American Literature Tomás Rivera
Danizete Martínez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0114


Tomás Rivera (b. 1935–d. 1984) was born in Crystal City, Texas, the son of Mexican immigrants, and grew up working alongside his parents as a migrant farmworker throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Michigan, and Minnesota. Rivera graduated from Southwest Texas State University, earning a master’s degree in English and administration, and later from the University of Oklahoma, earning his doctorate in Spanish literature (1969). Following a few years teaching, Rivera pursued a career in administration, becoming the first Mexican-American chancellor of the University of California, Riverside (1979–1984). At 48, Rivera died unexpectedly from a heart attack, leaving behind a legacy as a central figure in Chicana/o literature and education. His working class upbringing and his experience as a farm laborer informed his highly praised novel . . .y no se lo tragó la tierra (1971). Initially, Rivera had a difficult time getting his work published due in part to the fact that it was primarily written in Spanish and many publishers worried that the language barrier would restrict his audience. Regardless, Quinto Sol, a company that focused on promoting Chicano literature, proudly published . . .tierra and awarded Rivera the first Quinto Sol Award. . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra was paramount in depicting the social and political injustices prevalent in Mexican-American communities; additionally, it was critically acclaimed for its complex nonlinear narrative form. The novel, rendered through disjointed memories, comes to reflect a collective consciousness that proves to be a source of empowerment for the Chicana/o community. Many prominent scholars and critics have credited . . . tierra with embodying the ethos of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement that celebrates ethnic difference and collective identity. Additionally, the critical impact of the novel on Chicana/o literature and studies is evidenced by the numerous scholarly studies that identify it as one of the seminal works of emerging Mexican-American literature. Since its original publication in Spanish, the novel has since been translated by Herminio Ríos C as . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1971); by Rivera’s colleague and close friend Rolando Hinojosa-Smith as The Migrant Earth (1987); and also by Evangelina Vigil-Piñon as . . . And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1988), considered to be the definitive translation. During Rivera’s administrative career, he published a collection of poems, Always and Other Poems (1973). Posthumously, The Harvest (1989), a collection of Rivera’s prose as well as a fragment of an unfinished novel, and two more collections of Rivera’s poetry were published (1990, 1991).

General Overviews

The work listed in this section provides both readers and scholars with important introductions and overviews of Rivera and his writing. Lattin, et al. 1988 is an excellent collection of essays on Rivera and a useful entry point that also contains Maguire 1988. Spence 1988 (cited under Bibliographies) offers an early bibliographic guide to scholarship on Rivera. Martinez 1992 compiles a comprehensive collection of Rivera’s life and work. Guajaro 1992 gives us a pointed review on Rivera’s posthumously published The Harvest. Olivares 1985 includes national and international perceptive essays that focus on specific aspects of Rivera’s work and life, while Patell 2004 offers a general introduction to the author in the context of popular culture.

  • Guajaro, Paul. “A Late Harvest: A Review of the Collected Stories of Tomás Rivera.” Bilingual Review/Revista Bilingue 17.3 (September–December 1992): 279–284.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Review of The Harvest, a posthumously published collection of Rivera’s prose comprised of six stories, four of which were previously published, as well as a fragment of an unfinished novel.

  • Lattin, Vernon E., Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, and Gary D. Keller, eds. Tomás Rivera 1935–1984: The Man and His Work. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Collection comprised of scholarly contributions in honor of Rivera’s personal and professional life. Also contains poems drawings, and photographs. Contributors include an impressive list of Chicana/o scholars and artists including Leal, Teresa and Alfonso Rodríguez, Arias, Daydí-Tolson, Martínez-S., and Spence.

  • Maguire, John David. “Searching: When Old Dreams Find Their Youth Again.” In Tomás Rivera 1935–1984: The Man and His Work. Edited by Vernon E. Lattin, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, and Gary D. Keller, 106–112. Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Review, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Presented as a distinguished lecture in memory of Rivera at the 1985 National Conference on Higher Education. The first of the annual Tomás Rivera Lectures, and commemorates the “six elements that were at the center of [Rivera’s] incandescent life, cut short” (p. 106).

  • Martinez, Armando M. Guide to the Tomás Rivera Archive. Riverside: UCR Libraries, University of California, Riverside, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A good place to start if interested in visiting the Tomás Rivera Archive (see Archives) compiled by Martinez.

  • Olivares, Julián. “International Studies in Honor of Tomás Rivera.” In Special Issue: International Studies in Honor of Tomás Rivera. Edited by Julián Olivares. Revista Chicano-Riquena 13.3–4 (Fall–Winter 1985): 24–25.

    Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this entire issue devoted to Rivera, leading critics of Chicana/o literature including Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and Americo Paredes, as well as European critics, survey Rivera’s prose and poetry.

  • Patell, Cyrus R. K. “Emergent Ethnic Literatures: Native American, Hispanic, Asian American.” In A Concise Companion to Postwar American Literature and Culture. Edited by Josephine G. Hendin, 351–382. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405121804.2004.00016.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Interestingly placed in the wide-ranging anthology that also covers bebop and Jewish fiction, chapter identifies Rivera’s . . .tierra central to the formation of a Chicana/o literature. Details such as Rivera’s “estampa, or sketch form, popularized by Julio Torri in Mexico make this an ideal supplemental biographical resource” (pp. 367–368).

back to top

Your subscription doesn't include the subject of this book.