The experience in America was not what anyone had hoped it would be, but it became home for Esperanza, and somehow seems to make her work and her troubles worth it, at least a little bit.
Each of the characters experiences immigration in a different way, and some of those experiences are based on the age and generations of the characters. Early in the book, the author notes Don Chan is "afraid of change" (Cruz 1), and because of this, his experience is far different from his family's younger members. Of all the characters, Don Chan is the oldest, and his reaction to New York fits his age and generation. He is never truly happy in New York, and he always longs for home. As he grows older and his memory gets cloudy, he lives in the past with his family members who are gone, and the only time he really becomes himself again is when they return to the Dominican Republic for a visit. Don Chan's experience is framed by the turbulent 1960s, when he helped overthrow a corrupt government in his own way. Because of his age, he sees things differently, and realizes many of the things that are important to Esperanza really are not important at all.
The children are really Americans, because while Bobby was born in the Dominican Republic, he does not really remember it. They have a truly American lifestyle and ideals, and they have few of the values of their parents or their grandparents. Their experience is framed only by their American roots; they have little to tie them to their homeland. In this way the author shows how just one generation can change from Dominican to American with very little trouble.
Esperanza's experience is framed by her love of the television show Dallas, which she fantasizes about all the time. It is her motivation to move to the U.S. And adopt American ways. She becomes a "true" American, working long hours so she can buy expensive things, many of which she does not even use. In fact, after she learns how long it will take her to pay off her purchases, she thinks, "[S]he would be happy to return it all if it meant that the creditors would leave her along. Some of it was like new, in boxes" (Cruz 105). Sadly, she has fallen into American life all too easily, and fallen into the trap of greed and possessions. Her life is spent working to try to keep the family afloat and pay off her debt, just like so many other struggling Americans.
Finally, Santos' experience is framed by his love for Esperanza, which changes after they arrive in America. Esperanza is so obsessed with her dreams that she is no longer the woman Santos fell in love with and followed to America. She has become Americanized, and as such, has pushed her husband away. In one generation the family has totally changed from rural farmers to poor but proud Americans, and it seems at the end of the book that Bobby at least will make something of himself and become a successful American (or Dominican) businessman. Esperanza may have some hope of finally climbing out of debt and living a better life, too. The third generation, Consuelo, is really the family member whose life will be the test - it will be interesting to see if she follows her roots or becomes absolutely Americanized. As it is, each individual's experience is framed differently because of who they are, where they are, and how old they are, and it is interesting to see how their lives ebb and flow throughout this novel.
In conclusion, for at least some of the Colon family, life was not so bad in the Dominican Republic, and life there was preferable to life in the United States. Each family member had their own views and dreams, and they all turned out differently. For Don Chan, life was harder in the United States, for his grandchildren it was easier, and Esperanza traded one set of hardships for a complete other set. It is hard to say who out of all the family was the better off at the end of the book.