'Deportees' who died in plane crash back to Mexico honored

Sunday, January 28, 2018 09:27PM
Seventy years after a plane crash killed 32 people and news stories of the day left 28 of them anonymous, the victims now have the recognition they deserve.


FRESNO, Calif. - Seventy years after a plane crash killed 32 people and news stories of the day left 28 of them anonymous, the victims now have the recognition they deserve.

Each pluck on a string of his guitar fills Lance Canales with the passion of his mission.

"The Central Valley is ground zero for immigration," Canales said.

The Valley native sings about the day, 70 years ago, when the crops were all in and the peaches were rotting.

The immigration service loaded a DC-3 with men and women headed to Mexico, most of them at the end of a season of farming as part of the Bracero Program for guest workers.

When the plane crashed near Coalinga, newspapers named the four Americans on board. Newspapers of the time simply listed the 28 Mexicans as "deportees".

At the Holy Cross Cemetery in West Central Fresno, they got a single marker. These days, the marker still exists, but right next to it is the biggest plaque in the cemetery, a tribute naming all 28 of them.

Writer, Tim Z. Hernandez led the push to name them all and raised the money to build the new headstone. He rang a bell 32 times Sunday, one for every victim at the exact moment of the crash in 1948.

Hernandez has searched the world for people like, Elizabeth Lozano and her mother, Rosa Maria, who just recently discovered her uncle, Francisco Duran, died in the crash.

The Lozanos came from across the country and ironically enough, Elizabeth is a flight attendant.

They have joined a growing community promising to always honor the men and women first given names by Woody Guthrie in the protest song resonating through the hallowed ground.
Related: 'Deportees' who died in plane crash back to Mexico remembered as 70th anniversary approaches
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