Woody Guthrie must have known that immigrants were more than just labels like “illegal” or “deportee.” In 1948, news of a plane crash at Los Gatos Canyon, in California’s central San Joaquin Valley, made headlines across the country, but while the four American crew members were identified by name, the 28 Mexican farmworkers who died in the crash were lumped together and referred to only as “deportees.”
Upon reading the New York Times’ account, Guthrie wrote his poem “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos” to protest the media’s failure to accurately report on and identify the farmworkers killed. “Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?” Guthrie wrote. “The radio says, ‘They are just deportees.'”
Tim Z. Hernandez, a California poet and author, was offended too. In late 2010, while researching archives for his novel “Mañana Means Heaven,” he came across the headline “100 Prisoners See An Airplane Fall From the Sky.” It was a story about the crash, and it changed the course of his career. He grew up in the farming communities of the San Joaquin Valley, and he connected with Guthrie’s poem because it echoed his own feelings of injustice for the 28 Mexican men and women who were left unnamed.
Across The Border. Performed by Linda Ronstadt – lead vocal, Emmylou Harris – harmony, from the Western Wall, Tucson Sessions album. With Neil Young – harmonica, Bernie Leadon – guitar/mandocello/vocal, Greg Leisz – steel guitar/bass/vocals, Andy Fairweather Low – guitar/vocals, Wix – accordion, Ethan Johns – drums. Song composed by Bruce Springsteen.
European Refugee Lit: Anna Seghers’s “Transit” Reviewed
By Joe Winkler On May 2, 2013
by Anna Seghers; translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo
NYRB Classics; 280 p.
Anna Seghers, one the most respected and important German authors of the 20th century, wrote perhaps the earliest account of the Nazi concentration camps. That book, The Seventh Cross, tells a similar story to her own time in a camp. Now, NYRB Classics has released a sequel of sorts. Transit tells the story of a lesser-known component of the Second World War, the displacement of millions of refugees. While it pales in comparison to the genocide, the displacement of millions of refugees signified its own traumatic experience which ended up changing the map of postwar Europe. Seghers’s unnamed narrator escapes first from a concentration camp in Germany and then from one in Rouen, France. He finds his way to Marseilles, a port city, which in this era of refugees desperate to leave transforms into a bustling town of the lost. The narrator feels a sort of modernist ennui until he finds himself a hustler in the shady business of visas and departures. There, he begins to create a glimpse of a solid life while remaining on the precarious ground of a displaced person. He loves, he attaches himself to a family and friends, all with an awareness of the inherent transience of his situation and consequently life in general.
The book begins with talk of a downed ship of refugees, and then the narrator proclaims his manifesto:
Editor’s Note: After spending two years among indigenous farm workers in Mexico and in labor camps in the United States, medical anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes documents how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment and racism undermine their health and access to health care in his book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. He spoke to NAM Health Editor Viji Sundaram.
NAM: Did you set out on this project as a purely anthropological endeavor, but which later changed into something more?
Holmes: Yes, as I said in my book, I set out as an anthropologist to do the classic field research method of participant observation with migrant farmworkers. I wanted to learn about indigenous Mexicans who come to the United States to work on our farms, about their health issues, and about how this group of people is perceived.
NAM: So how closely did you observe the indigenous farm workers?
Holmes: I started this research in rural Washington State, living in a labor camp and picking strawberries and blueberries along with them. We next moved to the Central Valley of California, to Madera, where we first lived homeless for a week in our cars, until we found a slum apartment willing to rent to people without a credit history. In Central California, we were not able to find much work; we pruned vineyards very intermittently. After California, I moved with them to their home village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, and lived in a partially constructed concrete home built piece-meal with money sent by relatives in Madera and Washington State.
a French report: