The University of Arizona's Southwest Center is wrapping up its 2023 Spring Lecture Series with a presentation about an airplane crash in California where most of the victims were buried in a mass grave.
The airplane had 32 people on board on a flight from Oakland to El Centro, near the border with Mexico.
Twenty-eight Mexicans were being deported, even though many were working legally in United States.
After the crash, the four Anglos on board- the pilot, first officer, flight attendant, and an immigration officer- were buried in their respective hometowns, while the temporary workers were interred together in Fresno.
"This story has a lot to teach us about humanizing one another, humanizing the people that we see are in the margins of society," says Tim Z. Hernandez, an associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and an author.
In 2010, Hernandez began an ongoing project to find the families of all the people who died in the crash and write.
"That includes the pilot, copilot, stewardess, and immigration officer," he adds.
“My sense is that if I share all of their stories, all of them, and humanize all of them, then we can see how, I think we have much more in common as a people than we do differences."
In 2017, Hernandez wrote "All They Will Call You," a book about the crash.
He was actually born and raised in the agricultural Fresno Valley where the airplane crashed, but heard about it later in life thanks to a song that was written by Woodie Guthrie.
"Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" (also known as Deportee)] was popularized by artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton.
Hernandez is being joined in the UA Southwest Center presentation by California-based artist Ana Saldaña for a performance about the accident and events that followed.
"I’ve located 15 families in 13 years, almost one family per year," Hernandez says.
The free event can be seen in-person or via Zoom on Friday April 28, 2023 at 7:15 pm in the university's Integrated Learning Center, Room ILC130.
By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.