The agreement of 1947 [between Mexico and the U.S.]... contained a novel provision which established amnesty through deportation. Under its terms, undocumented Mexicans who were sent back across the border could return to the U.S. as temporary contract laborers; during the life of their contracts, they could not be again deported. In practice, employers often called Border Patrol stations to report their own undocumented employees, who were returned, momentarily, to border cities in Mexico, where they signed labor contracts with the same employers who had denounced them. This process became known as "drying out wetbacks" or "storm and drag immigration." "Drying out" provided a deportation-proof source of cheap seasonal labor...
Joe Offer (Joe-Offer@msn.com) provided this info on rec.music.folk on 29 Jan 1997:
I got out my California map book, and found a Los Gatos Road and Los Gatos Creek northwest of Coalinga, near the Fresno/San Benito county line. That's one of the most desolate areas of California, and I'm sure it was even more desolate in 1948.
In Summer, the hills there are brown and forbidding, and the heat oppressive. That's how I pictured the crash site.
However, the crash took place in January, and in January those hills west of Coalinga are a beautiful green, splendid with wildflowers. Perhaps it is some slight consolation that these poor people died in a place of breathtaking beauty.
May they rest in peace, and may we never forget them.
Milnsue (email@example.com) added the following personal recollections on rec.music.folk, Mon, 21 Apr 1997:
He [WOODY GUTHRIE] was writing as many songs as ever, but few of any consequence. His children's songs continued to be charming... and his other songs remained perfunctory, with the notable exception of "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees)," which he composed after reading, early in 1948, that a plane deporting migrant farm workers back to Mexico had crashed. It was the last great song he would write, a memorial to the nameless migrants "all scattered like dry leaves" in Los Gatos Canyon, where the plane crashed.... The song, as he wrote it, was virtually without music -- Woody chanted the words -- and wasn't performed publicly until a decade later when a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman1 added a beautiful melody and Pete Seeger began singing it in concerts....
secret muse (firstname.lastname@example.org) supplied the following info on rec.music.folk, Wed, 23 Apr 1997:
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott'ning,
CHORUS: Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"
My father's own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.
Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.
We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.
The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?
Michael Black (blackm00@CAM.ORG) asked:
Is Marty Hoffman the one Judy Collins sings about in "Song for Martin" on "True Stories and Other Dreams"?
Mike Regenstreif (email@example.com) replied:
Yes he is.
BTW, when I first knew Cathy Fink, about 1972 or '73 when she came to Montreal to study at McGill, she was singing a song that she had written about Martin Hoffman when she'd spent some time on the same Navajo reservation that Hoffman had been working at before he killed himself.
Ed Renehan (firstname.lastname@example.org ) added:
To fill in the last detail, I'll report something Pete Seeger told me a number of years ago. Unfortunately, a few years after composing the beautiful melody for "Plane Wreck," Martin Hoffman killed himself.
2 Derek R. Larson (email@example.com) supplied the following info on Dec 15, 1997: