Song Lyrics

Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

by Woody Guthrie & Martin Hoffman

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The crops are all in, and the peaches are rotten
The oranges are packed in the creosote dumps
They're flying us back to the Mexico border
To pay all our money to wade back again

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mi amigos, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be Deportee

Now my father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money her made in his life
Six-hundred miles to the Mexico border
They chased us like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
No all they will call you will be Deportee

The sky-plane caught fire, over Los Gatos Canyon
A big ball of fire, it shook all the ground
Who are these friends, who are falling like dry leaves
The radio said they were just deportees

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
No all they will call you will be Deportee

But we died in your hills, we died in your valleys
We died in your orchards, we died on your plains
We died on your deserts, we died in your treetops
Both sides of the river we died just the same

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus and Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
No all they will call you will be Deportee

© 1948

Footnotes to Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

The genesis of "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" reportedly occurred when Guthrie was struck by the fact that radio and newspaper coverage of the Los Gatos plane crash did not give the victims' names, but instead referred to them merely as "deportees." Guthrie lived in New York City at the time, and none of the deportees' names were printed in the January 29, 1948, New York Times report, only those of the flight crew and the security guard. However, the local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, covered the tragedy extensively and listed all of the known names of the deportees.

Unaware of the extensive local coverage of the disaster, Guthrie responded with a poem, which, when it was first written, featured only rudimentary musical accompaniment, with Guthrie chanting the song rather than singing it. In the poem, Guthrie assigned symbolic names to the dead: "Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita; adiós, mis amigos, Jesús y María..." A decade later, Guthrie's poem was set to music and given a haunting melody by a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman. Shortly after, folk singer Pete Seeger, a friend of Woody Guthrie, began performing the song at concerts, and it was Seeger's rendition that popularized the song during this time.

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