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Caguas, Puerto Rico – 1950 Samuel and Julia Rivera are a poor couple with a small farm on the outskirts of Caguas. Julia gives birth to their son, Victor, in the midst of a violent storm while Samuel is away. Sixteen years later, the family has grown to include 14 year-old Marta, an honor student at a small Catholic school. Mutual Sugar threatens to gobble up some of the small farms on the island. Samuel becomes ill and decides he has no choice but to sell out. After his death, Julia and her children arrive in NYC and move in with her older sister Linda, an exotic dancer. Victor feels angry and isolated after the death of his father and the loss of the farm. Julia gets a job as a waitress on the night shift at a deli run by Luciano, an old friend of Linda. Marta has to find her place in a new school. After Victor botches a chance at a job, Linda brings him to work at the Frolic, the burlesque theatre where she works and swears him to secrecy. There, Victor meets Jen. Julia discovers the truth and Luciano helps her find a new apartment. In his new neighborhood, Victor meets Flaco. Flaco lives with his grandmother and his father is in prison. Soon, Victor is spending all his time with Flaco, getting into trouble. One night, they are running from a gang, Victor stumbles across an abandoned Victory Garden. He decides to revive it as a casita as a tribute to the farm his family lost and so he can have purpose. Marta is having trouble feeling accepted at school because she can't afford clothes other than her old school uniform from the island. As Victor clears the lot to begin planting, the community shows up to tell him what they would like him to grow for them. Julia grows closer to Luciano and invites him to dinner to meet her family. There is an awkward meeting between Victor and Luciano, but dinner goes smoothly. Victor excuses himself to go to the garden. Julia walks Luciano out. He reveals that he lost his family in a horrible accident years ago. Julia tells him she's not ready for a relationship, but he tells her he can wait. Linda realizes she needs her family and quits the Frolic as she's about to go on stage. She hustles and gets a job as an instructor at a dance studio with her inability to take no for an answer. Linda shows up at the deli to ask for Julia's forgiveness. She demonstrates she's truly sorry and the sisters reconcile. Flaco tries to bully Victor into running the streets with him again. Victor refuses and knocks him down. Marta and Linda shop for a dress for Marta's 15th birthday (Quinceanos). The next day, Flaco walks Marta to school. Victor starts building a casita (a little shack) in the garden, much like the tradition in Puerto Rico. A banged up and bruised Jen appears at Linda's door in the middle of the night. The new manager of the Frolic kept pressuring her for sex and got violent when she refused. Marta leaves school after tutoring other students to find Flaco waiting for her. She invites him to her birthday party and they walk down the street hand in hand. The day of Marta's birthday party arrives. The garden is festive as the casita is decorated with balloons and a celebratory banner. There's traditional music and food. Luciano arrives with cannolis. Linda helps Marta with her dress. Jen comes to the party as a member of Marta's court. She and Victor dance and kiss. Near the party's end, Marta can't bring herself to participate in the ceremony to mark the end of childhood and the entry into womanhood and escapes inside the casita. She and Julia argue. Marta tells her mother that she feels like she's been alone and everyone else has been selfish and talking care of themselves. Outside, Flaco arrives at the party. Luciano steps between him and Victor. Marta runs to Flaco and gives him a hug. Her family is shocked. Victor tries to pull her away with Jen and Linda's help. Flaco lets her go, but she leaves with him. Victor starts to go after them, but Julia holds him back. Flaco takes Marta to an abandoned building to be alone with her. They start kissing and soon Flaco wants more. Marta wants him to stop, but he rapes her. Julia gets a call from the hospital. Marta has been found. The doctor explains she was found in a daze. Julia is allowed to see her. Marta bursts into tears and apologizes to her mother. Julia tries to assure her that what happened wasn't her fault. In the chapel, Victor tells Linda his intention to tear down the casita and walk away from the garden. She tells her nephew the story of how Samuel and Julia met and that the garden has given him a purpose and it's too important to let go. A couple of days later, Marta is home and Julia watches over her. Victor goes on the hunt for Flaco. He finds him in the abandoned building, the scene of Marta's rape. They fight and end up on the roof of the building. Flaco pulls a knife. Victor deftly avoids a strike and wrenches the thug's arm until he falls to his knees. He then punches Flaco out and drags him down to the street. There's a celebration as Victor re-opens the casita. Jen thanks him for planting an apple tree. They kiss. Julia and Luciano are also a couple now. Later, the Rivera family, Luciano and Jen watch Victor reveal his painting. It's the casita on a beautiful summer day with children playing and flowers in full bloom. Looming over it all with arms outstretched, both presenting and protecting the casita, is Samuel, a peaceful and knowing smile on his lips.