Reporter Valerie Hamilton tells the story of deportees who died in a 1948 plane crash. Their identities remained unknown until now. Also, Maria Hinojosa interviews Hamilton about the Woody Guthrie song “Deportee,” inspired by the crash. Additional reporting by Rebecca Plevin.

Photo: Tim Hernandez, right, and folk musician John McCutcheon, left, unveiling the new memorial dedicated to the victims of the deportee plane crash. Also unveiling the memorial were musician Lance Canales and Jaime Ramirez, the relative of two crash victims. Image courtesy of Rebecca Plevin/Valley Public Radio.


The plane crash victims:

Miguel Negrete Álvarez
Tomás Aviña de Gracia
Francisco Llamas Durán
Santiago García Elizondo
Rosalio Padilla Estrada
Tomás Padilla Márquez
Bernabé López Garcia
Salvador Sandoval Hernández
Severo Medina Lára
Elías Trujillo Macias
José Rodriguez Macias
Luis López Medina
Manuel Calderón Merino
Luis Cuevas Miranda
Martin Razo Navarro
Ignacio Pérez Navarro
Román Ochoa Ochoa
Ramón Paredes Gonzalez
Guadalupe Ramírez Lára
Apolonio Ramírez Placencia
Alberto Carlos Raygoza
Guadalupe Hernández Rodríguez
Maria Santana Rodríguez
Juan Valenzuela Ruiz
Wenceslao Flores Ruiz
José Valdívia Sánchez
Jesús Meza Santos
Baldomero Marcas Torres

Valerie. photoValerie Hamilton is an independent producer. She reports on issues on and around the U.S-Mexico border for U.S. and European public media. She’s based in Los Angeles.

2 thoughts on “Deportee Plane

  1. Thank You for this story. Just last week, I was driving out of the Black Range hills on Highway 52 in New Mexico, and listening to a recently discovered version of “Deportee” by Richard Shindell. Never having heard it before, I was entranced by the song and kept cueing it back and listening to it again and again – struck by the power of the words and the voice that the artist gives not just to those who died (as, at that time, I did not know the story behind the Woody Guthrie song) but to the whole immigration issue.

    There is a small graveyard on that highway, just at the edge of Cuchillo, NM, with about 70-80 gravestones. The majority of folks buried here died during a 3-4 year period in the 1910’s – you can see entire families laid to rest next to each other, with many just children at the time of their death. I’ve never researched the history of that cemetery, that town, as to what illness, accident, or act of war led to an entire town being decimated. But, at least these early Mexican-American settlers had the respect of a name, and a place for their family to mourn. The research and efforts of these two young men that resulted in these unnamed crash victims being given back their names, being given back their history and their families a place to remember and honor them, is befitting to the song and the lives lost. The outcome of this story provides a bit of sweet justice to a people rarely served in the selective ethnocentric history of 20th century white America.

  2. Thank you so much for this story! I learned the song in the ’50s, when Pete Seeger sang at our parochial school every year. I’m African-American with Hispanic overtones. Whenever i’ve heard the song, i’ve thought of the countless slaves buried in unmarked plots in nameless burial grounds all over the eastern half of the U.S. It’s good to know that at least these 28 workers have been identified. (P.S. The Wikipedia page does not list the 28 names though, at the end, it does say they’ve been identified with an appropriate marker.)

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