The provider of his family, Papa's appearances throughout the story are few, as he is implied to be working long hours: “My papa, his thick hands and thick shoes, who wakes up tired in the dark, who combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake.” His pivotal scene in The House on Mango Street comes when his own father, still living in Mexico, dies, and he breaks down in tears in front of Esperanza. It is the first time she’s seen her father, whom she refers to as her “brave Papa,” cry. She empathizes with his pain, wondering what she would do if she were to lose him, and comforts him.
Papa struggled with communication for some time after his arrival in America, due to not knowing the language. For several months, he constantly ate ham and eggs because it was the only food he knew how to ask for in English. Papa works tirelessly to learn English and American customs as well as make enough money to provide for his family, but he receives little in return. Despite Papa’s hard work, Esperanza’s family still barely gets by and has had to live in dire, unhealthy living situations. While Papa has done his best to make a life for his family in Chicago, he has sacrificed so much along the way – including the chance to be with his own father at the end of his life. He labors intensely in the States and is only able to return to Mexico once his father is already gone.