Tim Hernandez and Joel Rafael

Tim Z. Hernandez and Joel Rafael

All They Will Call You: Finding Woody Guthrie’s Deportees

SDSU Smith Recital Hall Event

October 12, 2017 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.


Award-winning author Tim Z. Hernandez will deliver a performance based on his research about folk artist Woody Guthrie’s song Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees). The song focuses on the true story of twenty-eight Mexican citizens who were killed in a plane crash at Los Gatos Canyon while they were being deported from Oakland, California to the Mexico border on Jan. 28, 1948.

All They Will Call You: Finding Woody Guthrie’s Deportees includes special guest folk musician Joel Rafael, as well as a Q&A with the author.

At the time, mainstream media only mentioned the names of the American crew, omitting the names of the Mexican citizens. All of the passengers were buried in a mass grave in Fresno, California. Guthrie’s song was an attempt to restore the dignity of those passengers.

In Deportee Guthrie sings, “You won’t have a name / When you ride the big airplane / All they will call you / Will be “deportees.””

Book and performance culminate 7 years of research

Hernandez spent seven years tracking down the family members of victims and conducting interviews, including with the family of the four crew members who also perished. He described the research process as a personal journey wherein he “gave names to the nameless.”

In one case Hernandez interviewed a woman in her mid-80s whose fiancé was killed in the crash. “You could see it in her eyes, that she was a 20-year-old again,” said Hernandez. “The love was still palpable in her eyes.”

Honoring the Victims and Celebrating their lives

“The performance highlights the humanity within the people who perished in that accident,” said Hernandez. “It helps us realize that we all have much more in common than we do differences,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez was a finalist for the inaugural Split This Rock Freedom Plow Award for his work on locating the victims of the 1948 plane wreck. His research resulted in a book, All They Will Call You, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and National Public Radio.

Joel Rafael is a singer-songwriter and folk musician who has been writing and performing for over 50 years and has shared the stage with artists such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Joan Baez, John Lee Hooker, John Trudell, Laura Nyro, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Sheryl Crow, and Taj Mahal.

The performance is organized by SDSU Downtown Gallery Director, Chantel Paul, in conjunction with We Are Here/Estamos Aquí on display at the SDSU Downtown Gallery.

For more information, contact Chantel Paul, Downtown Gallery Director at cpaul@mail.sdsu.edu.

Directions to SDSU and the Smith Recital Hall