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A presentation by: Laura Martinez Tonya Valdez. By Tomás Rivera. …y no se lo tragÓ la Tierra …And the earth did not devour him. Photograph courtesy Image courtesy of: Born 1935 in Crystal City, Texas. Son of Mexican citizens.

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by tom s rivera

A presentation by: Laura Martinez

Tonya Valdez

By Tomás Rivera

…y no se lo tragÓ la Tierra…And the earth did not devour him

Photograph courtesy

Image courtesy of:


Born 1935 in Crystal City, Texas.

Son of Mexican citizens.

Worked as a farm laborer in the 1950’s.

Pursued higher education at Southwest Texas State University, graduating with a degree in English.

Was unable to find work at first due to his being a Mexican American.

Returned to college to earn his master’s in English, and went on even further to earn his PhD in romance languages and literature at University of Oklahoma.

Writings were influenced by the hardships that Mexican Americans faced during the 1940’s to 1950’s (Migrant).

Died in 1984 due to a heart attack.


As mentioned before, Rivera was influenced by the hardships faced by migrant workers during the 1940’s and 1950’s (Hispanic).

Having grown up during this period, he witnessed quite a bit first hand and was able to translate what he saw around him into his writings.

Some of the major influences during these time periods would be the drafting of Mexican Americans to fight during WWII, the start of the Bracero Program, racial discrimination, as well as spiritual and cultural practices.

war times
During the war, just like African Americans, Mexican Americans had been drafted to fight and die for a surrogate country that they believed in strongly.

While many didn’t wish to go, they left their families behind to pray for their safe return while they fought on the front lines. Fighting, and dying, to try and create a better future not just for their country, but for their families as well (Latinos).

Young Mexican American Soldier

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War Times
war times1
Many Mexican Americans hoped that in doing this, racial differences would ease and allow for a better integration for the youth, instead of segregation.

During the war, Mexican Americans were among some of the first to see combat during the war. Due to their bravery and courage shown during battle, the country began to look at Mexican Americans in a knew light. However, it still wasn’t enough to change the minds of the Anglos who continued to segregate them (Latinos).

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War Times

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During WWII, the U.S. Government enacted the Emergency Labor Program-known as the Bracero Program- which allowed many workers from Mexico to come into the U.S. for a set time (Hispanic).

Workers, known as Braceros, were often squashed together in camps that acted as their living quarters. The camps were adequate, but far from comfortable (Gamboa).

Migrant workers hoping to be picked for the Bracero Program


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It was hard and barely rewarding work. Having to put up with the harsh conditions, poor pay, and greedy contractors in order to earn enough money to send back to their families to provide for them.

For example, the “back breaking work” was usually reserved for the Mexicans because, unlike the white employed workers, the Mexicans took on just about any job that was given to them. Even if the pay was poor. In their eyes it was good money that they could desperately use (Gamboa).

racial discrimination
Racial Discrimination

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During WWII, zoot suits began to spring up everywhere in Los Angeles. While segregation was already at a high, many Anglos began to associate those who wore zoot suits with trouble. And since many Mexican American youths and taken a liking to the style, naturally Mexicans were labeled as no good.

Fights broke out, which led to riots, which led Americans to believe that the Mexican Americans were savage people and that they didn’t belong in the U.S. (People)

zoot suit riot link
Zoot Suit Riot Link

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racial discrimination1

Even after WWII was over, segregation continued. The Mexican Americans still had to attend segregated schools, eat at segregated restaurants, live in separate neighborhoods away from the Anglos, and basically remain out of sight. Treated as if they were inferior to the Anglos in every way.

The Anglos even went as far as to restore some of the cultural buildings and places of the South just to draw in tourists and earn cash to fill their pockets. It was in no way to help the people that truly cherished and upheld their heritage. They were just exploited (Mexican).

Racial Discrimination
religious ties

Most Mexican Americans are very spiritual. All usually belonging to either the Christian or Catholic faith. Having extremely strong ties to the teachings they grew up on as they pass milestones within the church that only help to strengthen their bond with God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the many other saints that they pray to daily.

During the tough times is when many Mexican Americans relied on prayer the most. Turning to it to help them through their hardships and trials that were presented to them at the time. Their strong faith was a big reason that allowed them to persevere through it all, even when it seemed like all was against them.

Religious Ties
putting it all together

In understanding everything that was going on during this time, we can gain a better understanding of what Rivera was going through himself as it happened around him.

