Why is Cathy’s family leaving Mango Street?

Cathy’s family has lived on Mango Street for some time, as Cathy's father actually built the house they live in. However, when Esperanza first moves to the neighborhood, Cathy’s family is in the process of leaving. Esperanza explains that Cathy’s family is moving to get away from “people like us.” While Cathy’s race is never explicitly stated, it’s implied that she’s white – unlike the mostly Hispanic population of Mango Street, Cathy’s family ancestry is French. Her family is likely partaking in the phenomenon referred to as “white flight”: when white residents move further and further out of urban areas to avoid integration and racially diverse neighborhoods. 

Why does Esperanza want to return to Mango Street one day?

For much of The House on Mango Street, Esperanza is focused only on leaving Mango Street, but as the story progresses, she has several conversations and realizations that help her understand that simply leaving would be a betrayal of her roots and community. Instead, Esperanza wants to use her abilities – her intelligence and writing skills – to gain education, money, and a better life. Once she’s acquired the necessary resources, she’ll return to Mango Street, to help her family, friends, and community – particularly her fellow women, who are especially limited in their lives and freedoms.

Why does Mamacita get upset when her baby starts to speak English?

Mamacita is the wife of Esperanza’s neighbor. Along with their child, she moves to the United States from an unspecified Hispanic country to be with him. Due to her weight, her inability to speak English, and the community’s normalization of confining women to the home, Mamacita never leaves the house. She is incredibly homesick, and pines for her home country, her old house, and her native culture. Her husband treats her badly, and the only positive relationship she has is with her young son. However, as the baby consumes American content on TV, he naturally begins to learn English. Mamacita begs her son not to start speaking English because once he does, she will be the only person in her family who is linguistically isolated and unable to assimilate into American culture. Her son is the only thing in her life that hasn’t been changed by the move to America, but now even he is being taken from her.

Who lives in the house on Mango Street?

Esperanza’s parents, Mama and Papa, own the house on Mango Street and live in it with their four children: Esperanza, her two brothers Carlos and KiKi, and her little sister Magdalena, more commonly referred to by her nickname, Nenny. Papa works long hours and is not often at the house, while Mama is a stay-at-home mother. Esperanza interacts little with her brothers, as Mango Street’s community is very separated by gender; boys and girls live in entirely different circumstances and play very different roles. Although Carlos and Kiki are close with Esperanza and Nenny at home, they have little to do with Esperanza’s life outside the house, which is dominated mostly by experiences with other women and girls, especially in her childhood. Instead, Esperanza spends much of her day-to-day life looking after Nenny.

Why does Alicia see mice?

Due to the death of her mother, Alicia has taken on the matriarchal duties in her family home while also attending university. She doesn’t have time in her day to fulfill all her many responsibilities, so she must stay up late into the night to study. Because she goes to bed so late, and rises before dawn, she’s often awake when the mice come out from their hiding places at night. Mice are nocturnal animals, so it's uncommon for homeowners to see these creatures during the day, which is why Alicia’s father doesn’t believe her when she tells him about the infestation. The mice are also symbols of Alicia’s poverty and unhappy circumstances, and they motivate her to work hard in school so that she doesn’t have to “spend her whole life in a factory or behind a rolling pin.”