Pam Muñoz Ryan begins the story by bringing in Esperanza Ortega. She is a young girl growing up in Mexico. The period is in the 1920s. There had been a revolution that lasted for ten years. People do not like the landowners because it is believed they mistreat the peasants.
That year, Esperanza’s birthday coincides with the season of harvesting the grapes. Grape harvesting is followed by a fiesta attended by both the servants and the wealthy landowners. The celebration is known as “La cosecha.”
As Esperanza was gathering roses to use for decorating the tables, a rose thorn cuts her finger. To her, this is not a good sign. Her mother, grandmother (Abuelita), and the housekeeper (Hortensia) become worried when they stay too long without returning from the fields. A search by Tio Luis and Tio Marco recover Papa’s buckle. Later, his dead body is recovered.
Since women are not allowed to own property, the ranch with all the property is left under a bank. Tio Luis, who is the bank president, has never been in good terms with Esperanza and her family. Besides, he is considered a dishonest business person and an aspiring politician.
Tio Luis wants to purchase the family house. However, he is offering an amount lower than the real house value. Mama does not accept the offer. His next offer is to marry Mama. She does not accept this either.
Fire razes down the family house. Mama is forced to accept Tio Luis marriage proposal because things are getting harder. Toi informs people about the marriage. However, Mama and Esperanza leave for the United States in a bid to stop the marriage. They find work in the fields, but the hard conditions make Mama sick. Things get worse when Miguel steals the money Esperanza had. Miguel later comes back with Abuelita.