Esperanza, the narrator, reveals her name for the first time. She explains that it means “hope” in English, but in Spanish it means “sadness” and “waiting.” She got the name from her great-grandmother, and they were both born in the Chinese year of the horse. This is supposed to be a sign of bad luck for women, but Esperanza refuses to believe this, because the horse is a strong animal and Esperanza says that the Chinese, like the Mexicans, want women to be weak.
Esperanza starts to discover the power of words through names here. Her name is symbolic of both her current state and the book itself – sad and longing to escape, but also hopeful and strong. Esperanza’s thought about weak women is surely repeated from someone else, but shows she has a keen understanding of gender issues in her community.
Esperanza describes what she knows of her great-grandmother – she was a “wild horse of a woman” who did not want to get married, but was eventually forced into it. She never forgave her husband and spent her whole life looking out the window. Esperanza states that she does not want to inherit her great-grandmother’s “place by the window” along with her name.
Women trapped and looking out the window will become a recurring motif in the novel. The original Esperanza is the first “trapped woman” of the story, and Esperanza already knows that she does not want to share her great-grandmother’s fate. She understands that being strong like a horse can be a good thing, but the phrase “wild horse of a woman” also shows how the community sees strong women as somehow non-feminine.
Esperanza describes how her name is pronounced differently in Spanish and in English and at school. She wants to change her name to something that shows her true, secret self. She decides that a name like “Zeze the X” would be good.
Esperanza’s desire to change her name shows both an understanding of the power of language and a desire for her own identity and agency.