The ‘deportees’ finally have their names
08/14/2013

 
Attend dedication of the memorial to the 28 ‘deportees’ on Labor Day, Sept. 2 in Fresno

Twenty-eight Mexican migrant farm workers tragically perished when the twin-engine DC-3C charter plane flying them back to Mexico caught fire and crashed on Jan. 28, 1948, near Los Gatos Canyon outside Coalinga in west Fresno County. News reports of the crash didn’t offer any names of the farm worker victims. They were just called “deportees.” The Latino community of Fresno buried the 28 unidentified bracero farm workers after funeral services in a mass grave at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery.

Incensed by how the farm workers were treated on the radio and in the newspapers, famed folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie wrote a beautiful poem, later a song, called “Deportee” or  “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.” Many artists, including Joan Baez who sang it at a United Farm Workers benefit last July in San Jose, have performed the ballad.
 
The refrain goes:
 
Farewell to my Juan, farewell Angelina
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 deportee
 
Cesar Chavez learned of the tragedy while serving in the U.S. Navy. It helped convince him that someone had to do something so, as he later said, farm workers could be treated “as important human beings and not as agricultural implements”—although he had no idea at the time that person would be him.
Sixty-five years later the names of the 28 deportees are known. The Diocese of Fresno Catholic Cemeteries is honoring these migrant farm workers with a large granite memorial listing their names. It will be dedicated during a ceremony on Labor Day, Sept. 2, 2013. Bishop Armando X. Ochoa will celebrate an outdoor Mass.

Radio Campesina has been working with the Diocese of Fresno to promote the Sept. 2 dedication and help locate family members of the 28 victims to invite them to this special dedication on Labor Day.

Join the farm worker movement and the Diocese of Fresno in attending the dedication of the memorial to the 28 deportees at 10 a.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, 2105 West Belmont Ave., Fresno 93728, 559-488-7449.  

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