The most enduring song ever written about California immigrants, “Deportee” by Woody Guthrie, commemorated an incident that happened only a two-hour drive from San Luis Obispo.
In 1948, a DC-3, carrying 28 Mexican farmworkers enrolled in the federally sponsored “Bracero Program,” was flying them back to their homes south of the border. It never made it. The plane crashed in a field about 20 miles west of Coalinga, killing all 32 people on board.
Not only were they buried in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, but the small plaque flush to the ground even deprived them of their personhood by omitting mention of their names.
This coming Labor Day, at 10 a.m., 65 years later, some of this injustice will be set right. A new monument that lists all of their names will be dedicated at the cemetery.
San Luis Obispo is about the same distance from the crash site as Fresno. These victims could very well have been interred here. These people are our people, too.