Friday, July 25, 2014

Los Gatos Canyon

Near Coalinga (southwest of Fresno) back in 1948 a plane load of Mexican citizens were being flown to El Centro to be sent back to Mexico. The plane crashed in Los Gatos Canyon. Depending on where you lived the news didn't have much coverage of the event., so when Woody Guthrie heard about it, no names were given. In his poem, “Deportee”, he said that “you won't have a name when you ride the big airplane”. And for years the mass grave up in Fresno only listed “28 Mexican Citizens” on the small headstone.

But when researching another book, author Tim Z. Hernandez ( discovered the story in a search on the computer at the Fresno public library. Thinking that it would be a good way to develop a novel, he started looking for the names of the passengers. And he had trouble finding those names.

But after he published a notice of his interest in the story he started making contact with the families of survivors. And then he had a list of names. It came from a saved Spanish language newspaper from right after the crash. Then as he he tracked down more of these people (he's still looking if you happen to know anyone related to one of the victims) he started getting stories.

And he realized that basically in history each person is at most a footnote. But then we're all footnotes in this history. So after, he and a Fresno musician, Lance Canales (watch his video, did a fund raiser to get a headstone with all the names on it. It took very little time to get the money for that. But there is still a lot of research to do on finding the families of more of the victims.

But this is only a small number of stories that could be be written. And sadly we can still be writing stories like this today. Thankfully we haven't had any accidents like the one over Los Gatos Canyon. But we're still deporting people. And like back then, the stories of the people being deported are being ignored. They're just labeled “illegals” and packed into buses and face protesters screaming for them to go home.

 I don't claim to know the right answer, but I do know that each person has a story. Even those protesters have stories. But for me the stories I'd rather hear are the stories of the people hoping rather than the ones hating. So when the history of this time is written, and all the footnotes are put in, I hope my story, my footnote, is one that shows that I had hope. And I hope yours is a good one too.  

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