A look into the lives of Mexican migrant farm workers, originally published in 1971.
This is a dual-language edition that first reprints the entire novella in Spanish, followed by a graceful English translation. Rivera’s technique is to present clipped chapters of description, monologue, short narrative, and even a prayer. The result is a document of family life lived on the edge as well as an indictment of prejudice on both sides of the border. Some of what Rivera recounts is heartbreaking—for example, an angry child trying to comprehend the dire conditions under which his family works: “Tell me, Mother, why? Why us, burrowed in the dirt like animals with no hope for anything? You know the only hope we have is coming out here every year. And like you yourself say, only death brings rest." Another chapter, both tender and harrowing, is “The Night Before Christmas,” in which two parents try to provide a few toys for their children at Christmas only to have the mother unable to deal with the gringo culture of commercialism. Rivera also doesn’t flinch from documenting exploitation between Mexicans, as in “The Portrait,” in which a woman’s desire to have a beautiful frame for her only photograph of her deceased son turns to ashes when she’s cheated by a swindler.
Compelling, direct, and poignant, Rivera’s narrative avoids the extremes of both sentimentality and sensationalism.