Update on the Book & Research

Hello Friends,

First, let me apologize for not posting any updates over the past five months. After coming off of my research trip to central Mexico in January of this year, I immediately went to work on the manuscript, fired up by the many stories and beautiful people I met in places like Charco de Pantoja, Jocotepec, Nochistlan, San Julian, Guadalajara, and San Miguel de Allende, and many others. This summer I taught a course at UTEP, moved from one house to another (yet again), and put everything into finishing my manuscript, “All They Will Call You.”

I’m excited to let you know that it is finished, and it is currently in my agent’s hands. Barring a few more tweaks or touch ups, we should be seeking a publisher for it as of late September. As for my feelings about this book…to be perfectly honest, it has turned out to be nothing like I expected, and yet, everything I’ve been working toward since I began pursuing the arts seriously over 20 years ago. Family and friends who have known me since I was a teen, know that at various times in my life I dedicated myself to different art forms. From H.S. through early College I was pursuing the visual arts/ murals vigorously. Since the mid 90’s, when I was doing Spoken Word and Performance Art, I began collaborating with musicians in jazz, rock, classical, hip-hop, and reggae. In the early 2000’s I worked with the state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities in California, where my job was to travel central California and listen to people’s stories. And in these last 11 years, the trajectory of my written work has included poetry, short fiction, historical fiction, playwriting, and oral history.

“All They Will Call You” is a narrative woven of these very elements. Drawn mostly from original recorded testimonies, investigative research, official records, and ephemera, it also includes strong threads of musicology, poetry, historical fiction, and ekphrastic (writing based on a visual element; art or photography). My goal was to make a book that was as close to the multi-media experience of this subject–but in text. No other book I’ve written has allowed me to spread my wings like this one, but also, no other book has been more challenging. I’m equal parts excited and frightened. Which is a good place to be as an artist/ human—a space of total possibility. I look forward to keeping you updated….


Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Book & Research Website Coming Soon!

Hi friends and supporters!

I just wanted to let you know that a website dedicated solely to my work on this project will be coming soon. Now that I have completed my research (is it ever really completed?), and am just about done with the writing of my book, I’ll be able to dedicate time to building this resource. My vision is that it will be a sight where educators, scholars and curators who are interested in the subject of the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos, the song and the history, can come for accurate information. It will be interactive, or at least engaging, and will include so much of the work I’ve accumulated since beginning this work in late 2010. Ideally, it will have background information on each passenger, photographs, audio and video interviews I conducted with their families, all the old newspapers I’ve gathered, letters, and other artifacts. It will also include information on and about Martin Hoffman, the musician who took Woody Guthrie’s words and created the beautiful melody to the song we know and love today. Also, I’ll be working in tandem with a curriculum expert on creating a curriculum for Middle and High School students based on this subject. In the meantime, now that the book is just about there, I can’t tell you how excited I am to share it with you all.

Oh, and I’ll be updating this blog with a few journal entries I wrote while searching for the families of the plane crash victims in various parts of Mexico this past January. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and again, I thank you all for contributing to the Indiegogo fundraiser to make it happen.

all the best,


The Land of the Seven Lamps

As she talked such images gave me great joy. When I got home I’d say: Something is being born inside me, something new that wasn’t there before. I get stronger each time, I’m growing. What was growing was my Mexican being, my becoming Mexican, feeling Mexico inside me…

-Elena Poniatwoska, Here’s To You, Jesusa!



A Conversation In Third Person

               As he bought the plane tickets for Leon, Guanajuato, he remembered this passage from Poniatowska’s book. He often felt this same way, whenever speaking with the descendants of those who died in the plane crash. As they each recalled from memory a Mexico that was unfamiliar to him, he could feel, in his chest, his gut, something rise up, surge even. He was nervous about the trip. Not because of the recent unrest surrounding 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa, or because of the wave of violence that saturated the media, but because he sensed, that over there, somewhere tucked in El Pais de las Siete Luminarias, something new would be born inside him. Perhaps it is the dream of every hyphenated American, removed by three or four generations from the ancestral homeland, to one day return to the source, to witness the origin, and see in the faces of its people one’s own face. Still, the idea that he would be going to Mexico to speak with the families, and in some cases, go looking for them, took some getting used to.

