Tim Z. Hernandez

Courtesy of Tim Z. Hernandez

Albert Franco recalls his late mother like any son might. 

He says she was a wonderful cook, housewife, grandmother, and mother.

But at Bea Kozera's funeral, in a Fresno cemetery in late August, Franco described what made his mother's personal story extraordinary.

“Some of you are aware of my mom’s notoriety,” Albert Franco said. “She was a famous person, which we never knew - never knew, for about 60 years almost.” 

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

In 1948, a plane chartered by the U.S. Immigration Service crashed in Los Gatos Canyon, near Coalinga. Everyone on board died. Immediate news reports named the flight crew and an immigration officer, but referred to the passengers as “28 Mexican deportees.” The crash was immortalized by folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wrote a poem about the tragedy, and assigned symbolic names to the Mexican nationals. On Monday morning, those passengers were formally named and recognized.

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http://timzhernandez.com/

Author Tim Z. Hernandez's new novel "Mañana Means Heaven," tells a fictionalized story of the real-life “Mexican Girl” from Jack Kerouac’s "On The Road."  

Valley Edition Host Joe Moore interviewed Hernandez about why he chose to tell the story, how he met Bea Franco (later known as Bea Kozera)  and more. 

Here are some highlights from our interview with Hernandez:

http://timzhernandez.com/

This week on Valley Edition we focus on the Rim Fire, animal control in Kern County, mental health issues in the region and the legacy of Bea Franco.

Transcript

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We want to turn, now, to a current effort to address a decades-old tragedy. In 1948, a U.S. Immigration Service plane carrying undocumented immigrants from California to Mexico, crashed. All 32 people onboard were killed. But while news accounts listed the names of the four people in the flight crew, the 28 undocumented victims were just listed as Mexican deportees.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Author Tim Z. Hernandez was digging through old newspapers at the Fresno County library when a dramatic headline from the late 1940s captured his attention.

“I stumbled upon this headline that said, ‘100 people see a ship plunge to the earth’ or something like that. It was just really a captivating headline. I instantly realized after reading it that it had to be tied into Woody Guthrie’s song, says Hernandez.