Sally, you lied, you lied. He wouldn’t let me go. He said I love you, I love you, Spanish girl.

Esperanza says this in “Red Clowns,” after a group of boys has sexually assaulted her at a carnival. She repeats the accusation that her friend lied, blaming Sally for the assault instead of the boys who have hurt and traumatized her. Esperanza blames Sally for not returning after she goes off with an older boy, but the accusation goes deeper than that. Esperanza is angry that girls perpetuate the myth that sex goes hand in hand with love. “I love you, Spanish girl” is a taunting, violent refrain that has no place in the picture of sex that popular culture presents to young girls. Esperanza understands that popular media may never change, but at the very least the women who have more experience, like Sally, should debunk the myth so reality would not be such a surprise to girls like Esperanza.

Esperanza’s accusation here is the culmination of a theme that is implicit in much of The House on Mango Street: men will not change, so women need to help each other. In “The Monkey Garden,” the section before “Red Clowns,” Esperanza sees Tito’s mother as complicit in Sally’s exploitation, since she refuses to see that her son is doing something wrong. Esperanza reacts by crying alone in a corner of the Monkey Garden. In “Red Clowns,” Esperanza’s pain is more acute. She screams out her accusation. Her experience with the disloyal Sally leads to Esperanza’s resolution to come back to help the other women on Mango Street once she leaves. She does not want to leave the women behind in a dangerous place the way Sally left her.