Taking in everything that his people faced during this time, he was able to create various short stories that allowed us insight, even if just a little, into his fictitious characters world. Allowing us to understand how they felt about being a laborer in the fields barely earning anything. Showing us how discrimination ran deep through the south in both the parents and youth. Proving that while some can be crooked thieves, others are honest and fair citizens. That their culture and spirituality are extremely important and that they wouldn’t give it up for the world. Rivera wanted to show us the struggle that his people faced and how they were able to cope and rise above it all. Despite everything that had been thrown at them.

Putting It All Together
and the earth did not devour him

One of Tomás Rivera’s most classic novels, …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him was written very differently than a traditional novel. The story of a young migrant boy’s life experiences is written through a collection of short stories and anecdotes; some of the stories are told directly by the young boy or a relative and some are delivered through third-person narrative(Meet Tomás Rivera).

…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him

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traditions revealed

“What his mother never knew…” (Rivera 83) gives readers a window into some of the young boy’s family culture. Leaving a glass under the bed for spirits was a common practice in Mexican culture. The belief was that the water was an offering to keep bad spirits away; some people also believed that cracking an egg in a dish of water and leaving it under the bed would ward away ‘the evil eye’ from you while you slept (Spiritual Illness: Mal de Ojo).

Traditions Revealed

“El mal de ojo”

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traditions revealed1

“A Prayer” (Rivera 90) is the heart wrenching plea of a mother to her religious idols to spare the life of her son who was sent to war. The majority of Mexican Americans are Roman Catholic, and follow their beliefs of the symbolism of various figures in Catholicism (Mexican American Culture).

Traditions revealed

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traditions revealed2

In “A Prayer”, the mother prays to the following figures:

  • God, Jesus Christ
  • Virgin Mary
  • Virgen de San Juan
  • Virgen de Guadalupe
  • Virgen de San Juan del Valle

Excluding God, Jesus Christ, all of the other figures the mother prays to are versions of the Virgin Mary, who in the Roman Catholic Bible gives birth to the son of God, Jesus Christ. Mexican American culture expresses a very large importance in recognizing and praying to the Virgin Mary for safety, help and guidance (Our History).

Traditions Revealed

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traditions revealed3

In “A Silvery Night” (Rivera 104) a young individual is very curious about whether the devil exists and decides to call upon him based on what he knows within his culture. He says “I’ll call him right at twelve. I better take the clock so I’ll know when it’s exactly twelve. Otherwise, he might not come. It has to be right at midnight, exactly midnight” (Rivera 105). The child is very firm that the devil cannot be called on unless it is midnight. Calling upon evil spirits or the devil at midnight dates back as far as the 1800s when it was believed that the devil only did his work in the darkest part of the night, which was believed to begin at midnight (What Is The Witching Hour).

Traditions Revealed
the film

“…And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him” was the film adaptation of Rivera’s novel. It was a drama released in 1995 that put together the short stories in Rivera’s novel to create a full-length feature film. The film received five nominations and won one NCLR Bravo Award in 1996 (IMDb).

The Film
a clip from the film
A clip from the Film

Click Me →

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works cited

“Migrant Struggle”. American Passages: A Literary Survey. Web. 22 January 2013.

“Hispanic Americans: Migrant Workers and Braceros (1930s-1964)”. California Cultures. The Regents of The University of California. Web. 22 January 2013.

“Latinos, World War I and World War II”. U.S. History in Context. Web. 22 January 2013.

Works Cited
works cited1

Gamboa, Erasmo. “The Daily Life of the Bracero”. The Braceros: The Oregon Experience. Web. 22 January 2013.

“People & Events: The Zoot Suit Riots of 1943”. American Experiences. Web. 25 January 2013.

“Mexican Americans”. Countries and Their Cultures. Web. 25 January 2013.

“Meet Tomas Rivera”. Study Guide for …And the Earth Did Not Devour Him. Web. 26 January 2012.

“Spiritual Illness: Mal de Ojo”. Curious Curandera. Web. 26 January 2012.

Works Cited
works cited2

“Mexican American Culture”. Country Facts: The World At Your Fingertips. Web. 25 January 2013.

“Our History”. Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan de Valle National Shrine. Web. 24 January 2013.

“What Is the Witching Hour?”. wiseGEEK: Clear Answers For Common Questions. Web. 24 January 2013.

“…And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him”. IMBd. Web. 26 January 2013.

The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. 23 January 2013.

Works Cited
works cited3

Rivera, Tomás. …Y No Se Lo Tragó La Tierra (…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him). Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1992. Print.

Works Cited