tv Tim Hernandez Discusses All They Will Call You CSPAN April 16, 2017 2:13am-2:59am EDT
it was kind of at the very beginning and there was still a little bit of hope. times were dire. >> i wanted to thank you all for coming. lydia, thank you for coming out and sharing your story and writing this book. we appreciate it. will be signing right after this in the barnes & noble book ten. you can follow over there. thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] next up from the san antonio book festival, tim hernandez reports on the 1948 california
plane crash that killed four crewmembers and 28 mexican citizens were being deported. >> the fifth annual then in 200 book festival and i want to thank the southwest school of arts and the library for their generous donation of their space, beautiful space, for the book festival. we also, given given the age we live in, want to encourage all of you to use your social media talk about the festival and mr. hernandez's work while were at it. thank you all for being here. please turn off off your phones or put them on youtube. it's really my pleasure to introduce tim hernandez, he is a an author done a lot of different things from performance art to scholarly
work to nonfiction historical fiction, writing and he's especially known for his poetry. as was said earlier, he didn't cross genres, they crossed him. i don't own that line. [laughter] he's really written a remarkable book about an event that has been lost to the memory of a lot of people in his efforts to bring that story back to us is a tour de force. he is research into it and i want to talk with him about the fascinating how he got inside the story and got the back story to the civil aspects of it.
when i read it is bio that he was departed for the scholarly research and reading the book was really clear. the detail with which he reconstructs things. so, without more ado, i want to introduce tim and will you start us off by reading a segment from your book. to. >> thank you. thank you for allowing me to take your time and share this compelling piece of history. i'm sure you'll find residents with it in our atmosphere today. i'll read a small excerpt that will contextualize. despite the investigation team's best efforts in the end, it was a patchwork job. names.
names were as dismembered as the bodies they belong to. adding in a at the end of his first name would turn thomas grassi us into a female fort massad. put that arm with this for so and with this but with that angle. and now the last name got a makeover and guadalupe bay was now guadalupe lower was a female. ramon was truncated into ramon perez. this had with that neck. that finger looks a good fit with that hand, a different different shade of brown, sure, but close enough. little enough did they know that in death he would become italian. this is how their names would go down according to the official record. [speaking in native tongue]
one italian, two women. by the morning of january 29, 1948 news of the plane crash had made its way across the country from california across the country california to the new york islands. headlines read 28 next next and deportees, crew and guards victims from the associated press. twenty-eight mexicans being deported meet death from the times. twenty-eight deportees in route to mexico, the rochester democrat and chronicle. it had the makings of a bad joke by print, radio and world of mouth. there was none on this continent that hadn't been heard of the world war ii pilots and immigration officers, stewardess and 28 deportees who explode in an airplane and some unknown california hillside called los gatos canyon. [applause] tim, i have to start here.
i'm sure we all felt the poetry in your reading. this may be a little abstract but i'd like to hear you talk about your approach to this book as opposed to poetry as opposed to writing. you have the poetry in here and it comes out. >> the poetry, first formally, poetry was i studied mostly in the graduate program. poetry was my focus. certainly not investigative journalism. for me, poetry was the way i came to the curiosity that it took for me to take on this research project for six and a half years. poetry taught me a way to be curious.
it allowed me to want to discover, teaches me to the inquisitor and investigate and look at the world from a different perspective. for me, that was the really only tool i had initially that was i applied to anything that was remotely close to investigation. for one and 42, once i had accumulated 400 something pages of narrative and this being very fragmented as one would come up on a plane crash in fragments but you find pieces of the story, pieces of eyewitness accounts and then i start to interview people and would document their testimony and would transcribe the testimony and then i had language, testimonial language, records, photograph and i thought to myself, how will i put this all together for one story. thirty-two lives, mind you. i turned to poetry as a way to organize the story. to me, fragmentation, was okay
with it. it was really because the poetry poetry taught me how to look at it. not even the language, but the images. there was a wealth of images that came out of the research for this book. so many that if i put them in a book it would be a coffee book. many of them were relevant to the story and how do i put photographs into the narrative without putting the photographs to narratives. one of the forms like in poetry we can write about imagery and i found other ways to utilize language continue to include pieces of information into the narrative. it was forms of poetry. >> how did you first hear about the story? >> in december of 2010 i was researching when yana means heaven which was about a mexican girlfriend in fresno from where
i'm originally from and i was doing the research i was trying to locate the actual labor camp in california where kerouac would have been working with his mexican farm work. as i was at the genealogy department at the library, fresno labor camps 1947 and this newspaper article comes up and the headlines are dying. one hundred people see see the airplane ball out of the sky. i began to read it and by the time i was done reading it i recognized that this is the industry that woody guthrie song was based on. i always thought it los gatos california by monterey bay but it actually happened in fresno county which is home to me. i was pulled right into that narrative and said you got to finish this book first. are you sure you want to be that guy who stuck in the 40s? [laughter]
what i end up doing when i have a book under an idea about the book but to get of my body and had them put it down in a summary and violet and never look at it again and when it nags over time -- than the clues emerge on their own i found myself eventually, as i i was still researching when yana means heaven and finding information knows about this airplay book that i was not going to write at the time. i was certain that it would be too crazy of a task. i was filing away information and as i was was done with when yana means heaven, i had accumulated couple pieces of hundred pages of information for this book. >> the process of actually finding relatives of the victims in this crash, that seemed like such an enormous challenge.
