As Reyna and her siblings struggle to understand why their mother has come back, they learn of their father’s infidelity. Mami tells the children that Papi is “washing his hands of [them]” while he tends his “new woman.” Mago continues harboring hope that Papi will not forsake them—she is still angry at Mami for leaving and breaking her promise to return soon, whereas Papi, in his absence, has become “bigger than life” in Mago’s eyes. Reyna, meanwhile, harbors bad feelings towards Papi—she is angry with him for having betrayed Mami and sent back a “bitter, heartbroken” version of their mother.
The happiness and excitement surrounding Mami’s return is quickly replaced with resentment, confusion, and fear as Mami tells her children that their father is abandoning them forever. The children’s conflicting feelings about their father are inextricably entwined with their already-complicated feelings about Mami—to Reyna, Papi is the villain, but to Mago, Mami is the one who has done the most damage to their family.
Mami, unable to find a job and unwilling to return to her job as an Avon lady, begins selling things at a resort called La Quinta Castrejón, the only place in town “immune to the recession.” Mago, Carlos, and Reyna accompany their mother there most nights, waiting outside in the cold with cigarettes, gum, and snacks while lavish parties rage inside. No matter the weather, Mami drags the children with her each and every night, desperate to earn some money. One night, Mami points out the beautiful, lavish pool, and remarks that Papi helped to build it. She recalls swimming in the pool once it was done, on a day when the owner allowed the workers to come and bring their families. She didn’t know how to swim, but Papi helped her and never let her go.
Mami forces her children to help her make money, even though they have already been subjected to enough hardship at Abuela Evila’s. Her memories of Papi teaching her how to swim are too much to handle in the wake of his betrayal, and she unfairly burdens her children, too, with the symbolic anecdote.
Once the party is over that night, Mami announces that she never wants to come back to La Quinta Castrejón again. Reyna knows that her mother is fleeing from the glittering pool and the memories associated with it. Though Papi had held onto her there, he had let her go “in a place just as beautiful and frightening”—El Otro Lado.
Reyna’s recognition that her mother has actually learned the tactic of abandonment from Papi is shocking and disturbing. Papi broke his promise, and then years later Mami broke hers to her children—Reyna wonders what other broken promises lie in store.