Memorializing "Deportees": Conversations with Tim Hernandez and Lance Canales

Vani Kannan


Over sixty years following the 1948 plane crash that had inspired Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees,” a poem subsequently set to music by Martin Hoffman, poet and novelist Tim Z. Hernandez began to locate the real names of the deceased passengers, and worked with the families of the “deportees” to design a memorial headstone. On Labor Day 2013, the headstone was unveiled. At the ceremony, California musician Lance Canales and his band, the Flood, played a new version of Guthrie and Hoffman’s song. Canales describes re-writing the song within an entirely new set of musical conventions, from his own subject-position as the grandson of a migrant farmworker, imagining that he was descended from someone killed in the crash. This essay investigates Guthrie’s composition of “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)”, Martin Hoffman’s musical arrangement, Hernandez’s research, and Canales’s re-writing of the song, positioning the song in relation to the history — and present reality — that it has narrated for over sixty years


Woody Guthrie; Deportees; Plane Wreck at Los Gatos; Martin Hoffman; Tim Z. Hernandez; Lance Canales; memorial; Bracero program

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