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Tomas Rivera Conference celebrates 25th anniversary

April 16, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • A drawing of author Tomas Rivera.
A drawing of author Tomas Rivera. (UC Riverside )

It’s a Southern California literary event that’s several years older than the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. This Friday it will mark its 25th anniversary.

The Tomas Rivera Conference is named for the late writer and educator, best known for his 1971 Spanish novel, “...y no se lo tragó la tierra,” translated into English as “And the Earth Did Not Devour Him.” It tells the story of a migrant farmworker, mostly as seen from the perspective of a child.

After a noteworthy career as a professor, Rivera became chancellor at UC Riverside in 1979. He died at age 48 in 1984. A few years later, his widow, Concha, founded the conference in his memory, seeking to continue the work that drove him in life: spreading the word about Chicano and Latino literature.

Over the years, many of the leading lights of Chicano and Latino letters and arts have spoken at the Tomas Rivera Conference -- including short-story writer and novelist Sandra Cisneros, playwright Luis Valdez and the late, legendary folk-singer Lalo Guerrero.

Friday’s event at UC Riverside will feature afternoon speaking sessions for a variety of artists, including the MacArthur grant-winning playwright Luis Alfaro, and the L.A. muralist Barbara Carrasco.

The conference culminates Friday night with a reading of “And the Earth Did Not Devour Him,” newly adapted for the stage by Tiffany Ana López and directed by Juliette Carrillo, featuring a cast of professional actors with a post-play discussion joined by Alma Martinez, a long-time artistic associate of El Teatro Campesino.

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hector.tobar@latimes.com

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