He was undecided whether or not taking his recording equipment was a good idea. Often, he felt, being in the present moment with someone, in a place and time that would likely never occur again, allowing the entire body to record memory of the experience was far more effective than capturing it on some device. In the end, he would decide to take the equipment, but perhaps only use it when absolutely necessary. He prepared as much as one could. Jotted down notes in his small pad, things he didn’t want to forget while there. Began making the proper contacts, checking that his passport and papers were in order, and that his map and itinerary were updated. The local Diocese had given him a few items to take to the families on their behalf: a dozen posters and brochure for the headstone memorial, papel picado, and a standing placard of Jesus Christ rising from the cross, arm extended, reaching for a dove. Along with this, he also packed copies of newspapers, photos of the headstone, and all 28 Death Certificates, one for each passenger. These he would return to the families. For those that were expecting him, he looked forward to meeting them and to hearing their stories. For those who were not expecting him, he looked forward to the unknown. Be alive, he reminded himself. Be completely alive, present as present can be. Avoid, at all costs, being removed from the experience. No third person narrative will do.

I want to tell you this: I’m grateful for the opportunity that all of your contributions have made possible. As I prepare for the trip to Mexico next month (Jan 18-30), I will be carrying all of your good thoughts, prayers, and genuine sentiments with me. I also plan to enter a brief blog for each day that I am there, permitting I have internet access. If you are interested in reading updates, please consider clicking on the subscribe button at the bottom of my blog site. Namaste, amigos!

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Research Fundraiser A Success!

Friends, already your fundraiser contributions are producing results! In light of our upcoming trek to the rural pockets of Mexico, I’ve been making preparations with my good friend, Guillermo Ramirez, who will serve as my guide and research assistant down there. We’ve been speaking to the municipios of various communities and just today he called to tell me we found the family of yet one more passenger! Now that we have enough funds to actually make the trek we’re mapping out our plan, which so far includes visiting the hometowns of seven different passengers. We’ll also be able to purchase some much needed equipment to properly document this journey. I’m feeling very optimistic!

Dan Vera. Watercolor. 2014

Watercolor by Dan Vera, poet/ artist. 2014

“It’s the little acts, the small mostly unnoticeable actions of people,

that in the end will make all the difference.”

—Pete Seeger, Musician

This is what Pete Seeger said to me during our interview a few months before his passing. It was proven during the fundraising of the memorial headstone last year. And once again it’s been proven. Because of all your contributions, small and large, I will be able to finish this final push of my research, which in turn, will help me see the book to completion. In the end, the effort raised a total of $5086! A little more than 75% funded. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word. I am especially indebted to the following 66 supporters who made this possible:

