About the Award

Texas State University College of Education developed the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. The award was established in 1995 and was named in honor of Dr. Tomás Rivera, a distinguished alumnus of Texas State University.

Tomás Rivera Legacy

Tomás Rivera, a native of Crystal City, Texas, is the first Mexican American to have been selected Distinguished Alumnus at Texas State University–San Marcos. Graduating with a M.Ed. in Educational Administration (1964) after having received his B.S. degree in English (1958), both from Texas State, he went on to the University of Oklahoma where he received his Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literature in 1969. Within ten years after receiving his Ph.D., he quickly rose to become Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside in 1979. During this time, he published extensively in various locations, including his landmark novel…y no se lo tragó la tierral…And the Earth Did Not Part (1971), short stories and poetry posthumously gathered in The Harvest/la cosecha, and The Searchers: Collected Poetry, respectively. All of his works are now found collected with his essays in Tomás Rivera: The Complete Works, edited by Julián Olivares in 1992.

While his life as an educator and university administrator would take him away from his creative writing, he nevertheless travelled extensively, reading and promoting Mexican American Literature throughout the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Indeed, during his adulthood he became known as the Dean of Mexican American Literature wherever he went. His writings, in both English and Spanish, mainly deal with the difficult lives of Mexican American migrant farm workers, but what he emphasizes most is their enduring, highly resilient human spirit. It should also be noted that his writings mainly focus on the lives of Mexican American farm working children, as his foremost and unswerving concerns were for their education and liberation from oppressive living conditions. As he once said, “The different planes that were evolved {in the Chicano community and literature} called for the establishment and betterment of the Chicano community above all else.”

Tomás Rivera’s writings have provided tremendous hope for generations of migrants who had previously not had their lives inscribed and valorized in literature, ensuring with his literature that their lives were not lived in vain or forgotten. His enduring presence through his literature will long stand in the United States as an example of what the Mexican American community is capable of nurturing, educating, and producing. About our education, he said, “A highly quality education provided at all levels for the Hispanic communities will insure stronger individuals, and in turn a stronger community. This type of education must be one of our constant and basic demands. We can only insure this education if we lead, if we become involved in getting it, if we have in it, and most importantly, if we make it part of our prophecy.”

The creation of this Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award in his honor goes a long way towards keeping alive the prophecy he saw as part of our legacy as members of a healthy and responsible community. This children’s book award will also work towards sustaining the vision he saw for the education of Mexican Americans in the Southwest and the greater United States. It is therefore unquestionably right and proper that this award be given in his name, his honor, his prophesy.