Bob Dylan and Joan Baez: Deportees, Plane Wreck at Lost Gatos


Bob Dylan and Joan Baez sing Woody Guthrie‘s song Deportees. The song is about the death of nameless deportees in a plane crash in southern California in 1948.

Here’s the lyric.

Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
Lyrics by Woody Guthrie
Music by Martin Hoffman

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are piled in their creosote dumps
They’re flying you back to the Mexico border
To pay all your money to wade back again

Good-bye to my Juan, good-bye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have a name when you ride the big air-plane
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 big truck till they laid down and died

A sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon
Like a fireball of lightning, it shook all our hills
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees.

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.

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 known by no name except deportees?

More folk music


~ by lolarusa on January 15, 2008.

9 Responses to “Bob Dylan and Joan Baez: Deportees, Plane Wreck at Lost Gatos”

  1. As a kid, my family (The Bonilla Family) celebrated Easter Sunday at Los Gatos Park. I grew up in Coalinga, California. The park where we celebrated is probably less than a mile from where this plane crash occured. Little did I know what this song would mean to me, later in life.
    Please visit to learn more about this crash, to to see other videos.
    Thanks for making this post here.
    Frank Bonilla/

  2. Very interesting. But a question is raised. Why weere they flying them back? I would imagine that a more usual mode of transportation would be to rowd all these workers into the back of a truck.

  3. I think you raised a good question. The DC3 was chartered by the US Immigration, from Airline Transport Carriers, of Burbank, California. They were being transported to a deportation center, in El Centro, California.
    As you said, why didn’t they just drive them down to El Centro? They were farm workers, not criminals. Some were being deported because their work permits had expired. One article states the Immigration Service has used this mode of transportation for over a year, prior to the accident. Maybe they just had more money to spend back then!
    One article says “The plane was droning over the parched fields of the San Joaquin valley about 83 miles west of Fresno at 10:30 a.m. when disaster struck. Eyewitnesses placed its altitude between 1500 and 5000 feet.
    I am from Coalinga, the parched fields mentioned above are actually in the San Joaquin Valley itself (the big bathtub!). Where this plane crashed has to be 10 miles or more to the West, in the hills. The parched fields would be on the Western edge of the San Joaquin Valley, where I-5 now runs North and South. There are no “parched fields” anywhere close to the crash site.. Is it possible this pilot was lost?

  4. Thanks for the research, Frank.

  5. Following the WW2 and during, there was a shortage of labour to work in the harvest. Mexicans were recruited to work seasonallthe Bracero scheme and returned when there work was done. I await your clarification!

  6. Hello Patrick, Thanks for your comment. What is it that you want clarified?

  7. Thank you, I think what I was getting at is really an understanding of the victims description as ‘Deportees’ which to me, and that may be my ignorance on the matter I will bow to your superior knowledge, implied they were illegal immigrants. They weren’t but were part of the Bracero scheme and their working visa had expired. Nevertheless a very beautiful song, a reminder of just how well Bob and Joan performed together. A reminder also of just what a wonderful songwriter Woody Guthrie was.

  8. Hi Patrick. Thanks for that background information. I don’t know if there is any precise legal definition of deportee. For me it simply means a foreigner expelled from the country for any reason.

  9. Good enough!

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