Esperanza Rising

by

Pam Muñoz Ryan

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Miguel Character Analysis

The sixteen-year-old son of Alfonso and Hortensia, Miguel and Esperanza have been friends and playmates since they were small. Sixto has always doted on Miguel, and Miguel, a mechanical whiz kid, works hard on the ranch, helping Sixto to fix “anything with a motor” on all of Rancho de las Rosas. When they were younger Esperanza was often jealous of the bond between Miguel and her Papa, though she also harbored a crush on the boy and once even declared her intention to marry him. As Esperanza grew older, though, she began to understand that “a deep river” ran between the two of them—Esperanza is “la reina” and Miguel is, and always will be, her family’s servant. This all changes after Sixto’s death, when Esperanza finds herself plunged into poverty and Miguel’s equal at last—though the absence of a “river” between them does not make her happy. While Esperanza harbors dreams of returning to her life of luxury, Miguel attempts to impress upon Esperanza the need for acceptance, and grows frustrated with her when she continues to act as if she’s better than him even as they work side by side on the company farm in California. Despite the tensions between them, Esperanza and Miguel are friends and confidants—until Esperanza believes Miguel has stolen the money orders she’s been saving up in her valise and run away to Northern California to work on the railroads. Miguel soon returns, though, with Abuelita in tow—he has gone on a perilous journey to Mexico to retrieve her for Ramona and Esperanza. By the end of the novel, Esperanza at last manages to realize that there is no “river” between her and Miguel—and that there never was.

Miguel Quotes in Esperanza Rising

The Esperanza Rising quotes below are all either spoken by Miguel or refer to Miguel. 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 1 Quotes

Now that [Esperanza] was a young woman, she understood that Miguel was the housekeeper’s son and she was the ranch owner’s daughter and between them ran a deep river. Esperanza stood on one side and Miguel stood on the other and the river could never be crossed. In a moment of self-importance, Esperanza had told all of this to Miguel. Since then, he had spoken only a few words to her. When their paths crossed, he nodded and said politely, “Mi reina, my queen,” but nothing more. There was no teasing or laughing or talking about every little thing. Esperanza pretended not to care, though she secretly wished she had never told Miguel about the river.

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega, Miguel
Related Symbols: The River
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

“My father and I have lost faith in our country. We were born servants here and no matter how hard we work we will always be servants. Your father was a good man. He gave us a small piece of land and a cabin. But your uncles . . . you know their reputation. They would take it all away and treat us like animals. We will not work for them. The work is hard in the United States but at least there we have a chance to be more than servants.”

“But Mama and Abuelita . . . they need . . . we need you.”

“My father says we won’t leave until it is necessary.” He reached over and took her hand. “I’m sorry about your papa.”

His touch was warm and Esperanza’s heart skipped. She looked at her hand in his and felt the color rushing to her face. Surprised at her own blush, she pulled away from him. She stood and stared at the roses.

An awkward silence built a wall between them. She glanced quickly at him. He was still looking at her, with eyes full of hurt. Before Miguel left her there, he said softly, “You were right, Esperanza. In Mexico we stand on different sides of the river.”

Related Symbols: The River, Papa’s Roses
Page Number: 36-37
Explanation and Analysis:
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

Isabel gasped. “It’s beautiful. Is that our statue?”

Josefina nodded. “But the roses come from far away.”

Esperanza searched Miguel’s face, her eyes hopeful. “Papa’s?”

“Yes, these are your papa’s roses,” said Miguel, smiling at her.

Alfonso had dug circles of earth around each plant, casitas, little houses, that made moats for deep watering. Just like he had done in Aguascalientes.

“But how?” Esperanza remembered the rose garden as a blackened graveyard.

“After the fire, my father and I dug down to the roots. Many were still healthy. We carried the cuttings from Aguascalientes. And that’s why we had to keep them wet. We think they will grow. In time, we will see how many bloom.”

Esperanza bent closer to look at the stems rooted in mulch. They were leafless and stubby, but lovingly planted.

