Lance Canales performs “Deportee” at TedX in Bend, OR
In 1948, a plane carrying 32 passengers crashed in the Los Gatos Canyon, California killing everyone on board. The media, including the New York Times, listed the names of the pilots, the flight attendant and the immigration guard but all 28 of the migrant workers (braceros) were labeled as deportees. This angered folk singer Woody Gutherie who wrote a poem about the crash. Almost ten years later, school teacher Martin Hoffman composed a melody to Gutherie’s poem and that song became well known. Around 2010 Central Valley writer Tim Z. Hernandez discovered the story and soon began a project of finding the names and surviving relatives. Soon after musician Lance Canales joined the journey and composed his own version of the legendary song with Hernandez reading all the names of the deceased workers. Thanks to a fundraiser spearheaded by the two artist a new head stone has been built in the Holy Cross honoring all 32 passengers.
Lance Canales is a roots-blues musician from California’s breadbasket. He lived the life that so many songs have been written about since the birth of roots music – hard labor, one room shacks and ghosts whispering of a better life. Canales’ guttural vocals combine a hard-edged storytelling approach with stripped down, foot-stomping, acoustic instrumentation that people readily respond to; Canales and his band, The Flood, were a favorite at the 2015 Sister’s Folk Festival. Canales led the initiative to place a memorial headstone with the names of the plane crash victims of the famous Woody Guthrie song “Deportee,” who were discovered buried nameless in a mass grave in Fresno, California. Now and forever nameless no more.