  1. Lonnie Hendren
  2. Nancy Aide Gonzalez
  3. Anna Canoni
  4. Milton Rosenberg
  5. Lynn McEniry
  6. Sarah Browning
  7. Laura Selleck
  8. James P. McGuire
  9. Melissa Shannon- Anonymous
  10. Indira Ganeson
  11. Laurie Ann Guerrero
  12. Jenne Lorraine Vargas
  13. Annie Ross
  14. Juan Garcia
  15. Nora Guthrie
  16. Joel & Lauren Rafael
  17. Robert V. Hansmann
  18. Robert Roth
  19. Lucia Vasquez
  20. Juan Luis Guzman
  21. William Nericcio
  22. Moses Ayoub
  23. Robin Wheeler
  24. Brian Paul
  25. Lydia & Felix Hernandez
  26. Jan Webb
  27. Deborah Kanter
  28. John and Julie Auer
  29. Esther Garcia
  30. Diane & Bill Vigeant
  31. Gloria Zuniga
  32. Sylvia Ross
  33. Armida & Will Galaviz-Moreno
  34. Wendy Lynn IP
  35. Gracie Madrid Rios
  36. Anthony Cody
  37. Crystal Contreras
  38. Jeremy Lee
  39. Ofelia Trevino
  40. Elizabeth Witte
  41. Joanne Day
  42. Miriam Pawel
  43. Linda Cano
  44. LaTasha Diggs
  45. Diadre Metzler
  46. Michael Plumpton
  47. Lupe Mendez
  48. June Leigh Austin
  49. Barbara Sorenson
  50. Walter Dominguez
  51. Shelly Catterson
  52. Rolf Potts
  53. RT Wright
  54. Lee Herrick
  55. Elaine Corbeil
  56. Barry Ollman
  57. Mike & Nori Naylor
  58. Jaime Ramirez
  59. Darren De Leon
  60. Jane Oriel
  61. Paul Aponte
  62. Chris Schneider
  63. Erin Alvarez
  64. Bill & Deanna McCloud
  65. Johnson
  66. Tim Justice

Plane Wreck at Los Gatos NEWS!!!

Dear Friends,

On Labor Day of last year, we collectively made history by raising over $13,000 to install a memorial headstone at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California for the 32 brothers and sisters who died in the plane crash at Los Gatos Canyon on January 28, 1948. Last September we corrected a 65 year historical omission. The event was memorable for all who were able to attend. At the time I had only discovered four of the families of the passengers, and fortunately, they were able to join us. The event was covered by the New York Times, NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, Univision, and many other major media outlets.

When all was said and done, everyone went home, back to their lives, feeling grateful for having had the opportunity to be a part of such an historical occasion. For me, however, the research and work continued. I have since located two more families of passengers and have taken down their testimonies as well. There are still many families out there who do not know of their involvement in this incident, or if they do, they do not know where their family is buried, or that there is a headstone honoring them.

For this reason, I have created a FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN to help me complete this important work, and finish the book which has been a labor of love years in the making. I encourage you to please take only 2 minutes of your time to click on the link and consider contributing to seeing this important project to completion. And please SHARE this link far and wide!You can also reach me at the contact form below.


With all my appreciation,

Tim Z. Hernandez






Woodshed: A Summer Update

Woody Guthrie Fest moments before I go on to read the names

Woody Guthrie Fest moments before I go on stage to read the names


“Woodshed,” or “Woodshedding.” This is what my good friend, and musical collaborator, Carlos Rodriguez, calls it whenever he decides to hunker down in his home studio and do the work. And what’s the work? For Carlos, it’s making great music. For me, the work has been as follows: Moving our life from Colorado to Texas, settling into our new home in El Paso, continuing the research for missing families, getting into a writing rhythm on the book, preparing my kids for school, writing a few blurbs and Introductions for other books, and getting my own courses prepared for this coming semester. Oh, but I did get to attend the Woody Guthrie Festival in Woody’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. I presented my research there to a packed room, and got to stand on stage with Will Kaufman (author of American Radical), while he sang Deportees, and collaborate with David Amram (two highlights of my time there). I had a great lengthy conversation backstage with Arlo Guthrie too, and of course, hanging with all the other musicians there was an incredible experience (thanks Joel & Lauren Rafael!). But beyond that, this summer has been spent mostly “Woodshedding.” The good news is that I now have my own home writing space (Woodshed I), and a new campus office (Woodshed II). So there should be no excuses why I can’t finish my book by the self-imposed deadline of December 10th.

