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Join UFW President Arturo Rodriguez at memorial dedication for 28 ‘deportees’ Labor Day, Sept. 2 in Fresno
08/26/2013

 Join UFW President Arturo Rodriguez at memorial dedication for 28 ‘deportees’ Labor Day, Sept. 2 in Fresno

The ‘deportees’ finally have their names

 Join the Catholic Diocese of Fresno and the farm worker movement—including United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez—in attending dedication of the memorial to 28 previously nameless “deportees” who died in a 1948 plane crash during observances at 10 a.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, 2105 West Belmont Ave., Fresno, Calif.  93728.

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. The Latino community of Fresno buried the 28 unidentified bracero farm workers after funeral services in a mass grave at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery. News reports of the crash didn’t offer any names of the farm worker victims. They were just called “deportees.”

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, mostly because of the research efforts of Colorado author Tim Z. Hernandez. Largely with help from fundraising spearheaded by Hernandez, 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 spread the word about the Sept. 2 dedication.

The memorial dedication begins at 10 a.m. on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, 2105 West Belmont Ave., Fresno 93728. (For more information, call the Diocese of Fresno at 559-488-7449.)