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Miguel (speaker), Josefina (speaker), Isabel (speaker)
Related Symbols: Papa’s Roses
Page Number: 123-124
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 12 Quotes

“Is this the better life that you left Mexico for? Is it? Nothing is right here! Isabel will certainly not be queen no matter how badly she wants it because she is Mexican. You cannot work on engines because you are Mexican. We have gone to work through angry crowds of our own people who threw rocks at us, and I’m afraid they might have been right! They send people back to Mexico even if they don’t belong there, just for speaking up. We live in a horse stall. And none of this bothers you? Have you heard that they are building a new camp for Okies, with a swimming pool? The Mexicans can only swim in it on the afternoon before they clean it! Have you heard they will be given inside toilets and hot water? Why is that, Miguel? Is it because they are the fairest in the land? Tell me! Is this life really better than being a servant in Mexico?”

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Miguel, Isabel
Page Number: 221-222
Explanation and Analysis:

“Anza, everything will work out,” he said.

Esperanza backed away from him and shook her head, “How do you know these things, Miguel? Do you have some prophecy that I do not? I have lost everything. Every single thing and all the things that I was meant to be. See these perfect rows, Miguel? They are like what my life would have been. These rows know where they are going. Straight ahead. Now my life is like the zigzag in the blanket on Mama’s bed. I need to get Abuelita here, but I cannot even send her my pitiful savings for fear my uncles will find out and keep her there forever. I pay Mama’s medical bills but next month there will be more. I can’t stand your blind hope. I don’t want to hear your optimism about this land of possibility when I see no proof!”

“As bad as things are, we have to keep trying.”

“But it does no good! Look at yourself. Are you standing on the other side of the river? No! You are still a peasant!”

With eyes as hard as green plums, Miguel stared at her and his face contorted into a disgusted grimace. “And you still think you are a queen.”

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Miguel (speaker), Ramona Ortega / Mama, Abuelita
Related Symbols: Crocheting, The River
Page Number: 223-224
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

[Esperanza] had her family, a garden full of roses, her faith, and the memories of those who had gone before her. But now, she had even more than that, and it carried her up, as on the wings of the phoenix. She soared with the anticipation of dreams she never knew she could have, of learning English, of supporting her family, of someday buying a tiny house. Miguel had been right about never giving up, and she had been right, too, about rising above those who held them down.

She hovered high above the valley, its basin surrounded by the mountains. She swooped over Papa’s rose blooms, buoyed by rosehips that remembered all the beauty they had seen. She waved at Isabel and Abuelita, walking barefoot in the vineyards, wearing grapevine wreaths in their hair. She saw Mama, sitting on a blanket, a cacophony of color that covered an acre in zigzag rows. She saw Marta and her mother walking in an almond grove, holding hands. Then she flew over a river, a thrusting torrent that cut through the mountains.

Related Symbols: The River, Papa’s Roses
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

