FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Giving Names to Guthrie’s Deportees

by BILL JULIAN

For many years the folksinger John McCutcheon has performed at the Palms Playhouse in Winters California (previously in Davis) over the Martin Luther King Day week-end.  This year his concert was subdued, focused mainly on traditional songs by Woody Guthrie and his own compositions with political content.  He was probably aware of Pete Seeger’s failing health and impending death, although he did not talk about it, and that contributed to the elegiac air of the concert.

The highlight was the performance of a song he does not often cover, Woodie Guthrie’s famous ballad Deportee about a 1948 plane crash in California that killed the pilot, crew and passengers, who were Mexican nationals being deported back to Mexico at the end of the harvest season.  Guthrie had read about the crash in the New York Times, which described the crew in detail and then dismissed the passengers as anonymous deportees.  The point of the song is in the refrain:  “You won’t have a name when you ride the big airplane / All they will call you will be deportee,” capturing the denial and indignity visited on migrant farmworkers even in death.

That night McCutcheon had a response.  He and others had considered that if the crash victims were deported, there should be some record of the deportation order in INS archives from which identities could be recovered.  They found them and erected a monument in Fresno last Fall over the mass grave where they are buried that gives them back their names.  (A video of the dedication event from the Fresno Bee is available here.)

As John McCutcheon sang the song at the Palms the names were read out:

Miguel Negrete Alvarez

Francisco Llamas Duran

Santiago Garcia Elizondo

Rosalio Padilla Estrada

Barnabe Lopez Garcia

Ramon Paredes Gonzalez

Tomas Avina de Gracia

Salvador Sandoval Hernandez

Guadalupe Ramirez Lara

Elias Trujillo Macias

Jose Rodriguez Macias

Tomas Padilla Marquez

Luis Lopez Medina

Manuel Calderon Merino

Luis Cuevas Miranda

Martin Razo Navarro

Ignacio Perez Navarro

Roman Ochoa Ochoa

Apolonio Ramirez Placencia

Alberto Carlos Raygoza

Guadalupe Hernandez Rodriguez

Maria Santana Rodriguez

Juan Valenzuela Ruiz

Jose Valdivia Sanchez

Jesus Meza Sanchez

Baldomero Marcas Torres

John McCutcheon’s work over the past forty years has reflected the best traditions of American folk music – mixing protest and moral witness with simple, strong and often very funny affirmations of basic human values and rights, from soup to baseball to Sarajevo.  This recent gesture – recovering the names of the Deportee crash victims and removing them from the list of anonymous victims of that murderous century – is another powerful engagement with the tradition and the communities out of which it rises, even as it makes singing that particular song less essential.

Bill Julian lives in Davis California.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump. It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Clobbers Ocean Life
Patrick Cockburn
The Terrifying Parallels Between Trump and Erdogan
Kenneth Surin
The Neoliberal Stranglehold on the American Public University
Lawrence Davidson
Is There a Future for the Democratic Party?
Douglas Valentine
Who Killed MLK Jr?
Robert Fisk
The Foreign Correspondent in the Age of Twitter and Trump
Dale Bryan
“Where Do We Go from Here?”
David Swanson
The Deep State Wants to Deep Six Us
Dan Bacher
Obama Administration Orders Speedy Completion of Delta Tunnels Plan
Mark Weisbrot
Obama Should Make Sure that Haitian Victims of UN-Caused Cholera are Compensated
Winslow Myers
The Light of the World
Bruce Mastron
My Latest Reason to Boycott the NFL: Guns
Weekend Edition
January 13, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Gregory Elich
Did the Russians Really Hack the DNC?
Jeffrey St. Clair
The President Who Wasn’t There: Barack Obama’s Legacy of Impotence
Anthony DiMaggio
Ethics Fiasco: Trump, Divestment and the Perversion of Executive Politics
Joshua Frank
Farewell Obummer, Hello Golden Showers
Paul Street
Hit the Road, Barack: Some Farewell Reflections
Vijay Prashad
After Aleppo: the State of Syria
John Wight
Russia Must be Destroyed: John McCain and the Case of the Dodgy Dossier
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail