Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589
Tim Z. Hernandez's All They Will Call You is a work of nonfiction about the deadliest plane crash in the history of California, the Los Gatos tragedy of 1948, and the people who died in the crash are very much the focus of the book. Most of them were immigrants who had entered the US illegally and were being returned to Mexico, which initially meant that the crash did not receive as much news coverage as disasters affecting American citizens. The folksinger Woody Guthrie, however, wrote a song about the tragedy, "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," containing the lines:
Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won't have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be "deportees"
Tim Z. Hernandez
Tim Z. Hernandez, the book's author and narrator, is a novelist and poet who grew up in California's San Joaquin Valley, the same place that many of the men who were killed in the Los Gatos plane crash had worked as migrant farmers. Inspired by having recorded the stories of his own grandfather, and taking a phrase from Woody Guthrie's song "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" as the title of his book, Hernandez decided to research and write about the stories of some of the thirty-two passengers who died in the crash, to rescue them from anonymity and return their names to them. In All They Will Call You, he describes his five-year-long quest to learn about the Los Gatos passengers by examining official records, traveling through Mexico and Central America, and interviewing the loved ones of the men who were killed. Using his skill as a fiction writer, Hernandez imagines lives and identities for those men he was unable to learn more about.
Luis Miranda Cuevas
Luis Miranda Cuevas was a strawberry-picker and one of the passengers killed in the Los Gatos crash. Hernandez pictures him reminiscing, taking a break from work to look at a crumpled photograph of the girlfriend he left behind in Mexico. Her family were highly religious, and he used to dress up as a girl so that he could sit and talk to his girlfriend without her father realizing she was with a boy. In America, Luis spent much of his time in retrospection. Hernandez writes, “He remembered a dicho he once overheard an old man at el jardín utter: ‘El recordar es vivir.’ To remember is to live again. Perhaps no one understood this more than Luis. If he had a favorite pastime, it was nostalgia.”
José Sánchez Valdivia
José Sánchez Valdivia was a baseball fan obsessed with Babe Ruth. He used to play baseball with clods of earth while working in the fields and organized a league for Mexican farmworkers which played in their rare hours of leisure, using wilted cabbages as the bases. Like the other men Hernandez focuses on the book, he was killed in the Los Gatos crash.
Many victims of the plane crash in Los Gatos are named and described in the book, including best friends Guadalupe Ramírez Lara and Ramón Paredes González, as well as Frank and Bobbie Atkinson—the pilot and his wife, who was the air stewardess. Hernandez not only remembers them but recasts them all as heroes of a tragedy rather than nameless victims. The inclusion of the pilot and the air stewardess gives the couple parity with the characters who were being deported, and through Hernandez's storytelling, everyone involved is humanized.