Esperanza’s Mama is a traditionally feminine and motherly woman, who is said to keep her appearance consistently maintained by pinning her hair into curls. Mama is one of many women on Mango Street who feel trapped in their circumstances. She possesses remarkable intelligence and has a multitude of talents: “She can speak two languages. She can sing an opera. She can fix a T.V.” However, even though she had a lot of potential when she was a young woman, Mama never finished school. She dropped out because she was ashamed of her clothes and her lack of wealth in comparison to other students. Mama is still angry and regrets this decision because she feels her life could have amounted to more.

Although there’s nothing to suggest that she has an unhappy marriage or family life, Mama is still incredibly limited by her role as wife and mother. Her inability to take the train downtown without Esperanza’s help symbolizes both her physical and intellectual confinement. She doesn’t have the money to indulge in the performing arts, like ballet and theater, which would feed her creative spirit. According to Esperanza, she doesn’t have the time to draw for herself anymore. Mama makes do by inserting the arts into her home life and motherly duties – she sings along with opera records and learns to embroider flowers.

While Mama never explicitly tells Esperanza to learn from her mistakes, in the vignette “A Smart Cookie,” it seems implicit that Mama’s anecdote is a warning to her daughter. Esperanza has inherited her mother’s intelligence, and that’s a gift – however, she will not follow in her mother’s footsteps and squander her opportunities. She’ll use her abilities to move beyond Mango Street and eventually return to help her family and friends.