I thought this was pertinent with the hatred being directed at migrants at the moment. Our economy depends on immigrant labour. They are brought in and paid poor wages. The bosses exploited them and still do.
In Britain we bring in tens of thousands of Eastern Europeans to pick crops.
In the USA they bosses exploited Mexicans. They paid them poor wages and they toiled in the fields. When the crops were picked they shopped these illegal immigrants to the feds who shipped them back to Mexico as illegal immigrants.
In 1948 a plane carrying a bunch of these immigrants crashed on the way back to Mexico. All the illegal immigrants were killed. All the papers took the stance that they were merely deportees. They didn’t even bother naming them.
It infuriated Woody. He saw them as people – husbands, wives, children – people who had lost their lives trying to gain a living for their families. He wrote a song to recognise that; to name them and give them dignity. He used the disparaging word – deportee!
I thought this was relevant today!
Plane Wreck at Los Gatos
(also known as “Deportee”)
Words by Woody Guthrie
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott’ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again
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”?