Woody Guthrie was a champion of the underdog. He stood for fairness and equality against the exploitative bosses and racists. He stood on the picket lines and wrote songs that highlighted the callous indifference of bosses who used peoples poverty, misery and hopelessness to enhance their huge wealth.
Deportee was Woody’s song about the terrible plight of the poor Mexican wetbacks.
These poor people had no work or future in Mexico. They risked their lives crossing the Rio Grande and walking for days through the deserts in order to toil in the fields picking crops for a pittance.
After being worked to the bone they were shipped back to Mexico. They were cheap labour to be discarded when it became inconvenient.
One flight of migrant workers being deported back to Mexico crashed killing all on board. The crash hardly raised a headline. They were merely deportees.
Woody questioned the morality of how we are running the world. So that the rich can get richer and the poor kept in abject poverty so they can be exploited for cheap labour. Is this the way to create a society? To treat the desperate as criminals whose lives are cheap?
There’s a better way, a fairer way. We can solve world poverty and create a better system.
We can address the world overpopulation that is the driver behind most of the world’s problems and environmental destruction.
Woody gave them names. He highlighted the fact that they were human beings with dignity who were forced by circumstance to risk their lives again and again.
(also known as “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos”)
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Martin Hoffman
The crops are all in and the peaches are rott’ning,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps;
They’re flying ’em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”
My father’s own father, he waded that river,
They took all the money he made in his life;
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees,
And they rode the truck till they took down and died.
Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.
We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.
The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”
Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?