Back in January 2014, I attended folksinger John McCutcheon's annual Santa Cruz concert, a benefit (as always) for the Resource Center for Nonviolence.

McCutcheon has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters for about twenty-five years now. (If you're not a folkie, then if you've heard of him at all, it's probably in connection to his song “Christmas in the Trenches,” about the Christmas truce of 1914.) But I went into this particular concert in a bad mood (due to someone yelling at me a few minutes earlier), and I didn't enjoy the concert overall as much as I usually do.

But it had one amazing bit that I've been meaning to post ever since. I wrote it up in email at the time, but never quite got around to posting about it. Here's an edited version of what I sent in email:

About a third of the songs that McCutcheon sang that night were Woody Guthrie songs. One of them was “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” I already knew the song, which is lovely and sad (although, as that Wikipedia article notes, the song arguably betrays Guthrie's lack of knowledge of various aspects of the situation), and I knew the basics of the 1948 incident that it describes, when a plane full of Mexican migrant farm workers crashed. But I hadn't known that one of the inspirations for the song was a New York Times article that gave info about the four non-migrants aboard but gave no details about the workers.

So McCutcheon told us more background about that, and then he said that he and a couple of other people had, all at around the same time, realized that the US government had the names of the migrant workers. So they did some research, and in 2013, McCutcheon and the others unveiled a memorial listing the names of the workers.

And then he sang the song (and invited the audience to sing along, which we did), and after each verse he paused and a RCNV staff member recited names of the dead. It was stunning and heartbreaking; I suspect most of the audience was in tears for most of the song. I know I was.

It was one of the most powerful and intense experiences I've had in 20+ years of intermittently attending his concerts. Really well done.

Some of the articles I'm seeing about the 2013 unveiling of the memorial don't list the names. I figure they're worth listing, so here's a copy of the list that appears in the Huffington Post article, which seems to have gotten the list from a Fresno Bee article. (The Bee was also one of the local papers that did report the names at the time.)

  • 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

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