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Thu Aug 8, 2013, 12:20 AM

All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees: On 9/2, the Mexican farmworkers mentioned in Woody Guthrie


All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees: On Sept. 2, the Mexican farmworkers mentioned in Woody Guthrie’s song, “Deportee,” will finally be given the dignity and respect they deserve. A new memorial, listing all of their names, will be dedicated at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno. The program starts at 10 a.m., and the public is invited. Tim Z. Hernandez, who has been the driving force behind this effort, recently wrote the following on his blog to bring us up-to-date on the project.


When Woody Guthrie asked the question, “Who are these friends all scattered like dry leaves?” I wonder if he ever thought someone 65 years down the road would attempt to answer it? Or that the someone would be the grandson of migrant farmworkers from the same soil that the plane went down.

I wanted you all to be the first to hear…I have in fact located surviving family members for two of the “deportee” passengers aboard the plane that crashed in Los Gatos Canyon.

It only took the first conversation with Mr. Ramirez to realize that he and I have both been slogging our way through years of research (Mr. Ramirez more than I), intuitively working our way toward one another all this time. He is the grandson and nephew of Guadalupe Ramirez Lara and Ramon Paredes Gonzalez, both men who found themselves aboard that fateful flight on Jan. 28, 1948.

Since our first conversation, he and his family have been gracious and beyond cooperative in allowing me to interview them in person and on camera/audio for my book. To say they are excited about the effort to install the new headstone memorial on Sept. 2 is an understatement. They’ve been waiting for this moment since 1948 and, of course, they’ll be present.

I know many of you have been asking me if I have found any of the families, and while I’d like to save some of the mystery for my book, I will let you know that there will be an opportunity to hear the family’s story firsthand.

I recently took Mr. Ramirez, his wife and niece to the crash sight in Los Gatos Canyon to see the exact location where their relatives died. To add to the special occasion, Larry Haws, the grandson of O.D. “Happy” Gaston, who was among the first on the scene to help, was with us. And in a moment I thought might never happen, I found myself entering the canyon creek bed with the grandson of a first responder on my left and the grandson of two “nameless” victims on my right. Both men linked by a single incident that had begun to shape their lives before they were even born. Mr. Ramirez wore his father’s hat for the special occasion.

The public is invited to the Memorial Headstone installation at Holy Cross Cemetery on Sept. 2, Labor Day, at 10 a.m. Below is the list of names of the 28 passengers who were aboard the flight that day.

The Names

Miguel Negrete Alvarez
Tomas Avińa de Gracia
Francisco Llamas Duran
Santiago Garcia Elizondo
Rosalio Padilla Estrada
Tomas Padilla Marquez
Bernabe Lopez Garcia
Salvador Hernandez Sandoval
Severo Medina Lara
Elias Macias Trujillo
Jose Macias Rodriguez
Luis Medina Lopez
Manuel Merino Calderon
Luis Cuevas Miranda
Martin Razo Navarro
Ignacio Perez Navarro
Roman Ochoa Ochoa
Ramon Paredes Gonzalez
Guadalupe Ramirez Lara
Apolonio Ramirez Placencia
Alberto Carlos Raygoza
Guadalupe Rodriguez
Maria Rodriguez Santana
Juan Ruiz Valenzuela
Wenceslao Flores Ruiz
Jose Valdivia Sanchez
Jesus Meza Santos
Baldomero Marcas Torres

Plane Wreck at Los Gatos
(also known as "Deportee"
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Martin Hoffman

The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They're flying 'em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again

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"

My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

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Reply All They Will Call You Will Be Deportees: On 9/2, the Mexican farmworkers mentioned in Woody Guthrie (Original post)
annm4peace Aug 2013 OP
Luminous Animal Aug 2013 #1
annm4peace Aug 2013 #2
Waiting For Everyman Aug 2013 #3
senseandsensibility Aug 2013 #5
Waiting For Everyman Aug 2013 #6
annm4peace Aug 2013 #4

Response to annm4peace (Original post)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 12:22 AM

1. This is lovely. Thank you.

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Response to annm4peace (Original post)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 12:58 AM

3. This is so interesting to me, and so good to see this project being done.

The incident happened a few years before my time, but I knew about it because the song you posted was one of my favorites ever since I first heard it on one of Judy Collins' albums in the mid 60's. Her version is just so beautiful, I thought some here might like to hear it.

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Response to Waiting For Everyman (Reply #3)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:16 AM

5. Thank you for sharing this.

Wonderful version of a heartbreaking song.

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Response to senseandsensibility (Reply #5)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:46 AM

6. 50 years of hearing it, and I still tear up every time

and I don't do that easily. I believe that album came out just about the time of Cesar Chavez' efforts to organize the lettuce workers in California, and I always used to think of this song when I'd see the headlines about it.

Glad you liked it too, and very glad to see this memorial being done.

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Response to annm4peace (Original post)

Thu Aug 8, 2013, 01:07 AM

4. sad so many decades later...

still inhumane treatment. many die in vans on Hwy 5 in car accidents.. going to or coming from the fields in Central Ca.

they die crossing the border in the heat. etc...

and newspapers don't list their names.. just that they were illegals.

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