Fresno memorial unveiled victims of 1948 plane crash

September 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A memorial was unveiled on Monday for 28 Mexican citizens who died in a 1948 plane crash near Coalinga. Their remains were anonymously interred after the accident.

The memorial was meant to right a historical wrong. The 28 plane crash victims worked the fields under the U.S. Bracero Program and were on their way back to Mexico when the plane went down. Their names finally appear on their grave marker.

Aztec dancers led the procession to the burial site at Holy Cross Cemetery, ending a 65 year journey.

During mass Bishop Armando Ochoa called concern "The grape that grows on the vine of responsibility."

The Fresno Diocese helped raise money to honor the 28 lives lost in Los Gatos Canyon near Coalinga. The original bronze marker showed no names.

Plane crash researcher Tim Hernandez said, "Now we know the other side to the story. Now we know who the people are behind the nameless. Now we know who their lives are, who their family are. "

Family members were given crucifixes. Friends and supporters also came out for the ceremony, which served as a history lesson for many.

A 1948 newspaper accounts identified four American victims but not the 28 workers. UFW founder Cesar Chavez was 20 at the time. UFW president Arturo Rodriguez said, "It helped convince him that someone had to change how farm workers are treated although he had no idea then that that someone would be him."

The accident inspired folk singer Woody Guthrie to write a tribute called "Deportees," it would later be covered by several artists.

Twenty-eight laborers died during the crash on January 28, 1948. The ceremony honored all 32 people who died.


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