This Saturday will be the 91st Annual Emilio Carranza Memorial Ceremony, hosted by American Legion Post 11 of Mt Holly.
So who was Emilio Carranza and why is he honored each year in a clearing in the middle of the pine barrens? Carranza, whose family help several important positions in that country, was an early aviator of that country. He is often referred to as “the Lindbergh of Mexico”, and was a friend of Charles Lindbergh. In 1928, Carranza attempted to fly non-stop from Mexico City to Washington, D.C. on a goodwill flight. He fell just short due to bad weather, but finished his flight the next day and was greeted as a hero in our nation’s capital. He then flew on to New York City, where he planned to make another non-stop flight attempt to Mexico City.
After several cancellations due to weather, Carranza was ordered to return home, taking off in a severe electrical storm. His plane made it as far as Burlington County, New Jersey, where he fell from his plane to his death on July 12, 1928. He was just 22 years old.
After part of Carranza’s plane was discovered, search crews spread out through the pine barrens. He was found in a small clearing in the woods by members of American Legion Post 11 of Mount Holly.
Carranza’s death was mourned in Mexico and the United States, and Mexican school children donated coins to pay for a monument to this Mexican hero. Stone was quarried from near Carranza’s home in Mexico and used to construct a monument in the quiet little clearing where his body fell.
The monument reads “Messenger of Peace. The people of Mexico hope that your high ideals will be recognized.”
But the Saturday of July closest to the date of Carranza’s death each year (this year, Saturday, July 13, 2019), the quiet little clearing bursts to life with Mexican and American flags as a hero is remembered by both countries. Officials from each country attend each year, and some years members of Carranza’s family are able to attend from Mexico. The ceremony is led by American Legion Post 11 of Mount Holly, the same group that first found. The ceremony always starts at 1 PM, rain or shine. At the same time, another ceremony is held in Mexico City at the grave of Emilio Carranza.
The whole ceremony takes about an hour. Get there a little early if you’d like a spot in the shade. Bringing a chair is highly recommended. The memorial is located on Carranza Road in Tabernacle, NJ in Wharton State Forest.
Barney, Bob. “Captain Emilio Carranza Rodriguez: LOST TREASURE IN THE PINELANDS.” American Legion Post 11 – Mt Holly, 2001. <http://www.post11.org/carranza.html>
Solem-Stull, Barbara. Ghost Towns and Other Quirky Places in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Medford, NJ: Plexus Publishing, 2005.