Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)

Woody Guthrie, Martin Hoffman, c. 1948

What is this song about? What is the story? Who were the "deportees"? Why did the Mexican workers cross the border to the United States in the first place? Why did the United States farm industry want them to come? Explain migrant farm workers. What did the Mexicans risk by coming? Why was immigration illegal? How does the song suggest they got over the border into the United States without getting arrested? Paid a bribe. Why didn't the farm industry hire legal immigrants?

Why were they being flown back to Mexico in this song? What happens in the third verse of the song? What especially bothers Guthrie about the accident? The radio news never reported the victims' names.

What answers are there to the questions in the fourth verse? Who were the United Farm Workers? What was Che Guevera's answer?

Where is illegal immigrant labor still being used? What would happen to prices without immigrant labor? If the price of food goes up, what happens to other prices? What other ways are there to raise and harvest crops? Which of your solutions has the best chance of helping farmers harvest crops economically and keep the price of food down?

"Deportees" performed by Arlo Guthrie on Arlo Guthrie, Rising Sun Records, © 1974. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.


As the son of Woody Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie (b. 1947) was raised among the leading folk musicians of the mid-twentieth century. Guthrie began performing professionally as a teenager, and his career took off following the release of Alice’s Restaurant in 1967. Like his father, he wrote music that raised awareness of social issues and championed the working classes.

For more information on Arlo Guthrie, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:

Woody Guthrie wrote "Deportees" some time between 1948 and 1949, after he read an article in the paper about a plane crash in Los Gatos, Mexico, on January 28, 1948. The passengers were international migrant workers who had crossed the border from Mexico to work in California’s orchards. Once the harvest was completed, they were being deported when their plane crashed. The fact that their names were not reported in the paper may have prompted Guthrie to include the Mexican names in the song, so they would not die nameless.

For more information on Woody Guthrie, see the song background and recording notes for "Roll On Columbia" in VAT Unit 7.

Headline from the oriignal article that inspired the song

Headline from the original article that inspired the song.

Write and design a memorial for the farm workers suitable for placing in Los Gatos Canyon.

Like Guthrie, find a story from the newspaper and write a song about it. Feel free to borrow a tune from another song—Woody would have!




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