Carranza memorial ceremony shines light on Mexican-American relations

Annual July tribute to aviator emphasizes bonds inspired by fatal flight

Aztecs describe an eagle as noble, brave, daring and fearless, traits that Mexican aviator Capt. Emilio Carranza had in abundance.

Described as the Lindbergh of Mexico, Carranza embarked by plane on a goodwill and unity mission to the U.S. from Mexico in 1928. But the non-stop return flight was fatal for Carranza, ending in Tabernacle’s Pine Barrens, where a monument marks his fateful end.

Mt. Holly American Legion Post 11 long ago vowed to honor him every year and live out the mission of goodwill and peace.

Keynote speakers at this year’s memorial service on July 11 explained how Carranza earned the Lindbergh of Mexico nickname. His flight mimicked that of Charles Lindbergh, who flew non-stop across the Atlantic between New York and Paris in 1927. Lindbergh financed a portion of Carranza’s flight.

But this year’s Carranza memorial was altered by COVID-19. Bob Barney, chairman of the Capt. Emilio Carranza Memorial Committee, said the public was not allowed to the event, given the constraints on gatherings and the advanced ages of American Legion participants. Instead, the July 11 event was small and intimate, with stories of Carranza’s dying mission of peace and unity.

“I think that’s a great lesson for us Mexicans, to follow his steps,” said Luis Gaxiola Baqueiro II, director of the U.S. chapter for the Mexican Society of Latin American Aeronautical Studies (SMEAL in Spanish). “Of course, not dashing ourselves into a storm in an airplane. I’m talking about carrying out our duties, missions and what we appoint to ourselves, no matter what.

“Do all of our efforts and give our 100 percent to accomplish our personal missions in life.”

No Carranza family members could attend the memorial; they are dealing with a relative’s ailing health. Baqueiro, who said he was an aficionado of aeronautical history, spoke in their place.

Carlos Obrador, of the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia, expressed his appreciation to the Legion for keeping Carranza’s memory alive.

“The 92nd memorial service constitutes a reminder of the support given and received among institutions and people of our countries,” Obrador said. “In this context, I would like to point out that almost 80,000 veterans of Mexican origin have contributed to the defense or security of this nation.”

Those contributions were inspired by the strengthened bond between Mexico and the U.S.    following Carranza’s death. Some of that is attributed to Carranza’s great uncle, former Mexico President José Venustiano Carranza de la Garza, who drafted the country’s constitution in 1917.

Children in Mexico helped gather funds to construct the 12-foot monolith erected within Wharton State Forest to honor Carranza. Granite blocks for the structure were mined near the fallen pilot’s home in Mexico.

Each side of the Carranza monument has an Aztec-style eagle facing Carranza Road, an arrow pointing skyward and an inscription of the doomed flight’s message on other sides. The last side of the stone has footprints representing the Mexican aviator’s last steps on earth.

“As I mentioned in my speech, we are neighbors, we are trading partners, friends and especially as the new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) agreement just went into effect July 1 this year,” Obrador noted. “We had the visit of the Mexican president to Washington, D.C., this week and he met with President Trump and it’s a wonderful thing.

“The people and the government are working together to better the life of our peoples.”