Esperanza Rising

by

Pam Muñoz Ryan

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Ramona Ortega / Mama Character Analysis

Esperanza’s mother Ramona is a spirited woman who would do anything for the good of her family. She is a woman of strong values who refuses to capitulate to blackmail and coercion in the wake of her husband’s death, and instead makes the decision that will allow her and her daughter to live freely, even if it means living in poverty. Though Esperanza is unhappy with (and even at times disgusted by) the conditions on the company farm they travel to in California, Ramona accepts her new life with grace, grit, and gusto—at least for a while. When Ramona falls ill with Valley Fever in the wake of a terrible dust storm, the depression and pain she has been ignoring ever since Sixto’s death resurface, and she is hospitalized. Ramona’s journey dovetails with Esperanza’s to show that while being ruled by one’s pain and grief is not conducive to hope and rebirth, neither is hiding one’s true feelings and smothering them down deep. Ramona eventually recovers and returns to the company farm, demonstrating her resilience and her commitment to striving for hope even in her darkest moments.

Ramona Ortega / Mama Quotes in Esperanza Rising

The Esperanza Rising quotes below are all either spoken by Ramona Ortega / Mama or refer to Ramona Ortega / Mama. 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

“He is just a little late,” said Mama. And part of Esperanza’s mind believed her. But the other part scolded him.

“Mama, the neighbors warned him just last night about bandits.”

Mama nodded and bit the corner of her lip in worry. They both knew that even though it was 1930 and the revolution in Mexico had been over for ten years, there was still resentment against the large landowners.

“Change has not come fast enough, Esperanza. The wealthy still own most of the land while some of the poor have not even a garden plot. There are cattle grazing on the big ranches yet some peasants are forced to eat cats. Papa is sympathetic and has given land to many of his workers. The people know that.”

“But Mama, do the bandits know that?”

“I hope so,” said Mama quietly. “I have already sent Alfonso and Miguel to look for him. Let’s wait inside.”

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega (speaker), Ramona Ortega / Mama (speaker), Sixto Ortega / Papa
Page Number: 11-12
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

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 8 Quotes

Irene continued working on the flour sack and shaking her head. “So many Mexicans have the revolution still in their blood. I am sympathetic to those who are striking, and I am sympathetic to those of us who want to keep working. We all want the same things. To eat and feed our children.”

Esperanza nodded. She had decided that if she and Mama were to get Abuelita here, they could not afford to strike. Not now. Not when they so desperately needed money and a roof over their heads. She worried about what many were saying: If they didn’t work, the people from Oklahoma would happily take their jobs. Then what would they do?

Related Characters: Irene (speaker), Esperanza Ortega, Ramona Ortega / Mama, Abuelita
Page Number: 146-147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

The blanket grew longer. And Mama grew more pale. Women in the camp brought her extra skeins of yarn and Esperanza didn’t care that they didn’t match. Each night when she went to bed, she put the growing blanket back over Mama, covering her in hopeful color.

Related Characters: Esperanza Ortega, Ramona Ortega / Mama
Related Symbols: Crocheting
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

