As a Chicano boy growing up in Texas, Rivera continued his early education and college studies in between seasons of field work alongside his migrant parents. Originally written in Spanish and then translated into English, And the Earth Did Not Part won the Premio Quinto Sol, a national award for Chicano literature, in 1970, and it was adapted for the screen in 1996. A university administrator and educator, Rivera is also the author of essays such as “Into the Labyrinth: The Chicano in Literature” (1971), which helped to legitimize Chicano writing as part of a body of cultural and literary studies. A collection of his stories was published in 1989, four years after his death, as The Harvest/la cosecha; The Searchers, a collection of his poems, followed in 1990.
Rivera’s book follows in the tradition of novels—including José Antonio Villareal’s Pocho (1959) and Richard Vasquez’s Chicano (1970)—about Mexican migrant workers and conflicts between generations and cultures. Rivera admired American writers Sherwood Anderson and William Faulkner as well as Mexican writer Juan Rulfo. Like Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, which is presented through an interconnected series of stories, the world of And the Earth Did Not Part advances the structural form of the short story by breaking the narrative further and allowing the voices of its characters to rise uncensored and unadorned.