July 20th, 2010

strike, labor, union, class

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

On January 29, 1948, an overloaded DC-3 crashed near Fresno. On board were 28 migrant farmworkers being deported to Mexico and four Americans. No one survived. Only the Americans were named in the newspaper reports. The farmworkers were lumped together as "deportees."

Woody Guthrie got angry and wrote the lyrics to the song. Schoolteacher Martin Hoffman added a singable, almost cheerful melody with a chilling final few bars. This vidder Victtory brought together the song (powerfully conveyed by Richard Shindell's voice and guitar) and the stark images of migrant farmworker captured by Mexican photojournalist José Hernández Claire.

The song is 50 years old. The incident it relates is the kind of thing that could happen any time. The vid is right up to the minute with the whole issue of illegal immigration. But the heart of the video is the migrant farmworkers themselves. Their humanity, which is what their names stand for. It's so easy not to care about the faceless, nameless masses. This vid shows faces, and the song underlines the hard lives and dreadful deaths of those who do some of the hardest work on earth.

Here are the names of the deportees who died:
Among those passengers whose remains were identified were: Ramon Perez, Jesus Santos, Ramon Portello, James A. Guardaho, Guadalupe Ramirez, Julio Barron, Jose Macias, Martin Navarro, Apolonio Placentia, Santiago Elisandro, Salvadore Sandoval and Manuel Calderon.

Among the passengers for whom remains were never identified: Francisco Duran, Rosalio Estrado, Bernabe Garcia, Severo Lara, Elias Macias, Tomas Marquez, Louis Medina, Manuel Merino, Luis Mirando, Ygnacio Navarro, Roman Ochoa, Alberto Raygoza, Guadalupe Rodriquez, Maria Rodriguez, and Juan Ruiz.

I'll try to think of their names when I drizzle balsamic vinegar on my fresh California salad or open a can of tomato soup. I want to remember what my food costs. I want to be grateful, not just to God, but to the human hands that plant and harvest. They deserve at least that much from me.
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    Richard Shindell - Lawrence, KS