Saturday, September 14, 2013


Woody Guthrie wrote this back in 1948 after a plane carrying Mexican migrant workers went down in Los Gatos Canyon near Fresno. The Bracero program was still in effect and if the employers didn't foot the bill to return workers to Mexico, as they were supposed to, the INS did it for them. Somehow, someway the pilots picked up the wrong plane. How the heck they didn't notice that the damn plane didn't have enough seats for the number of passengers, nobody knows. And it was overdue for maintenance checks. Witnesses saw the plane lose a wing, then go down in flames. Apparently the radio reports listed the dead as "just deportees." 

The reference to the crops hails back to a time when farmers were paid to destroy crops to keep the prices up. Good left that Guthrie was, he was mad that good food was being destroyed while people were going hungry. 

That's a sin. That's damn sin. It's sin against the Creator because it wastes the resources, the gifts that went to create those crops. 

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"?

It's sixty years later and too many of our neighbors use names worse than "deportee." And to be honest I'd hate to think how many of them think potatoes come in bags and oranges come in crates with no dirt or trees involved. 

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