Elias Rivera was born in 1937 of Puerto Rican parents living in the Bronx. He attended Art Students League under the tutelage of Frank Mason, and painted somewhat disturbing canvases of raw life and strife in the New York area before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1982. Since that move his palette blossomed under the sun of the high desert and he began painting the Indians who sit under the Portal in the square of Santa Fe selling their handicrafts. Impressed with both the quality of the Indian's work as well as the quality of their quiet ambience, Rivera began his travels into Mexico, staying in Oaxaca where he transformed the simple gathering of the townspeople into painterly tableaus. He also captured the color and mystery of the sequestered Tarahumara Indians producing some of his most exciting canvases of their rituals.
Now fully established as a noted painter, Rivera began to visit Guatemala 'because the colors of the fabrics and the people are so much richer' and began to fully realize his powerful palette, once again painting ordinary people clustered in life situations. The drama of Rivera's painting comes from the almost abstract color fields he creates in his drapery of the costumes: his paintings are never forced or posed - they just are captured moments of fascinating mood and humanity.