At this time when ‘my ‘ Australian government is reviving xenophobia and energetically promulgating the myth of imminent invasion by ‘illegal’ asylum seekers and depersonalised ‘refugees’, this classic Woody Guthrie song has taken on a new poignancy and a place in my setlist.
The simplicity and compassion of this version, with Ani di Franco, Ry Cooder and Dan Geller is my favourite of the many online.
May we keep this song, and our voices alive, mes amigos, and never accept the incarceration, dehumanisation, ‘turning back’ torture and cruelty done in our name.
Adios also to Pete Seeger, who kept this song alive. Here is his version with Arlo Guthrie, who kept his father’s tradition alive.
And one by the impeccable Nancy Griffith and friends, with some verses in Spanish
Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) Woody Guthrie
The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps
You’re flying them back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money, to wade back again
Goodbye to my Juan, good-bye Rosalita
Adios mes amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have your name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportee
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 contracts 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 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 to be called no name, except deportee.