it was a challenge to find relatives. in the beginning, the intention was not to find the people but to find the list of names. what i had heard was they were buried in a mass -- the remains of the eight mexicans were buried in a mass grave. the remains of all 28 mexican passengers were shoved into a humongous hole in the ground and unmarked for 70 years. there was a small placard but it was anonymous. it just said 28 mexican nationals who died in a plane here. i wanted to find out who they were. i went to the hall of records and it told me the death certificate you had to be related to them and we can only give you information for your relatives. i went back to the church, the diocese in fresno and said do you have a list of names. they said will look. when they came back to me the
cemetery director gave me a small catalog and said i'm sorry to show you we found the file and were supposed to have their names in 28 slot but it just call them mexican nationals. that's the cover of the book here. i went to the hall of records and you denying me access, you all have official business. you buried them. he goes over them in two weeks later called me i have a list of names. he gave me the list. there were glaring errors and i read you some of those errors. that began the search. i did that for a year and a half, even with that erroneous list of names and i searched for a year and half. they were very naïvely, i had no background in investigative journalism and he would know what resources to go to. i had no money to research but what i had was i was being flown as a poet across the united states and so what i started to do was create these little
labels of names that i had so far with my address and phone number on there. everywhere i go with audiences i'd tell the story and if any of your family had these two last names contact me. that's how i found one of the first families because of that effort. in california, that was was the pilot ground for the 20 and where i suspect a lot of the research that these people who were rounded up were from this stock in sacramento area. back that program is such a key element, it's what brought all of these people. maybe most people know what it was but could you talk about it? >> sure. just a brief background on that. the program can out of a
president had with the president of the mexico during world war ii. how can mexico be an ally to the united states during this time of need. the result of that was we need workers. there was a guest worker program in the first program started in 1942. they brought in 4000 mexican workers by bus and by train. they brought them into central california to the fields. 4000 came in and after that first year, by farmer standards it was a success. they called for more. within a few years you had upward hundred of thousands workers coming in now. now they were being disseminated all over the united states, working the railroads, and california central walking valerie and agriculture across the united states. their work visas were from six months to a year, that's the program, the background of the program.
i want to say, all of these folks on this airplane were not all part of that program. i hesitate to put it to one of those stories. it's more than that. it was part of that wave and what was going on in the time. what would you say -- but they were all being deported? you describe some of the moments when they're apprehended by immigration and very riveting and sometimes, a little little bit like, if i hadn't gone off to the supermarket to the local store to buy something i would have been on that plane. >> two of the families that i interviewed, first one was what lupe and guadalupe bay was there with his compadre and they were
>> >> so everywhere i went that i can tell you if we go to a local cantina. end date told me that his brother-in-law told him then they tell me the same story since 1948. >> this is one of the things that is particularly fascinating the sense in mexico the family start to get the pieces demonstrations some of the of mythology. and here you go to put the
story together to mexico. and with these narratives and the talents that is an interesting juxtaposition. >> as i say in the beginning of the book loyalty was not to fact but to memory. the search was never actually what happened but rather the human element. studs circle said in their remembering their troops even more powerful what records show.
the lot of those official records are erroneous. what doesn't mean to have beneficial record? so let's talk to the people and hear their stories. and that the labor department and often times when you do that in with fat embellishment working with of contradicting authorities. eagan have to folks standing in the same spot in the wanted him to be 0k about the human element and not what the data says.
and is much as the stories as possible. >>. >> but we found especially powerful in is just mentioning the idea where all the of bodies are buried . there is just days simple black and yes you have the list of the official record and do manage to put these lives back together to give them a humanist to reconnect the parts but the first up
in was to know who they were with bad generalization of abstraction and we have the another version of that. but those abstractions what day are meant to do to provide those cushions and to be accountable for those decisions that we make and terms of policies. so for me finding the names was the first up. in 2013 we raised money and installed a headstone and has the names of all 32 passengers. riding the historical wrong.
with a wonderful symbol but the stories have yet to be known so that is what i decided to pursue a that point. so for me so i follow this all the time if you want to learn that example and then honestly but there's only so much we can do here in the united states. but to walk around and shake people's and to find out who they are. but then you find out they have lived with this for
many years. whole communities know about these stories. >> can you ever flown in the d.c. three? >> no. i have not. >> the detail about the cockpit and uh checklist. >> but for the first few years every time i go to a different city i would go to when airplane museum there is always of remnant but never fully intact. but i went to see my house there to have a fully restored only 10 minutes from my house.
so talk about the title of the book. >> it comes from the lyrics. that he voted as a poem and he wrote many poems. / euro the lyrics for this like he could play guitar but he wrote quite a bit. so he was big on names and that was the sinking of the battleship to say tell me their names. what were their names?
