I'm not latino, but I grew up poor. I was lucky enough that my mom tried her best to keep us from being super aware of this fact. We got free lunch and sometimes she pretended she'd already eaten dinner, and our house was infested with cockroaches and didn't have enough insulation to keep warm in a Florida winter, and I could never go on any fieldtrip that cost money, but I didn't feel inferior to other people. Reading that whole list, I realize that I was independently a fairly innocent, blinders-on kind of kid, regardless of my mom's particular efforts.
Anyway, I was always in gifted and advanced classes and got perfect grades. I got into a selective program at a neighboring high school and worked out the bussing situation to get there. I got into a highly selective northeast liberal arts college on full scholarship. I was living the dream.
Then I got to the school and started to realize: some people are rich
. I had come to some relative understanding of my family's relative economic status in high school, but still the richest people around were like upper-middle-class, basically. I went to college with the children of oil tycoons, in some cases. And they were really nice people, a lot of the time. But I felt kind of lost. I had grown up in a world that a lot of these people didn't even realize existed, and I didn't know what it meant that I had left it behind. I didn't know what to think about how it should affect me, if at all, and how it should inform what I did with my life.
The House on Mango Street gave me a narrator who was dealing with a lot of these same issues, and comes up with some beautiful, sad, hopeful, frustrating, and ultimately affirming answers. It helped me sort out how to think about it, and inspired my own reflections on the home I grew up in as both a space, a place in time, and a character in my history.