Tomas Rivera, born in 1935 to migrant farm workers in Texas, went from incurring regular racism in his difficulties getting published to becoming one of the most prolific Mexican-American writers in history. Mr. Rivera used upward social mobility to eventually become a published writer, as well as a renowned literary professor, by using his own education as an advantage.
His complete works, although they have a heavy theme of racism and hardship, especially his struggle attending school while working at the same time. Most of his works are semi-autobiographical, and illustrate the things Rivera himself had to overcome to achieve what he was able to accomplish. These works are very empowering as a whole, and though Rivera is honest, he definitely uses his essays and poems to explain how social mobility is possible through perseverance.
His characters, constantly catching up on schoolwork–growing up poor–or similar situations, all carry an undertone of a determination that will inevitably end in success. Again, many reflections of his own life experience with upward social mobility, the works of Tomas Rivera are prolific in outlining how, by the author’s own feelings, a great education can result in better opportunity, especially amongst Mexican-Americans.
This idea, as a whole, can be perpetuated by the life story of Junot Diaz, however not especially apparent in his work “Drown”. He himself also uses experiences from his real life to drawn from, immigrating from the Dominican Republic to urban New Jersey as a child. This is a very important detail when analyzing “Drown”.
The horrible conditions of New Jersey’s inner-cities, as well as the socio-economic problems of the Latino community, were explained in great detail. There was no thematic overtone of hope as in the works of Tomas Rivera. He uses very descriptive and concrete images of the conditions of the poor Latino community to outline the problems faced on a daily basis.
As a literary piece, this is extremely effective. Diaz is very effective in conveying the conditions and hardships he, as well as many others like him, grew up in and were subjected to daily. He mentions the rampant substance abuse, as well as the trouble assimilating into a racist and poor environment as primary problems of the Latino community he saw around him, and accurately depicted in the story.
Perhaps the most eerie part of the story is the almost emotionless narration, by contrast to the concrete imagery used. In addition, the dialect made the story that much more powerful–showing other ways the Latino community had, contrasted with Tomas Rivera’s almost romanticized version of the same story.
Racism is still alive and well in America, and although there are many successful Latino-Americans, there are also many that remain in poverty–clearly racially motivated. It has been American tradition to discriminate against immigrants since the onset of the country, but the opportunities for upward mobility for blacks and Latinos is still not equal to whites. Many of the socio-economic problems that Diaz exposed that were rampant in the poor Latino community still exist today, especially in urban areas. While Rivera’s works seem optimistic, this tone is certainly not apparent in the story “Drown”.
“American Passages – Unit 12. Migrant Struggle: Authors.” American Passages – Unit 12. Migrant Struggle: Authors. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2013. <http://www.learner.org/amerpass/unit12/authors-5.html>.
Díaz, Junot. Drown. New York: Riverhead, 1996. Print.