The genesis of "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)" reportedly occurred when Guthrie was struck by the fact that radio and newspaper coverage of the Los Gatos plane crash did not give the victims' names, but instead referred to them merely as "deportees." Guthrie lived in New York City at the time, and none of the deportees' names were printed in the January 29, 1948, New York Times report, only those of the flight crew and the security guard. However, the local newspaper, The Fresno Bee, covered the tragedy extensively and listed all of the known names of the deportees. Unaware of the extensive local coverage of the disaster, Guthrie responded with a poem, which, when it was first written, featured only rudimentary musical accompaniment, with Guthrie chanting the song rather than singing it. In the poem, Guthrie assigned symbolic names to the dead: "Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita; adiós, mis amigos, Jesús y María..." A decade later, Guthrie's poem was set to music and given a haunting melody by a schoolteacher named Martin Hoffman. Shortly after, folk singer and friend of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, began performing the song at concerts, and it was Seeger's rendition that popularized the song during this time.