los gatos creek county park‎

from woody guthrie posted in music


los gatos creek county park‎
derrick road and old coalinga rd
coalinga, california 93210

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posted by crabapple #

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On January 28, 1948, a plane crash occurred near Los Gatos Canyon, 20 miles west of Coalinga in Fresno County, CA (this county park contains the creek that runs through the 24-mile canyon).

The plane was deporting 28 Mexican fruit-pickers (with 4 American crew members) according to a U.S. treaty with the Mexican government known as the "Bracero Program". There is some dispute about whether the program was beneficial or not, but the fact is that none of the Mexican laborers (27 men and 1 woman) had their names listed in any of the media coverage.

The bodies of the Mexican laborers were buried in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California. The newspaper reports simply referred to them as "deportees." Only twelve of them were ever identified.

Woody Guthrie read the account, was outraged at the callous treatment of the workers, and wrote the lyrics to "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)."

posted by crabapple #

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Guthrie never recorded the song. The melody was written by a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman, and Pete Seeger started performing it ten years after the plane crash. Since then, numerous artists have recorded the song (like The Boss), and it is considered one of Guthrie's last important works.

The verse attempts to give dignity to the Mexican laborers by naming them:

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"