Tomás Rivera was a Chicano author, poet, and educator. He was born in Texas to migrant farm workers, and worked in the fields as a young boy. However, he achieved social mobility through education—earning a degree at Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University), and later a Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) at the University of Oklahoma—and came to believe strongly in the virtues of education for Mexican-Americans.
As an author, Rivera is best remembered for his 1971 Faulknerian stream-of-consciousness novella ...y no se lo tragó la tierra, translated into English variously as This Migrant Earth and as ...and the Earth Did Not Devour Him. This book won the first Premio Quinto Sol award.
Rivera taught in high schools throughout the Southwest US, and later at Sam Houston State University and the University of Texas at El Paso. From 1979 until his death in 1984, he was the chancellor of the University of California, Riverside, the first Mexican-American to hold such a position at the University of California.