News & Reviews


Joel Rafael Performance Honors Victims of Mexican Laborer Tragedies

Joel Rafael Bracero Memorial Highway

Joel Rafael performed during the dedication ceremony of the Bracero Memorial Highway at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California on Saturday September 14, 2013. The memorial acknowledges three tragedies: Jan 28, 1948 plane wreck at Los Gatos, June 17, 1958 bus explosion at Soledad, and Sept 17, 1963 train and makeshift bus collision at Chualar. A newspaper article about the 1948 plane wreck inspired Woody Guthrie's song, "Plane Wreck At Los Gatos (Deportees)."

"So, we arrived at the dedication of the Bracero Memorial Highway, only to find that Joel was listed in the program to sing! Rather than disappoint Project Director and Labor Historian (and event organizer) Juan Martinez, Joel sang a cappella because there was no time to go to the car for his guitar!"

Rafael met Martinez on Labor Day Weekend in Fresno at the Dedication of the Memorial Headstone (listing all the newly found names of the "Deportees" in the 1948 plane flight home to Mexico that ended in tragedy.)

Joel Rafael Bracero Memorial Highway

Joel is pictured (left) with Señora Paredes, whose father, Ramon Paredes Gonzalez, was a legal Bracero on that plane. He never returned home, and they never knew what happened to him. She traveled from Guanajuato, Mexico with her son and grandson to attend the Memorial Mass and see the headstone with her father's name.

Author Tim Z. Hernandez and Holy Cross Cemetery Superintendent Carlos Rascom worked tirelessly to find the names of all of the victims from the plane wreck who had been buried in a mass grave, labeled "28 Mexican Citizens who died in an airplane accident near Coalinga, California on Jan. 28, 1948. R.I.P." A Memorial Mass was held on September 2, 2013 and the new headstone was unveiled. The 32 names listed on the headstone include three crewmembers, the guard, and 28 Mexican field workers. Some were Braceros whose contracts were finished and some were undocumented. "The radio said they were just deportees." Woody Guthrie


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