And The Earth Did Not Devour Him Summary

Tomás Rivera

And The Earth Did Not Devour Him

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And The Earth Did Not Devour Him Summary

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Chicano-American author Tomas Rivera’s novel And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, originally published in 1971 in Spanish, Y No Se Lo Trago La Tierra, and in English as This Migrant Earth, is about a community of South Texan Mexican-American migrant workers during the mid-twentieth century. It comprises fourteen short stories and thirteen vignettes illustrating the life of the residents. Though the stories are fragmented and jump around in time and from character to character, they are tied together by the first and last installments in the memories of an unnamed male protagonist. Exploring themes of social change, the importance of building a community, class struggle, and the author’s disillusionment with the traditional spiritual ways of the Mexican-American community, And the Earth Did Not Devour Him is considered a classic of Chicano literature. It has been adapted into a Spanish-language film, won the Premio Quinto Sol prize for literature in 1970, and is still widely studied in colleges as an example of Chicano literature.

And the Earth Did Not Devour Him begins with the story “The Lost Year,” featuring an unnamed male protagonist who relates that he cannot clearly remember the events of the last year and is haunted by memories and images as he sleeps. The first vignette relates how the narrator drank the glass of water his mother left under his bed for the spirits, but could never bring himself to tell her. “The Children Cannot Wait” tells a story of how a cruel employer tries to keep his migrant workers, especially the child workers, from taking frequent breaks for water. He attempts to scare a child by shooting at him, accidentally kills him, and loses everything. The second vignette tells about a mother worried about her military son, Julianito, and her trip to a medium who assures her that he will be fine. “A Prayer,” tells a story of a mother praying for her son’s return from Korea, as she begs God and her saints, promising to give her own heart if he returns home safely. A third vignette involves two workers discussing Utah, and where it is located. One speculates it is near Japan. “It’s That It Hurts” focuses on a migrant child expelled from school for fighting with a white child, and his fears about telling his parents. It details the racism and indignities migrant children encounter. The fourth vignette involves children talking about why their parents make them go to school. “Hand in His Pocket” focuses on a boy staying with friends of his family during school and the way the evil couple abuses him, making him participate in their cover-up of a murder. The fifth vignette shows a boy being discriminated against by a barbershop and a movie theater.

In “A Silvery Night,” a boy fascinated by the devil tries to summon the beast, but nothing happens. He speculates that is the devil’s trick. The sixth vignette involves a protestant minister offering to help the migrant workers, unaware that the man he has hired to teach them skills is sleeping with his wife. “And the Earth Did Not Devour Him,” the most famous story, focuses on the eldest son of a laborer family who resents the poor fortune of his family, as they are felled by one tragedy and illness after another in their work as farmhands. In the seventh vignette, a paralyzed grandfather and his grandson discuss what the boy wants out of life. The grandson only understands his grandfather’s response when he is an adult. “First Communion” involves a male narrator talking about his first communion, the things he witnessed at church, and his fears of committing a sin. Vignette eight focuses on a child’s generosity in the face of severe poverty. “The Little Burnt Victims” is a tragic story of how a father’s ambition for his children to become boxers like in the movies leads to a devastating fire. Vignette nine takes place at a wedding, showing the young couple’s traditions and preparations.

“The Night the Lights Went Out” focuses on a blackout in a migrant town, and the romantic complications and eventual suicide that led to the power loss. Vignette ten is about a horrible car accident caused by a drunk white woman who hits a truck filled with migrant workers. ”The Night Before Christmas” details the Christmas traditions of these migrant workers, even with little money. Vignette eleven focuses on a Priest blessing cars for money. “The Portrait” is a poignant story of a man seeking a portrait of his son who died in Korea, and just how far he will go to get the portrait completed. Vignette twelve, about a man recently released from prison, looks at the unequal treatment in the justice treatment. “When We Arrive” describes migrant workers talking about their hope for life in the United States. The final vignette tells the story of Bartolo the poet. The final story, “Under the House,” rejoins the first narrator as he remembers more about the people in the stories and how they all fit together, thinking about how much happened in this one year of his life.

Tomas Rivera, a Chicano novelist, poet, and educator, was a strong advocate for education among the Mexican-American population. A lifelong educator, he taught in high schools throughout the Southwest and later became chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. Widely honored today, with school facilities and awards named after him across the Southwest, he wrote three collections of poetry in addition to his famous novel.