We didn’t always live on Mango Street. Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before that we lived on Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I can’t remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot.
The narrator, Esperanza, recalls several places her family has lived. The family has had to move several times. For the first time, they own the house on Mango Street, a distinction that should contribute to a more settled sense of home. Esperanza, however, feels very little sense of connection to this new place. The house doesn’t represent the big white house of the family’s dreams and also required relocation to the other side of town from where they had been living. But since they own their house now, Mango Street stands for more than just a new neighborhood. Mango Street represents a place where Esperanza and her family must try to belong.
Those who don’t know any better come into our neighborhood scared. They think we’re dangerous….All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight. Yeah. That is how it goes and goes.
Esperanza feels enough at home now to identify with her neighborhood. She knows some of her neighbors, and many of them, such as Meme Ortiz, Louie, and Louie’s cousin Marin, share Spanish names and culture with Esperanza. She feels a sense of belonging—of safety and security—because she lives with people like herself. Esperanza’s words show her awareness that the outside world classifies her by skin color, not just language and culture. She learns where the outside world thinks she belongs.
I like to tell stories. I am going to tell you a story about a girl who didn’t want to belong.
In “Mango Says Goodbye Sometimes,” the last section of the novel, Esperanza speaks with her mature voice, that of a writer. She transforms her own experience into a story in which she plays the main character. She knows she will go away from Mango Street, and feels strong enough to do so. She also acknowledges that she does belong there, because Mango Street is the setting for her personal story—the place she remembers most.