Antonio has his first day of school. Before leaving, his mother makes him kneel for a blessing from Ultima; all the family join him in kneeling. When Ultima places her hand on his head, he feels a great force, like a whirlwind. Ultima tells his mother that he will be a man of learning, which is what she most desires. Antonio walks to school and finds it much bigger than he had expected. He feels afraid. A kindly red-haired boy named Red shows him to his first grade teacher, Miss Maestas. He tells her that he cannot speak English. She writes his name out in a book and he then sits in a corner of the room and copies it out many times. By noon he can write his own name. But the other boy and girls laugh and point at him, especially when he eats the lunch of hot beans and green chile that his mother packed. In contrast, the other children have sandwiches with bread. Antonio sneaks out the room to eat on his own. He is almost in tears and feels like an outcast. He wants to run away and never come back. But then meets two bigger boys, George and Willy, who are also from farms, and he forms a bond with them.
In the broader context of the coming-of-age story, this chapter serves as an initiation scene. It is Antonio's first separation from his parents, and his first day in school is a difficult one. There are hints of class divisions and perhaps ethnic divisions also between the children. Antonio finds out that the world beyond his home is not always a friendly place.