All They Will Call You

by Tim Z. Hernandez

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Last Updated on September 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 329

All They Will Call You by Tim Z. Hernandez contains multiple layers. On one hand, it's a thorough and detailed account of an airplane accident that occurred in the 1940s, which killed many immigrants being deported by the United States government back to Mexico. However, the deeper theme of the book is how the US treats immigrants, both then and today. The majority of the passengers—twenty-eight out of thirty-two on board—had immigrated illegally to the United States.

When the news reports came out after the crash, however, the media only emphasized the few Americans on board. The majority of the passengers weren't even named, much less given the time to be mourned or honored. This, Hernandez opines, hints at what the American people thought of immigrants from Latin America: expendable people who were not worthy of being honored. This seemingly simple and common tactic in the media—leaving victims nameless—is dehumanizing.

The foundation of the book's narrative arc is a detailed biography of the immigrants on board the plane—a kind of posthumous elegy decades after their death to the people who were once swept under the rug. The book is also an exploration of how the crash became significant in America's pop culture and political history.

The event inspired legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie—known for his activism work and social-political commentary—to pen a song called "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)." That song would then inspire other notable musicians to create their own renditions, thus spreading the song's political message while teaching the next generation about the tragic event.

By becoming a part of American popular culture, the Los Gatos crash forced the American public to see the flaws in their government's policies. More importantly, it showed the white American public—many of whom were otherwise complacent toward the struggles of immigrants and people of color—the country's history of bigotry and the way in which discrimination was and remains linked to immigration policy.

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