All They Will Call You

Today at 10:40 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) marks the 68th Anniversary of the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon. This time last year, I was sitting in a circle with the families of Guadalupe Ramirez Lara and Ramon Paredes Gonzalez in Charco de Pantoja, Gto to honor their relatives by sharing their stories. This year, I am releasing the teaser for the documentary we have been working on throughout this endeavor (see below).

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For those who’ve been following this journey, you might be aware that the book is but one of several components that I’ve been working on around this subject. For this reason, I’m happy to provide you with the following updates on how the whole thing is coming together:

The Documentary

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Click here to watch the teaser for the documentary Searching for the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos

Over the course of the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a handful of filmmakers and videographers who’ve generously given their time to this project, all to toward the common goal of eventually turning this footage into a documentary. To this end, thanks goes to Sandy Cano, Ken Leija, Teresa Flores, Lydia Z. Hernandez, Kitama Cahill Jackson, and especially Valentin Sandoval. Valentin and I are releasing this short teaser today, in honor of the anniversary of the crash, and we hope you enjoy it. I’m grateful to him also for being committed to working with me on editing the documentary, and filming on location to capture a few more interviews and shots that we need to complete the narrative. We are currently seeking funding to finish this project. To find out how you can help with this, please email me at tzhernandez@yahoo.com

The BookFullSizeRender

Throughout this whole endeavor I’ve worked to finish the book, All They Will Call You. I’m happy to announce that at long last it is finished!! I am currently seeking a publisher for it, and hope to have some good news for you all within the next couple of months. It is a 300 page account of the plane crash, the individual lives and stories of the passengers, and the aftermath, all told via interviews, documents, photos, and re-enactments.  Among all the noise-rhetoric surrounding immigration, my hope is that this book is a breath of fresh air.

The Research

Since 2010, the goal was to find the correct names of the passengers, and as many of their families as I possibly could to collect their stories, photographs, and records, as well as, to find the true story of how the song itself took flight. In this effort, I’ve traveled across California, Colorado, the Najavo Nation, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Texas, and upstate New York. I’ve documented hours of interviews on video and audio, and discovered photos, documents, and hand-written letters.

DSCN0856The Headstone

In 2013, I worked with my good friend Lance Canales, and the Fresno Diocese, as well as an international community of donors, to raise $14,000 to install a new headstone at Fresno’s Holy Cross Cemetery. We installed it with a big celebration on September 2, 2013. The Gonzalez and Paredes family continue to visit it every Dia de los Muertos to pray, sing, and leave flowers. Visitors from all over the world have been making pilgrimages to the sight.

The Humanities

One of the mission’s of this project has always been to share this story with communities everywhere, and to facilitate workshops on the subject of gathering stories. To this end, the story has been told but in academic panels, in live music, print media, and in social media. Also, Lance Canales, Joel Rafael, Carlos Rascon, and communities and musicians everywhere have continued to share the story far and wide. And for this, the families are grateful.

The Archives & Curriculum

Ultimately, the goal has always been to generate a range of multi-media resources on this subject, so that future generations (scholars, teachers, students, and historians) have photo (7)access to this research from any part of the world. Both the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as the National Library of Congress Folklife Center have expressed interest. While I’m still weighing the options, I’d really like to see this work housed somewhere in California’s central valley, where it all took place. More on this soon. I’m grateful to Professor Dana Walker at the University of Northern Colorado for taking on the effort of turning my research and book into a full blown curriculum for Middle and High School grades. It will include Mexican History, the Bracero Program, American Folk Music, Oral History, and investigative research among primary topics. We’ve just begin this process, so more on this soon. Stay tuned!

All love, Tim Z. Hernandez

 

2016, Year of Change, Year of Light

Hello Familia, for the past two years I’ve been dealing with some personal issues that have been extremely taxing, to put it mildly. For the few of you who know what I’m referring to, I cannot express enough how grateful I am for your friendship and support through this difficult period. At the end of 2015, I sat down and actually drew out a plan for how to change this in 2016. How I will work toward getting my light back, and re-focusing my mind, heart, and spirit on the things that feed my soul.

