From the NYTimes:
… On Jan. 28, 1948, a plane chartered by federal immigration officials left Oakland, Calif., carrying two pilots, a flight attendant, an immigration guard and 28 Mexican farmworkers. Some were in the United States legally as part of the federal Braceros guest-worker program; others had crossed the border without documents. All 28 were being returned to Mexico.
Eighty miles southwest of Fresno, road workers reported hearing what sounded like an explosion, only to look up and see the left wing shear off the Douglas DC-3 passing high above them. Nearly a dozen bodies were seen falling from a hole in the fuselage before the plane burst into flames and plummeted into a wooded canyon.
Everyone aboard was killed. The bodies of the four crew members were shipped to family members, but the remains of the 28 Mexicans were buried in a mass grave here, at the edge of the cemetery…
“Woody always believed in the power of invoking people’s names; he wrote many songs using names,” Nora Guthrie, a daughter of the folk singer, wrote in an e-mail. “Sometimes, songs leave behind questions which ultimately can, and will, be answered by someone whose heart is pulled into the mystery.”
In the case of “Deportee,” that person was Tim Z. Hernandez, 39, a writer and a son and grandson of Mexican farmworkers. In 2010, Mr. Hernandez came across several newspaper articles about the crash at a Fresno library while he was doing research for a novel.
“When I saw the newspaper stories, Woody Guthrie’s lyrics became real to me,” he said. “I thought, someone somewhere must have those names.”…
Berenice Guzman, a history teacher at Dinuba High School in nearby Dinuba, Calif., had never heard of the plane wreck, or the Woody Guthrie song, until this year. Captivated, she told her students the story. They organized a bake sale to help raise $14,000 for the headstone and memorial service.
“They connected right away because many of their parents are farm workers from Mexico,” Ms. Guzman said at the ceremony. “This is an agricultural community. For many of us here, the people in that crash could have been family.”