'Deportees' who died in plane crash back to Mexico remembered as 70th anniversary approaches

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The award winning poet, Tim Hernandez has made it his mission to remember the 32 victims lost in 1948 plane crash. (KFSN)

A footnote of Valley history would mostly be forgotten if not for the work of Tim Hernandez.

The award-winning poet and writer has made it his mission to remember the 32 victims lost in the Los Gatos Canyon plane crash of 1948.

His book titled 'All they will call you' does just that, bringing lost stories to light of the families affected by the tragedy.

"I'm a native son of the San Joaquin Valley. I was born and raised here. My family migrant farm workers, all my books are about the Valley. We have such a rich history in this beautiful Valley of ours," said author Tim Hernandez.

Twenty-eight of the 32 passengers were migrant farm workers who were being sent back to Mexico.

Many were part of a government-sponsored work program and the flight home was part of the deal

When the plane crashed, 20 miles West of Coalinga, the media at the time only reported the names of the American crew members and identified the Mexicans as deportees. They were buried in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in West Central Fresno.
"Some of the coffins did have remains but it was mostly symbolic of 28 caskets, so that's what's buried here 28 caskets," said Hernandez.

Hernandez has spent countless hours over the years tracking down family members of those who died. His dedication and persistence led him to Fresno restaurant owner Jaime Ramirez.

"Here we have my grandfather, Gonzalez," said Ramirez.

Ramirez lost both his grandfather and great uncle in the fiery crash.
Inside his Ole Friole Mexican Buffet restaurant, you cannot miss the wall mural inside that pays homage to the two men.
"For many years no one knew anything about it and now they're being recognized, it's a big thing," said Ramirez.

Big things are ahead Monday, when the 70th anniversary of the crash will be recognized on the Senate floor.

"The California Latino Caucus will also they're going to be recognizing it with a resolution on that day on the Senate floor. It's really a closing of the chapter for this piece of history," said Hernandez.

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