On stage with Will Kaufman and Carlos Rodriguez

On stage with Will Kaufman and Carlos Rodriguez


Carlos and I with David Amram outside our hotel

Carlos and I with David Amram outside our hotel

Which brings me to the next subject. In approximately two weeks, I’ll launch a fundraising campaign that is aimed at helping me complete the research portion of this work on the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos. I’ll post the links to that here, so please keep an eye out, and also, spread the news! I still have files for families I’m trying to reach, whom I’ll need to interview, on video and audio, as I’ve done with all of this work. The move has taken a serious toll on my own finances. Up until now, I have funded all of this research on my own dime. With one exception, my friend and awesome bay artist Jane Oriel, helped by creating limited edition prints that I was able to sell to assist with some of the early costs. (Thank you Jane!!) Otherwise it’s all been a labor of love for me. Since the beginning I’ve felt this was such a worthy cause, and this is truly why I’ve never hesitated to do whatever it takes to see this work to the end. My plan is to make all of my research archives accessible to the public once my book is done, so that all future scholars, students, or community folks can access this history. The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK have already expressed interest in housing it there, among Woody’s archives. Wouldn’t this be nice? On the other hand, a part of me would like to see it remain in the central valley, so that folks have to go there, where it all took place, to get this history. I guess all this is yet to be worked out, but for now, please keep an eye out for the fundraising campaign.

On a final note, as I prepare to teach my first course, “Antropoesia: The Poet as Ethnographer,” at the University of Texas El Paso this fall, I can’t help but feel excited about the many omissions in history that, collectively, we have yet to unearth. The more we share these stories, word-of-mouth, books, etc…the more we find commonalities with each other, aka community building. In the meantime, know that I’ll be working diligently on the book, and that I look forward to reading in your city, town, University this fall.

It Calls You Back…

El Paso greetings

To Share With Future Voices

I remember the exact day my intentions turned toward becoming a writer. It was May 18, 1995—the day a beloved uncle was shot and killed by the police. Until that moment my only desire was to be a visual artist. Wasn’t much of a book person. But seeing the way my family responded to this incident, the way they were rendered silent by it, despite the agony and injustice of how he died, is what prompted me to say something, to find the words, in essence, discover my voice. I knew right then that I wanted to master language. And yet, what was initially born from anger, would over a period of more than a decade, become an instrument firmly rooted in love. This transformation would’ve been impossible without the generosity and tutelage of many beautiful people whom I’ve had the privilege of calling my teachers, in the broadest definition. With them in mind, I had hoped to one day have that same impact on students. To share with future voices what my teachers shared with me: the possibilities, the tools, the resilience, the pitfalls, the audacity, the vulnerabilities, the intellect, and stories—all the intricacies of what it takes to become a writer of books, a story gatherer, a witness, an innovator, and a voice.

The Southwest Calling…

Since I was a child my family used to take us on road trips to see our relatives in Deming and Las Cruces, New Mexico, and then all the spaces from El Paso all the way down to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Along the way we would stop at towns like Silver City, or Socorro, to see the landmarks of my family’s history: My great-grandparents crumbling adobe house on the border town of Columbus, which is still there, the girl’s home my mother was sent to as a teenager, the desert cemetery where uncle Humberto, only 3 years old when he died, is buried in an unmarked grave, the quiet roadside off the I-10 where my aunt Tilly was killed on her bicycle. These, no doubt, are the early stories that would nurture my love and appreciation for the desert, that broad expanse between New Mexico and Texas that I have come to feel such a kinship with over the years. Never once during these road trips did I imagine I would ever be presented with the opportunity to live here. Much less, that it would be this very terrain where the fruition of a dream, years in the making, would manifest. But as fate would have it, this is exactly the case.

The University of Texas El Paso

It is for these reasons, and numerous others, that I have officially accepted a position as Assistant Professor with the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program. A dream long in the making has arrived, and needless to say, my family and I are beside ourselves. To be part of an established legacy of writers, artists and activists who have led the way for generations in this part of the world, and on a team/ faculty of writers whose own work I have admired for so long, is far more than anything I could have hoped for. The position begins this Fall, so my family and I will be moving the shell to El Paso over the summer…but more on that later. For now, I thought I’d share this exciting news with you all.

Here is a small sampling of a few of my esteemed UTEP colleagues!!

Here is a small sampling of a few of the publications by my esteemed UTEP colleagues!!