The novel’s heroine and narrator, an approximately twelve-year-old Chicana (Mexican-American girl). Esperanza is a budding writer who wishes for a home of her own. The House on Mango Street chronicles a year in her life as she matures emotionally and sexually. The name Esperanza means “hope” in Spanish.
Read an in-depth analysis of Esperanza.
Esperanza’s best friends. Rachel and Lucy are Mexican-American sisters who live across the street from Esperanza. Lucy, the older sister, was born in Texas, while Rachel, the younger, was born in Chicago. Esperanza eventually chooses a more sexually mature friend, Sally.
A young girl Esperanza befriends the same year she moves to Mango Street. Sally is the same age as Esperanza but is sexually bold and seems quite glamorous to Esperanza. She is not a good friend to Esperanza, abandoning her time and again to go off with boys. She has a physically abusive father and runs off before eighth grade to marry a man who won’t let her see her friends or leave the house. Esperanza feels protective of Sally.
Read an in-depth analysis of Sally.
Esperanza’s little sister. Nenny, whose real name is Magdalena, is a pretty, dreamy little girl for whom Esperanza is often responsible. Since Nenny is immature, she is often a source of embarrassment for Esperanza when the two of them play with Rachel and Lucy.
Read an in-depth analysis of Nenny.
A young woman from Puerto Rico who lives with her cousin’s family. Marin spends most of her time baby-sitting and so cannot leave the house. She sells makeup for Avon and teaches Esperanza and her friends about the world of boys. Although she has a fiancé back in Puerto Rico, she also dreams about American men taking her away from Mango Street to the suburbs. At the end of the year, her cousins send her back to Puerto Rico.
Esperanza’s father. Originally from Mexico, Papa is less domineering than the other father figures in the neighborhood. He works most of the time and is rarely home.
Esperanza’s mother. Mama grew up in the United States. She is one of the strongest-willed and smartest women in the novel, yet she seems to influence Esperanza very little. She is sometimes a source of comfort for Esperanza. All of her admirable attributes are lost on Esperanza because Mama has not escaped Mango Street to live somewhere nicer.
Esperanza’s friend who attends a local university. Since Alicia’s mother died, her father forces her to take over the family’s domestic chores. Alicia is a rare example of a neighborhood girl who has not tried to escape the neighborhood through marriage, but instead works hard and hopes to change her life from within.
Esperanza’s first friend in the neighborhood. Cathy’s family moves out the week after Esperanza’s family moves in. She discourages Esperanza from becoming friends with Rachel and Lucy. She is one of the few characters who is not from Mexico or Latin America.
Esperanza’s younger brothers. Carlos and Kiki appear infrequently, and Esperanza explains that they live in a different, male world.
The new resident of Cathy’s house. Meme’s real name is Juan, and he has a dog with two names.
The eldest sibling in a Puerto Rican family that lives in the basement of the Ortiz house. Louie is friends with Esperanza’s brothers, while Esperanza is friends with Louie’s cousin Marin. Louie’s other cousin appears once with a stolen car, only to get arrested later that afternoon.
An unspecified number of poorly raised, vagrant siblings whose father has abandoned them. One of the Vargas kids, Angel Vargas, dies by falling from a great height.
Esperanza’s friendly uncle, who gets her to dance at her cousin’s baptism in “Chanclas.”
Esperanza’s aunt. In her youth, Lupe was a vibrant, beautiful swimmer, but now she is old, blind, and bed-ridden. She listens to Esperanza’s poems and encourages her to keep writing, but Esperanza and her friends mock Lupe behind her back.
A witch woman Esperanza visits to have her fortune told. Elenita reads Tarot cards and tells Esperanza that she will have “a home in the heart.”
A childish grown-up neighbor who enjoys playing with Esperanza and her friends. Ruthie’s mother, Edna, is a landlady for the large building next door and ignores Ruthie.
A Mexican man Marin meets at a dance. Geraldo dies in a car accident the evening she meets him. Nobody, including Marin, knows anything about him, including his last name.
The overweight Mexican wife of another neighbor. Mamacita comes to America at great expense to her husband, but she is wildly unhappy. She never learns English and never leaves her third-floor apartment.
A neighborhood woman whose husband locks her in their apartment because he is afraid she’ll run off. Rafaela sends money down on a clothesline to Esperanza and her friends so they can buy her sweet juices from the convenience store.
The married woman in the neighborhood who is most similar to Esperanza. Minerva and Esperanza share their poems with each other. She is only two years older than Esperanza but already has a husband and two children. Her husband leaves for long periods, only to return in a violent rage.
A neighborhood boy who relates to girls in violent and sexual ways. Tito flirts with Esperanza by pushing her in front of an open fire hydrant, and later he steals Sally’s keys in order to get her to kiss him and his friends.
Esperanza’s first crush. Sire sometimes stares at Esperanza, and though she is afraid, she tries sometimes to look back at him. Sire and his girlfriend Lois hang around outside late at night. Esperanza’s father tells her Sire is a punk, and Esperanza’s mother tells her Lois is the kind of girl who will go with a boy into an alley.
A neighbor who works nights and tries to sleep during the day. Earl sometimes brings women home with him for short periods. The neighbors see these women at different times, and each thinks a different woman is his wife, but the women are probably prostitutes.
Old ladies Esperanza meets at Lucy and Rachel’s baby sister’s wake. The three sisters are mysterious and guess Esperanza’s hopes and dreams. They advise Esperanza always to return to Mango Street after she leaves it.