Esperanza is jealous of “the special kids” who get to eat lunch in “the canteen” at school instead of having to go home to eat. One day she asks her mother to write a note giving her permission to pack a lunch and eat in the canteen. At first her mother is reluctant because she thinks that all her children will want bag lunches then, but Esperanza convinces her that she is the only one who wants to stay at school, and her absence will make her mother appreciate her more.
The divide between Esperanza’s race and class and that of the rest of her school is most evident in this section, as she feels inferior and wants to be like the “special” kids. Esperanza shows some humor and versatility in her speaking voice as she convinces her mother to pack a lunch.
The next day Esperanza’s mother writes a note and packs a rice sandwich. At lunch time, the Sister Superior doesn’t accept Esperanza’s mother’s note, which is awkwardly written. The Sister Superior thinks Esperanza lives close to school, and she points to some run-down apartments and accuses Esperanza of living there. Esperanza is so upset that she admits to living there, even though she does not. Esperanza starts to cry, and the nun lets her eat at the canteen that day, but not afterward. Esperanza cries and eats her rice sandwich while the other children watch her.
This is the second time Esperanza has been shamed by a nun and made to feel second-class as compared to the wealthier Anglo-American students. Esperanza also sees the power of English and the written language here – as her mother’s note is awkwardly written and so doesn’t convince the nun, and renders Esperanza herself helpless.