Colorado Writer Investigates Woody Guthrie’s ‘Plane Wreck at Los Gatos’

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<p>(Photo courtesy Tim Hernandez)</p>
<p>Tim Hernandez visits the mass gravesite at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, Calif. </p>
Photo: Tim Hernandez
Tim Hernandez visits the mass gravesite at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, Calif.

On January 28, 1948, a chartered plane carrying 28 Mexican farmworkers crashed in Los Gatos Canyon, in central California. The next day, newspaper accounts named only the three-person crew and an immigration guard. The other victims were all listed simply as Mexican nationals or deportees.

That outraged folksinger Woody Guthrie, who wrote a poem about the crash that was later turned into a song. It's been recorded by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Dolly Parton, Old Crow Medicine Show, and many others. Three years ago, writer Tim Hernandez, who lives in Lafayette, was in a Fresno, California, library doing research when he came across a newspaper article about the Los Gatos crash.

He realized it was the same one he knew about from Guthrie’s song, and he began contemplating a novel that would tell fictionalized stories of the 28 deportees. But first, he wanted to know their names. Hernandez talks to Ryan Warner.