‘‘The Harvest’’ (Arte Público Press, 1989) is a short story by Mexican American writer Tomás Rivera. Rivera was the first writer to document the experience of Mexican American migrant farm workers who each year traveled north from Texas to the Midwest to find seasonal work. Rivera, who was the son of Mexican immigrants, had been a migrant worker in his youth, at various times living and working in Iowa, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. He therefore knew firsthand the difficult lives such workers had to endure, and still do today. Migrant workers are among the lowest paid of U. S. workers and they often work long hours in difficult conditions. Housing provided for them is often inadequate, and they are frequently treated as aliens in the communities where they work, even though many are American citizens. Rivera wrote that, in spite of the hardships of their work, the Chicano migrant workers kept their spirits up by what he described as their love of the land. ‘‘The Harvest’’ is a story that illustrates this love. It shows how one old migrant worker regularly renews his feeling of kinship with the land. Through his example, one of the young workers discovers this connection for himself, leading him to a new appreciation of the earth and the cycle of the seasons.
‘‘The Harvest’’ is divided into seven short sections. It is set somewhere in the Midwest at the end of September and the beginning of October. The unnamed narrator, a migrant farm worker, thinks this is the best time of year because the work is nearly over and he and his fellow workers will soon be able to return to Texas. Then the main character, Don Trine, is introduced. He walks through the fields every afternoon, and he prefers to do this alone, becoming angry if anyone tries to accompany him.
The next section is a dialogue between a group of unnamed workers, who work alongside Don Trine. They discuss the possible reasons for Trine’s walks, which puzzle them. One says that it is Trine’s business what he does; another thinks it is strange that he walks alone.
Next, the narrator reports on how the rumors about Trine spread. Some of his fellow workers have tried to spy on him, but he would get wise to what was happening and turn around and go back to his chicken coop. Soon people began to say that he was hiding the money he earned or that he had found buried treasure and was bringing it back to the coop little by little. There were other rumors about Trine, too, all of them centered on the idea that he must have money.
The reasoning behind the idea that Trine was secretly wealthy was that he was an old bachelor, had been working for many years, and had nothing to spend his money on. He only bought food and an occasional beer.
The young workers closely follow Trine on his...
(The entire section is 625 words.)