During his lifetime, Tomás Rivera (rih-VEH-rah) published only two books: Always, and Other Poems, a slim volume of poetry, and . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra/. . . and the earth did not part (1971; also published as This Migrant Earth, 1985; . . . and the earth did not devour him, 1987), a novel that has been widely praised as a groundbreaking work in Chicano literature. It is for this novel that Rivera is most well known. It is based on the author’s childhood experiences as a migrant worker and consists of fourteen short stories connected by thirteen vignettes. Narrated by an anonymous child, a member of a migrant family, and set during the 1950’s, the novel chronicles the hardships of the family and the community during the annual migratory cycle. The unusual format of the novel—anecdotes, stories, dialogues, and interior monologues—suggests the fragmented life of the migrant worker. Through these narratives, the protagonist not only remembers the collective past of his community but discovers himself as well.
Rivera also published several scholarly papers and addresses. Considered a major figure in the establishment of Chicano literature, Rivera offered insightful papers and essays such as “Chicano Literature: Fiesta of the Living” (1979) and “Chicano Literature: The Establishment of Community” (1982). Finally, in his role as academic administrator, Rivera produced several academic papers dealing with issues of higher education.