The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #41992   Message #3557275
Posted By: Desert Dancer
08-Sep-13 - 06:35 PM
Thread Name: Origin: Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (background)
Subject: RE: Origin: Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (background)
Fresno memorial unveiled with 'deportee' names from 1948 crash

By Ron Orozco — The Fresno Bee
September 2, 2013

A mass grave site at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Fresno now has a new memorial bearing the names of 28 Mexican citizens — the "deportees" — who died in an airplane crash in 1948.

The farmworkers were in a program that allowed Mexican citizens to enter the United States to do seasonal work and then return to Mexico, but they never made it home. They were buried in a mass grave in Fresno, but the grave maker did not list any names.

Folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a protest song about the events, "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" in 1948. The memory of the farmworkers was kept alive over the years through renditions of the song by well-known musicians, including Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

On Monday, the right thing was done. More than 500 people attended a Mass under a tent at the cemetery and then walked a short distance to the grave site, where a 4-by-8-foot granite memorial with the farmworkers' names was unveiled.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which owns Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, led an effort with author and former Valley resident Tim Z. Hernandez to raise money for the memorial. About $14,000 was raised to cover the cost of the memorial and expenses to stage the Mass and unveiling ceremony.

Carlos Rascon, director of cemeteries for the diocese, told the crowd: "Many of you are here because you wanted to help — you wanted to correct a past wrong. A person asked, 'Who are these friends?' Today, we have that answer, because of you."

Relatives of those who died in the airplane crash expressed gratitude at Monday's events. Some traveled great distances to Fresno.

Caritina Ramirez came from Charco de Pantoja in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. She wiped away tears as she spoke Spanish through an interpreter about her father, Ramon Paredes Gonzalez, a farmworker who died in the crash. She was 11 at the time.

"I remember when he was going and coming back," said Ramirez, now 77. "He was a wonderful man. I have very good memories of him. This day is something that's amazing. I have happiness and sadness at the same time."

Anna Cardena, of Paso Robles, said she felt a sense of family pride. She is the great granddaughter of Guadalupe Ramirez Lara, a farmworker who also died.

"I'm really proud to be here," Cardena said. "My grandmother came here to see the grave site in July 1995. Now, I am able to come here, and to talk with a lot of people. It's almost as if it's nostalgic. I'm really happy. I just don't know how to put it into words."

Three crew members and an immigration guard also died in the crash. Although they were buried at various cemeteries, their names also were listed on the new memorial.

Connie Mart, of Lagunitas, the niece of pilot Francis C. Atkinson, attended the Mass and unveiling, saying it made her feel good about her family.

"It happened eight months to the day before I was born," she said, "My grandmother always talked about him — and tears would come to her eyes. He was always in my life. He was the star of the family."

After the unveiling, renditions of "Deportee" were performed by John McCutcheon as well as Lance Canales and Jemmy Bluestein.

Hernandez, who is writing a book about the farmworkers, read a poem by Martin Hoffman, who provided the music to Guthrie's song: "Now we know who these people are — once nameless — and the stories of their families. Share the story. The more we do, the more we correct the past."

Remembering the dead

The 28 Mexican citizens whose names were inscribed on the new memorial at their mass grave site at Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery:

Miguel Negroros Alvarez

Francisco Llamas Duram

Santiago Garcia Elizondo

Rosalio Padilla Estrada

Tomasa Avena De Garcia

Bernabe Lopez Garcia

Salvador Sandoval Hernandez

Severo Medina Lara

Elias Trujillo Macias

Jose Rodriguez Macias

Tomas Padilla Marquez

Luis Lopez Medina

Manuel Calderon Merino

Luis Cuevas Miranda

Martin Razo Navarro

Ygnacio Perez Navarro

Roman Ochoa Ochoa

Ramon Ramirez Paredes

Apolonio Ramirez Placencia

Guadalupe Laura Ramirez

Alberto Carlos Raygoza

Guadalupe Hernandez Rodriguez

Maria Santana Rodriguez

Juan Valenzuela Ruiz

Wencealado Ruiz

Jose Valdivia Sanchez

Jesus Meza Santos

Baldomero Marcas Torres

Others aboard the flight:

Francis "Frank" Atkinson, Long Beach, pilot

Marion Harlow Ewing, Balboa, co-pilot

Lillian "Bobbie" Atkinson (married to Frank), Long Beach, stewardess

Frank E. Chaffin, Berkeley, immigration guard

Source: Diocese of Fresno Catholic Cemeteries


Go to the Fresno Bee link to see two videos of the ceremonies.

~ Becky in Long Beach