes a yarn doll for... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...a cage full of hens, whose eggs she sells to feed her family, Mama and Hortensia begin talking and gossiping with her, sharing their life stories even though the woman is... (full context)
Chapter 5: Los Melones (Cantaloupes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...and waves them through. While the two of them wait to be reunited with Miguel, Hortensia, and Alfonso, they watch as many people are sent back across the border because of... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...that his family already feels they know them because of all the letters he and Hortensia have written about them over the years. When Miguel introduces Esperanza to his little cousin,... (full context)
Chapter 6: Las Cebollas (Onions)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...to a small cabin with two rooms, and Esperanza asks if this is theirs or Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel’s—Ramona explains that they will all share this cabin together. As Mama begins... (full context)
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...and most of the night. It is nearly dawn, and in the kitchen, Mama and Hortensia are eating breakfast and drinking coffee—they already have work today. Mama explains that Isabel and... (full context)
Chapter 7: Las Almendras (Almonds)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8: Las Ciruelas (Plums)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...too much for their stomachs. She remembers that when she was little and feeling sick, Hortensia used to boil rice water to soothe her stomach. For the rest of the afternoon,... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
A few days later, Mama is looking pale and feeling lightheaded. Though Hortensia suggests Mama go to see a doctor, she insists she’s fine and just needs to... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
The doctor tells Hortensia and Esperanza that they will need to keep her fever down as the disease works... (full context)
Chapter 9: Las Papas (Potatoes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...depressed. Esperanza begins crying, afraid that “the hospital is where people go to die,” but Hortensia assures her that Mama is going to the hospital to get better. Esperanza asks what... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...she has failed her mother in some way, and becomes determined to write to Abuelita. Hortensia warns her that her uncles will surely be monitoring the mail, but Esperanza knows she... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...work, but Esperanza is determined. Miguel suggests Esperanza go to work cutting potato eyes with Hortensia and Josefina for the next few weeks—if she’s good at that job, they’ll hire her... (full context)
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
A few days later, Esperanza is bundled in a small wooden shed with Josefina, Hortensia, and a group of other women. They are wrapped in blankets, shawls, and gloves, and... (full context)
Chapter 10: Los Aguacates (Avocados)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...frozen, cracked hands in a bowl of water. She barely recognizes them as her own. Hortensia makes a paste of avocado and glycerine for Esperanza to coat her hands in—after long... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Three weeks later, it is the first day of spring, and Hortensia urges Esperanza to take advantage of the nice weather and get out of camp for... (full context)
Chapter 11: Los Espárragos (Asparagus)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
When Esperanza, Hortensia, and Josefina arrive at the packing shed on the first day of the strike, they... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...la migra. Esperanza worries that the officials will come for her and the others, but Hortensia explains that the company needs them, and will guard them. (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...strikers simply to make more jobs for the white Americans coming in from the east. Hortensia is relieved that the strike is over, but Miguel says it isn’t—in time, the strikers... (full context)
Chapter 12: Los Duraznos (Peaches)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
A few days later, Esperanza and Hortensia visit the hospital to check on Mama. Good news awaits them—the doctor says that Mama... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
All week, Esperanza, Hortensia, and Josefina prepare for Mama’s return, making the house neat and clean. That Saturday, Mama... (full context)
Chapter 13: Las Uvas (Grapes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Esperanza, Hortensia, and Alfonso ride down to Los Angeles in the heat to await Miguel’s arrival. When... (full context)