This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.
Tomás Rivera's career as a writer and educator was shaped by the struggles of his family.
Rivera was born in 1935. His parents were farm laborers who followed the annual harvests from Texas to the Midwest. Rivera traveled and worked with his family throughout his education. Ultimately, he earned a PhD and became a university professor.
Rivera's 1971 novel …y no se lo tragó la tierra—or, in English translation, And the Earth Did Not Devour Him—portrays the terrible conditions faced by Mexican American farm workers. Rivera later explained, "I wanted to document, somehow, the strength of those people that I had known…when the migrant worker was living without any kind of protection."
The novel received the first Premio Quinto Sol, an annual literary award given to the best work of fiction by a Chicano author.
As an educator, Rivera saw that he could advance the interests of first-generation college students more effectively as an administrator than as a professor. After serving on The University of Texas campuses in San Antonio and El Paso, he became the first Mexican American chancellor in the University of California system.
Rivera died in 1984. His achievements are commemorated at many sites in Texas, including in his hometown of Crystal City, where an elementary school was named in his honor.
For more information about this Texas Original, visit TexasOriginals.org. Texas Originals is produced by Houston Public Media, News 88.7, and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.