The news of the death of poet, Francisco X. Alarcón, struck me as both a tragic loss, and a kind of message. Francisco was/ is a pillar of California’s artist-activist community. I first met him in 1999, while I was working as muralist Juana Alicia’s apprentice in San

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Francisco and Me, 1999

Francisco that year. Francisco and I were both attending a literary festival and happened to be staying at the same hotel. I saw him in the parking lot, and snapped this photo with him. I was 25 years old. Five years later, when my first book, Skin Tax, was published, I read with him and Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol at La Raza Galeria Posada in Sacramento. I’ll never forget his generous blessing that night. He told the audience that as this was my first book, I was now a “new poet-warrior,” and that they should all wish me well in my journey. He then asked the audience to turn to face me, as they chanted something–I can’t remember what it was–but he lit his copal and sage, and I just remember being brought to tears by the whole thing. Every step of my career, I’ve never forgotten this single moment. This offering by one of our greatest “poet warriors.” I think of him today, his spirit and generosity, as I begin to recalibrate my life.

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Rio Vista Bracero Processing Center, Socorro, TX

 

On this note, seems in good timing that I finally finished the manuscript for “All They Will Call You.” Yes, it’s done. I begin shopping it around for a publisher now! There’s been some interest already, but this is a strange and unpredictable business, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  In the meantime, I’m shifting my focus to the documentary. As I’ve posted about in the past, throughout the research I’ve had help documenting the interviews and gathering footage of my “field work,” as I searched for the passengers of the plane crash. I had originally started working on this as

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Filmmaker, Valentin Sandoval at work

a documentary back in 2012, but had a few major setbacks that required me to postpone that aspect of the project. I’ve since began working with a kick ass filmmaker, Valentin Sandoval, and Black Bird Concepts, based here in El Paso, and we already have a teaser we created to help raise funds to finish the project. I’ll post more about this in the weeks to come.

Beyond this, I’m also working on a libretto for my friends Jasmin and Omar, hands down one of central California’s most talented couple. Jasmin is a flamenco dancer, and Omar is a musician-composer-vocalist. This is a collaboration I’ve often dreamed of. Jasmin was once my daughter Rumi’s flamenco teacher. I used to think to myself, how awesome it would be to work with these two artists. Now I get to, and I’m deeply honored.

As I write this, I am starting the Spring semester here at UTEP, and I’m excited to be teaching a graduate course I’ve developed called “Gathering Stories: Turning Research Into Writing.” The students started emailing me a few weeks ago, already asking for the reading materials and expressing their excitement. It’s a blessing to be able to do what you love as a career. I am blessed. We all are. I hope you all find your light this year.

((((( om mani padme hum )))))

 

 

 

 

The Latest…

Crazy to see that last post back in August, declaring my book was “done!” when in fact, it still had a ways to go. Here’s some insight to a writer’s process (not that you asked). What happened was, after I printed the whole manuscript out, and then sat with it for a few weeks, I had to ask myself one FINAL question, before attempting to find a publisher: “Is this the BEST possible way to tell this story?” It was a question about structure.

After much contemplation, mostly listening to my gut instinct, something in me didn’t sit right. I tried shaking it off, but right away, I knew that this was a sure sign that I needed to delve back in. My head didn’t want to go back into the work and re-envision any of it, but my body, my heart, my gut, knew I wasn’t satisfied. I recalled the time back in 1999, when I was apprenticing on a fresco mural at the San Francisco International Airport with the artist Juana Alicia. There were often times where she and I had spent the better part of a week working on specific sections of the design, only to end up tearing it out (because in fresco you are painting into marble plaster, so there is no easy fix but to tear it out) and starting all over again. Each time she would climb down the scaffold and stand back to have a look at the work my gut would turn, fearing she’d be unsatisfied and we’d have to tear it out and start over. But she taught me something. Something about following our instinct as artists. And something about mastery and discipline. So, I’ve spent the last four months restructuring the narrative, and I have to say, I’m much happier with the results. I just printed out the latest hard copy of the manuscript this morning!! After one last round of revisions, if all goes as planned, I should begin to seek a publisher by late January.

In other news…a couple of weeks ago, I heard from a staff member of Democratic Presidential candidate Martin O’Malley. She contacted me to let me know that the Presidential hopeful was releasing a video of himself singing the Woody Guthrie/ Martin Hoffman song, Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees), and that they would be crediting my research in the video. You can see that video here. While I’m not endorsing any candidate just yet (waiting to see how things play out), I see this as perhaps an endorsement of my research. No doubt my book and its subject are timely in regards to all the “immigration talk” we hear today, but I see this specific story as an opportunity to shed light on the aspect that often goes overlooked among this rhetoric– the human element, which is to say, our stories. All our stories.

Have a great holiday everyone, and whatever you and your family celebrate, celebrate with gusto y mucho amor!!

 

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….

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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,

Tim

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!

 

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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