The power of Deportees: Lance Canales + the Flood

Sixty-eight years ago today Woody Guthrie wrote a poem about a plane crash, in which three dozen field workers died, but were not even named [Rui Brai] in media accounts (including the NYTimes).

Ten years later Guthrie's words were put to music by school teacher Martin Hoffman. This became the song Deportee, surely one of the most powerful folk songs ever, covered by everyone from Joan Baez to Johnny Cash.

The power of this anger, these words. Their roar still echoes down all these years. 

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"

Via Eliza Gilkyson's fb page, here's a truly great new version by Lance Canales and his band, in a video that powerfully and allusively tells the story of how the unnamed deportees were at last named and honored.

We won't have a name when we ride the big airplane
All they will call us is thirty-four dead…

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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