As the new school year starts, Mago is chosen to be a flag-bearer. There is not enough money, though, to buy the special uniform she needs. Abuela Chinta does her best looking after the children, but does not make much money as a healer. Unlike Abuela Evila, though, Chinta is never stingy about food or money, and often goes without eating so that Reyna, Mago, and Carlos can be fed.
Mago is prevented from enjoying normal things at school because of how poor her family is. Despite the hardships they face, with Abuelita Chinta, things seem more bearable because there is love and kindness in the house—but when something like this comes up, it becomes impossible to ignore the ways in which their situation is insufficient and potentially harmful.
Behind La Quinta Castrejón, there is a mango grove. Carlos and his friends begin stealing mangoes from the grove so that he and his sisters will have enough to eat. When Carlos suggests that Mago come, too, and take some mangoes to sell at the train station, Mago and Reyna start accompanying Carlos to keep watch for the owner of the hotel, El Cuervo. One afternoon, they’re nearly caught by the man, and, after they escape, Mago urges Carlos never to return, even though it will mean she can’t sell mangoes anymore.
The children are desperate to come up with ways to make more money—though they’re not suffering as badly as they were at Evila’s house, their financial situation is still dire, and they don’t want their frail and gentle Abuelita to suffer in their place.
When the three of them return home, they find that Betty is hysterically sobbing; Abuela Chinta has spilled boiled water on her, and is frantically trying to make an aloe paste to soothe the burns. Mago, knowing that Betty needs a proper doctor, goes next door and borrows money from Doña Caro, then takes Betty to the hospital. Mago, who has scars on her own face from an accident incurred during a hide-and-seek game many years ago, doesn’t want Betty to feel ugly, the way she herself does.
Whereas Abuela Evila withheld proper medical treatment as a means of control and abuse, Abuela Chinta both truly doesn’t have the money and believes that as a healer she can fix the burns herself. Mago, though, wants better for her sister, and insists on getting her proper care—Mago, as always, is everyone’s “little mother.”
The next day, Mago leaves the house early and returns with news that she has secured a job selling quesadillas at the train station. She will work there each day after school, to make money to help pay for the expenses she and her siblings are incurring. The next day, Carlos pays a visit to Tía Emperatriz, and enlists her help in sewing a special uniform for Mago.
Mago should be focusing on school, but things are so dire that she is forced to go to work. The cycles of poverty that reign over Iguala have come for Mago, too, and yet she enters the workforce with a sense of agency and pride.
Abuelita Chinta sends Carlos and Reyna to the train station towards the end of Mago’s shift to collect her and tell her the good news. When they get there, they watch as Mago boards the train to sell quesadillas to passengers; when the train takes off again, though, they don’t see her on the platform. Reyna fears that Mago, too, has taken off and abandoned them, but soon they see her jumping off the train just as it speeds out of the station. Mago, seeing Reyna’s distress, promises her siblings she will never leave them.
Reyna and Carlos are so used to abandonments—and so fearful of being subjected to more—that they believe Mago has left them when they see her board the train as part of her job. Her affirmation that she will never leave them foreshadows a moment, far in the future, when this promise will, unfortunately, be put to the test.