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

Miguel Character Timeline in Esperanza Rising

The timeline below shows where the character Miguel 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
...for Abuelita, Esperanza, and Mama, and urges them not to worry—her husband Alfonso and son Miguel have ridden out to the edge of the ranch to search for Papa, and she... (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... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hours later, there is still no sign of Alfonso, Miguel, and Papa. A pair of riders approach, but it is only Tío Luis and Tío... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...soon a wagon comes into view. As the wagon comes closer, it is clear that Miguel and Alfonso are driving it—and that there is a body in the back, covered in... (full context)
Chapter 2: Las Papayas (Papayas)
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
After a little while, Miguel comes outside to sit with her. It is the first time they’ve been alone or... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Miguel confides in Esperanza that he and his family are thinking of leaving for the United... (full context)
Chapter 3: Los Higos (Figs)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Miguel carries Abuelita out of the house. Abuelita is alive but weak, and has sustained an... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...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)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...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 strong enough... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...carry. Esperanza takes a small valise filled with clothes and her porcelain doll from Papa. Miguel and Alfonso lead them through the burnt grape rows to the Rodriguez ranch. At the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Las Guayabas (Guavas)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...her of a night when bandits came to the house to loot it—and Esperanza, Mama, Miguel, and Hortensia all hid under a bed upstairs. When the bandits got to the bedroom,... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
One day, Esperanza and Miguel both got all dressed up, and Papa took them on a train ride to Zacatecas.... (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 train, she looks... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...daughter’s “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... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
At each stop the train makes, Miguel and Alfonso hurry off with a mysterious package, and then hurry back on just before... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...Esperanza watches out the window as she gives some money to a “crippled Indian woman.” Miguel watches too, and remarks that “the rich take care of the rich and the poor... (full context)
Chapter 5: Los Melones (Cantaloupes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...papers 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... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...of all the letters he and Hortensia have written about them over the years. When Miguel introduces Esperanza to his little cousin, Isabel, the eight-year-old girl immediately begins asking Esperanza about... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...feels herself careening out of control. After she calms down a bit, she realizes that Miguel is standing over her—he asks if she’s all right, and then admits that he, too,... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...company farm in the San Joaquin Valley. As they head into camp, a girl about Miguel’s age waves at Juan, and he stops to pick her up in his truck. Isabel... (full context)
Chapter 6: Las Cebollas (Onions)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...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 unpacking, she sings... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Miguel enters the room with a dustpan and broom and teaches Esperanza the proper and efficient... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Miguel leaves, and Isabel asks Esperanza once more to tell her about her life “as a... (full context)
Chapter 7: Las Almendras (Almonds)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
Chapter 9: Las Papas (Potatoes)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...evening, Esperanza, knowing she has to find a way to bring some money in, asks Miguel to help her find some work so that she can earn money and help bring... (full context)
Chapter 10: Los Aguacates (Avocados)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
One afternoon, Esperanza and Miguel go to visit Mama at the hospital, but her doctor stops them from going down... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...worried about her. Esperanza takes a grocery list from Hortensia’s hands and goes to fetch Miguel so that they can go to a nearby Japanese market—the proprietor, Mr. Yakota, is kind... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
While Miguel talks to some men about a railroad job outside, Esperanza goes into the market and... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
On the way back to camp, Miguel and Esperanza see Marta and her mother walking down the road, and stop to give... (full context)
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Miguel and Esperanza drop Marta and her mother off at the strikers’ farm, where the conditions... (full context)
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...few nights later, Esperanza arrives home from a hard day’s work to find a splendid meal—Miguel’s favorite dinner—laid out in the kitchen. Miguel announces that he’s finally secured a job in... (full context)
Chapter 11: Los Espárragos (Asparagus)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...night at dinner, Esperanza and the other women compare their days with Alfonso, Juan, and Miguel’s—their workdays, too, were affected by the strike. (full context)
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...or illegal, their campaign will continue. Alfonso states that things will soon get better, but Miguel thinks they’ll get worse—workers from desperate plains states have been flocking to the farms offering... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...Americans coming in from the east. Hortensia is relieved that the strike is over, but Miguel says it isn’t—in time, the strikers will regroup, reorganize, and come back even stronger, and... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
The next morning, Esperanza asks Miguel to drive her to the strikers’ farm before the start of work. When they arrive,... (full context)
Chapter 12: Los Duraznos (Peaches)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Miguel comes in and announces that a group of men from Oklahoma showed up to the... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Esperanza, filled with rage, runs out of the cabin, slamming the door behind her. Miguel follows her out to the vineyard and asks what’s wrong. Esperanza angrily begins venting about... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Miguel thoughtfully replies that in Mexico, he was a second-class citizen—he would have always been on... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Miguel places a hand on Esperanza’s arm and assures her that “everything will work out.” Esperanza... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
The next morning, Miguel is gone—he has left to go to Northern California to work on the railroad. Esperanza... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...over the camp.  The day is a joyful one—but that night, the conversation turns to Miguel, and Esperanza confesses that she said some cruel things to Miguel and pushed him away.... (full context)
Chapter 13: Las Uvas (Grapes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Everyone agrees that Miguel must have taken the money orders. Alfonso promises to repay the money, but Esperanza remains... (full context)
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 his bus finally comes, he steps off the bus looking tired and rumpled.... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...is overcome with emotion as she embraces her grandmother and breathes in her familiar scent. Miguel admits that he took Esperanza’s money orders and used them to get back to Mexico... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...out what was happening in America. One day, a nun brought Abuelita a note from Miguel, fished from the poor box—the note told of his plan to get her out of... (full context)
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That night Miguel and Señor Rodriguez came to collect her from the convent and take her to the... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
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Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
A few weeks later, it is nearly Esperanza’s birthday. She asks Miguel to drive her out to the foothills at sunrise. At the top of a plateau,... (full context)