major name fewer the martin or woody? >> we would not have heard that otherwise. so what happened over nine years untouched in 1957 he finance the poem to put a melody to it. it was consistent with songs of the above pollution but they took that tune to the lyrics and to be only 20 years old. with colorado a&m at the time. then they have the after party and then begins to
write down some notes. and bank getting a letter in the mail and then say he will record the song and will give you a coke credit now everybody sings it but to find out whom fortune t was. >> the lawyers would never allow that arrangement today. [laughter] >> so in fact, martin hoffman and his family or his children are.
he does have a tragic play people on the plane they are accurate in the book may be in 1960 he goes to the navajo nation by then he is friends with judy collins but then goes to the navajo nation. and then helps them file papers. and he lives there working with those folks for a few years than tragically of the navajo reservation talks about who he was.
>> that you heard that song? they were friends then colorado. >> the began you leave these two histories but they are both in speaking to each other alternately so how do decide that relative make sure of the narratives? >> ultimately the book is about the people. with the of record of what took place but those testimonies were always critical. in a few minutes we will take questions but this is
important. i want to share a story. but myself with the soccer research assistance we've met a man named pedro. he says when you get here you'll find me right here. come find me. o k. so we show up we walk through the doors to say hold on. i will make a phone call. and say he no longer works for us. so we tell the story where does he live? >>.
time they tell these stories there are 20 other family members. so when they conclude they say keep in mind to nonetheless were alive at that time. is there a buddy who could have been alive? then there is the whisper in the back. did they were engaged to be married they say they think that she is alive but i will drive you. then they get to this beautiful tiny house and then day knock on the door
and she is an wheelchair event she wheels herself out and says these men want to you talk to you. which one? luis. the one that died in the plane crash? at 90 something years old says the have many stories of him. intel's funny and humorous stories. there is a story of their courtship with they would date and she would say a and he did it he would wear a wig and address and my father would kill us. we would dress up as a woman we would sit around the table we would sit in the middle pretended the floors were talking.
and he was adventuress. but they are flying us back home. but i will bring you the of mariachi and that is the last time i heard of him the next thing i know i hear the report that they announce of plane crashes and they read the list of names. >> this is how great writers talk. >> please come to the microphone.
>> with the los texas rangers california had the rangers as well. >> i am not familiar with that actually. but i can tell you the lapd was instrumental during the '30's and 40's but i dunno if there were rangers. >> i am curious to us because families and friends suffered. >> dicot that demy periphery all research -- in my peripheral research. >> talk about the people in in mexico of the deportees
so pretty much those official accounts about the crash and how to did they cover that? >> is a share presage united press international cover that goes to post they put up the list of 10 names but it is erroneous. this is a plug for independent media but the newspaper printed the names in spanish obi is in fresno california for the mexican community in a printed the names of all of passengers their home town and any surviving family members that is how we put the names on the headstones. >> other questions?
>> i am curious to know about the people that are migrating through the desert and get lost wouldn't bathe locate those remains so why were they returned to their families? but i had the opportunity to speak with the mexican consulate in fresno for the research but i asked if there were records a said they had no records they would lead destroy records prior to a sentence -- a certain date why were there remains the returned? he said i guess maybe two reasons who was reid return
them to correct they were annihilated. >> what about the american family is? what was returned to them he said good question i don't know either. because of the 20 caskets with a half-empty they were labeled with letters of the alphabet. he said it could have been many media was too costly. message you deported over 200,000 i don't buy that one. he said i don't know why. >> that is a striking moment in the book when you realize the crew were named and buried and all of the
deportees were part of this nameless era. >> so you have the burial and the of world war two pilot that was printing up invitations and then paying their respects to frankie and bobby but like i said all the remains of the of passengers were put into a hole in the ground left unmarked. >> comments or questions greg. >> i am not working and anything now. when you give about six
years of your life you have to give half of that back my daughter is here and is 12 years old now i bring her with me to show her what i have been working on but no. >> there is a lady is brewing but i don't entertain them right now. [laughter] >> if you go around the country like this do you get the impression after all these years and everything that mexican and mexican-americans have done especially the southwest including the ultimate sacrifice of going to the military defiant that we feel we continue to be
treated as less than? >> absolutely. you don't have to go far to hear the rhetoric echoing in the 20's and '30's that we hear today one of the things that the story had the power word to do a did not want books to add it to the rhetoric but wanted it to cut through that so to do that it isn't just the unknown passengers but all those workers side-by-side with the world war ii pilot i remind you of their ancestral lineage that perhaps we have much more in common and differences so as
that divisive language that we hear today that is why it is a credit for you to be here to have this conversation. >> soto had the deep respect of those people who died. [inaudible conversations] i will be a student in the fall. >> congratulations. >> i found out about this so how did this come about?
i am from the albuquerque and in mexico so i am curious why it'll pass so greg. >> and was the motherland calling me back home. with other side of the family is from their everything aligned for me. >> so with that alignment this is a great way to bring this session to a close. [applause] thanks for giving us a wonderful book that is available immediately after the session to be signed. go by your copy. [inaudible conversations]
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