“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 12 Quotes

“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

Ramona Ortega / Mama Character Timeline in Esperanza Rising

The timeline below shows where the character Ramona Ortega / Mama 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
...their work throughout the vineyard. Esperanza runs into the arms of her loving Papa and Mama, Ramona, and declares that this is her favorite time of year—not only is it the... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...or to run downstairs afterwards and open her gifts. She knows she’ll have linens from Mama and a beautiful porcelain doll from Papa—he gets her one every single year. (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Esperanza heads inside—her thumb is still bleeding. When she shows it to her mother, Mama says, “Bad luck,” but Esperanza knows that bad luck could simply mean a small spill... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
The housemaid Hortensia comes in with a plate of sandwiches for Abuelita, Esperanza, and Mama, and urges them not to worry—her husband Alfonso and son Miguel have ridden out to... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...is the town mayor. Esperanza does not like either of her uncles, and knows her Mama doesn’t either. Luis tells Ramona that he brings with him bad news, and holds out... (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 to think... (full context)
Chapter 2: Las Papayas (Papayas)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...of the previous evening. After Alfonso returned home with Papa’s body, he told Esperanza and Mama that Papa and his vaqueros had been ambushed by bandits, who’d killed them and stolen... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...far and wide to pay their respects. Each night, however, the house empties, and Esperanza, Mama, and Abuelita are left alone to comfort one another through their lonely tears. One morning,... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
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The lawyer informs Ramona that though Sixto left the house and the yearly income from the grapes to her... (full context)
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After a pause, Mama says that she is offended by Luis’s offer, and Luis’s face “harden[s.]” He tells Ramona... (full context)
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Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
That evening, Mama, Abuelita, Esperanza, Hortensia, and Alfonso discuss what they should do. Abuelita has money in the... (full context)
Chapter 3: Los Higos (Figs)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...frightening nightmares to the sound of someone calling her name. When she opens her eyes, Mama is standing above her, shaking her—the house is on fire. Esperanza grabs her new porcelain... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Soon, Esperanza spots Luis and Marco approaching on horseback. They ride right up to Mama and apologize for her having suffered “another sadness in so short a time.” Luis tells... (full context)
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After a quiet moment, Ramona meekly tells Luis that she will consider his proposal. Luis, delighted, tells Ramona he’ll return... (full context)
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Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Inside, Mama and Alfonso discuss what options the Ortegas have. If they choose to stay on the... (full context)
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Esperanza still doesn’t like the plan, but Mama tells her that if they stay, they will be separated by Luis’s cruel plans. Esperanza... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...Esperanza has “lived many mountains and valleys,” they will be together again. The nuns leave Ramona and Esperanza with a trunk containing their papers and clothes from the poor box—Esperanza is... (full context)
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Over the next few days, Mama and Esperanza plot in secret with Señor Rodriguez—the only person in town they can trust—and... (full context)
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One night, Mama wakes Esperanza before dawn and they leave in the wagon, taking only what they can... (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... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
...reminding 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... (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... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...away and puts it back into her valise, and the little girl starts to cry. Ramona apologizes to the peasant girl’s mother for her own daughter’s “bad manners.” Quietly, Ramona tells... (full context)
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Grief and Loss Theme Icon
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...train with 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... (full context)
Chapter 5: Los Melones (Cantaloupes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...to pass through immigration. Though at the front of the line, the immigration official gives Mama a hard time for a moment, she insists that all of their papers are in... (full context)
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...all to America. After Alfonso and his family reunite, he introduces them to Esperanza and Ramona—he explains that his family already feels they know them because of all the letters he... (full context)
Chapter 6: Las Cebollas (Onions)
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Mama shuts the door to their room and orders Esperanza to sit down. She explains that... (full context)
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As Mama goes back to her packing, Isabel enters the room and sits with Esperanza. She asks... (full context)
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...through dinner 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... (full context)
Chapter 7: Las Almendras (Almonds)
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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... (full context)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Later, when Mama comes to bed, she tells Esperanza how proud she is of her for working hard... (full context)
Chapter 8: Las Ciruelas (Plums)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
...Irene says she sees both sides of the conundrum, and Esperanza reflects on how badly Mama needs her job. (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Activism and Solidarity Theme Icon
Soon after the storm stops, the others return—Isabel has been bused home from school, and Mama and the others have been brought in from the fields on trucks. Everyone is covered... (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,... (full context)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
...way out of her body. He tells them that it isn’t contagious, and that once Mama fights it off, she will be immune to it forever. Esperanza asks how long it... (full context)
Chapter 9: Las Papas (Potatoes)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
For weeks, Esperanza hardly leaves Mama’s side, feeding and bathing her and attending to her every need. As a November chill... (full context)
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A few weeks later, the fields frost over and Mama’s breathing grows more labored. The doctor comes back and says that Mama should be in... (full context)
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As the doctor takes Mama off to the hospital, Esperanza worries that she has failed her mother in some way,... (full context)
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On Christmas day, Esperanza visits Mama in the hospital. During the visit, however, Mama sleeps deeply and doesn’t even wake at... (full context)
Chapter 10: Los Aguacates (Avocados)
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...with the babies and Isabel’s homework each night. On the weekends, she goes to visit Mama. Every other week, she buys a money order from the market and saves it in... (full context)
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...for Esperanza to coat her hands in—after long days of horseback riding back in Aguascalientes, Mama used to swear by this same cure. When she rinses the paste off twenty minutes... (full context)
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One afternoon, Esperanza and Miguel go to visit Mama at the hospital, but her doctor stops them from going down the hall to her... (full context)
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...so that someday she can bring Abuelita to America. The piñata, she says, is for Mama—when she’s allowed to visit again, she wants to hang it in her mother’s hospital room.  (full context)
Chapter 12: Los Duraznos (Peaches)
Wealth, Privilege, and Class Theme Icon
Grief and Loss Theme Icon
Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
In addition to praying for Abuelita and Mama at the little shrine in the back yard, Esperanza now begins praying for Marta. One... (full context)
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A few days later, Esperanza and Hortensia visit the hospital to check on Mama. Good news awaits them—the doctor says that Mama has improved. She will be able to... (full context)
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All week, Esperanza, Hortensia, and Josefina prepare for Mama’s return, making the house neat and clean. That Saturday, Mama returns, and receives visitors from... (full context)
Chapter 13: Las Uvas (Grapes)
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Hope and Rebirth Theme Icon
...remains angry with Miguel for disrespecting all her hard work and stealing from her. Meanwhile, Mama gets stronger every day, and Esperanza’s work sorting peaches, plums, and nectarines allows her to... (full context)
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Everyone returns to the camp, and though Esperanza asks for Mama right away, Josefina tells her Ramona is sleeping. Esperanza introduces Abuelita to everyone and shows... (full context)
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...following her. Abuelita had been tormented for months by “premonition[s]” that something was wrong with Ramona, but because of Luis and Marco’s intense grip on the town, she had no way... (full context)