Woody Guthrie penned the lyrics in 1948. A decade later, schoolteacher Martin Hoffman put music to the words. “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)“, tells the story of the 1948 plane crash over Mexico which killed 28 migrant farm workers being from California. On a broader level, it paints a portrait of the uneasy and uneven relationship between foreign workers and the American state which profits from their cheap labour while refusing to legitimize their status.
Legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seegar popularized the song in the late 50s during the nascent years of the politically charged folk music revival. Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie, of “Alice’s Restaurant” fame (a classic of protest music in its own right) recorded this haunting version.