And the Earth Did Not Part

by Tomas Rivera

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

And the Earth Did Not Part was written by Tomas Rivera and was first published in 1968, with a bilingual version following in 1971. The book is about the plight of immigrant farm workers in the United States post World War II. Tomas Rivera was the son of migrant workers, and he himself worked in the fields until he was able to finish junior college.

Scholars disagree as to whether this work is a novel or a collection of related short stories. In any case, we are first introduced to a young male character who appears throughout the book, but who remains unnamed. The boy is lamenting what he refers to as his "lost year," when he begins to falls asleep. In this half-asleep and half-awake stage, he begins to see strange and interesting visions. One such vision is described in "Vignette 2," where we see a group of people consulting a medium. A mother is worried about her son in the military overseas. The medium tells the mother not to worry and that her son will be back safe soon.

The migrant workers face discrimination almost daily and live in desperate poverty. When the young unnamed man shows up for school one day, he is forced to strip naked so he can be searched for lice. In another scene, a young Chicano man goes to a barber for a haircut, and is denied service.

Education is another huge topic in the book; it is seen as the only way out of the migrant way of life. In "Vignette 8," a boy takes a button from his shirt (possibly his only shirt) when one is needed for a class project. The teacher is stunned and touched that a boy from such impoverished circumstances would be so eager to learn. At another point in the book, two young men are talking about the importance of getting an education:

"My Dad says it's to prepare us. He says that someday there's an opportunity, maybe they'll give it to us."

The parents want to spare their children from agricultural work is because it is so taxing and difficult. "In The Children Couldn't Wait," the offspring of the workers are forced to sneak water on a particularly hot day; the consequences are disastrous for one child, but even more so for the boss.

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