The earth does not swallow us

13 09 2010

The title of the book, y no se lo tragó la tierra, by Tomás Rivera comes from a scene where the boy protagonist curses God thinking that the earth would swallow him for his blasphemy and thus end his misery. From the title of the book, one can surmise that it didn’t happen. In the eyes of the author, it was a turning point for the young man in which he realizes that whatever would happen in life, God would remain silent, as if He did not exist.

Being a book about the entrance of a young man from one society (rural Mexican) into another (modern American), the above event is a microcosm of what many have and are going through. In the past, people saw the society and cosmos enveloped in a web of sympathetic, causal relationships. God was king of heaven and earth, so if you crossed Him, it would swallow you. If you made a promise to God but didn’t keep it, God will send some calamity to “gently remind you” of your obligations. If you defaced a sacred image, don’t be surprised if you died the next day from a strange and unforeseen accident. And so forth. When that failed, there were always societal pressures to conform to such beliefs, whether it came from the elites or from the populace in general.
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