On Jan. 29, 1948, The New York Tmes reported the wreck of a "charter plane carrying 28 Mexican farm workers from Oakland to the El Centro, CA, Deportation Center.... The crash occurred 20 miles west of Coalinga, 75 miles from Fresno."
Twenty-eight migrant workers died in the crash and were buried, most of them unidentified, in a mass grave in Fresno. This was the incident that inspired Woody Guthrie to write "Deportees."
Of the thousand or so songs he wrote in his lifetime, "Deportees" is one of the most devastating. I have the lyrics tacked to the wall above my desk at work. To listen to Woody's son Arlo singing it is to hear protest music at its finest; it's an exposé, a memorial, and a heartache you won't soon forget.