Tuesday, March 17, 2009

standing pat

Green beer. Green rivers. Green waistcoats.

It is the time of year when the descendants of people who put up "No Irish allowed" signs become Irish. The promise of diversity: every bias eventually becomes a falling down drunk celebration.

Today is Saint Patrick's Day. Time to celebrate the accomplishments of one of Ireland's three patron saints (naming the other two will get you a beer in most pubs today -- and label you as a nerd any other day), even though it is the date of his death that we celebrate. An odd little twist that the Church Universal likes to pull on its followers.

But why talk about Saint Patrick in a blog about moving to Mexico? Gladly I will be telling you. And thanks for asking.

There are at least two Saint Patrick connections with Mexico. I have reported on the first in
culture in a dish last July.

The area I am moving to next month is generally known as Melaque. But it is actually three separate villages: Melaque on the west, San Patricio in the middle, and Villa Obregon to the east. And, of course, San Patricio is named for Saint Patrick. How he became the patron saint of this little village is a mystery I have yet to uncover.

The church is dedicated to Saint Patrick. The statue photographed at the top of this blog is the most famous Welshman in Ireland -- looking like a cross between the Green Lantern and Gandalf the Green.

The church is filled with reminders that this is a fishing village. I thought that was the solution. But the two most famous fishermen in history (Andrew and Peter) are the patron saints of fishermen.

For the moment, it is a mystery. But before next Saint Patrick's Day, I will have an answer -- one way or another.

But there is also a second connection between Mexico and Saint Patrick. During the Mexican-American War, a battalion made up of solders of European descent fought on behalf of Mexico against the United States. A portion of the battalion was made up of men who had deserted from the American Army.

Much of history can be understood only by the prejudices and biases that the reader brings to any story. And almost every prejudice has found its own tale in the Saint Patrick's Battalion.

The reasons for the desertions have been many: higher pay, promises of free land, disgust over atrocities against fellow Catholics, a sense of brotherhood with the oppressed of the world. Every ideology has a favorite theory. Maybe it was all of them. After all, most individuals have their own reasons for making choices that appear to be destined for tragedy.

One Irish historian pointed out the history of the brigade is an Irish tale, not an American one. The Irish chose the Mexican side because they were doomed to defeat.

Whether destiny or not, the brigade fought bravely as an artillery unit. Showing great valor in killing American soldiers at Monterey and Buena Vista. They did exactly what soldiers are supposed to do: killed soldiers on the other side.

But the story of the brigade is certainly an Irish tale. Mexico lost the war. Seventy-two members of the brigade were captured and tried as deserters. Most were found guilty. Forty-eight would die the death of traitors by hanging, being denied the honor of a firing squad -- the prescribed punishment for deserters.

Is there any connection between these men, who are honored as patriots in Mexico, and the little village of San Patricio? I do not know. I do know that several organizations are researching that very question. Perhaps we will have an answer by next Saint Patrick's Day.

However, I do know this. For those of you who will be celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, wherever you are, I wish you one of my favorite blessings:
If God sends you down a stony path,
may He give you strong shoes.


Larry Lambert, Mazatlan said...


The The St. Patricio Battalion
is quite well known throughout Mexico. Following is a link to a write up.



Steve said...

Larry -- There is a lot of information on the brigade -- including novels and movies. What I am trying to determine is if there is a name connection between the village and the brigade -- or if it is a coincidence. As far as I can tell, the brigade gets no special treatment in the village. But I intend to pursue that during the coming year.

Larry Lambert, Mazatlan said...

Let us know how it comes out. One of my joys here is digging into different parts of Mexican history. Nothing organized; just a little here and a little there.


Jonna said...

"If God sends you down a stony path,
may He give you strong shoes."

... and a slingshot!

There is much to compare both good and bad between the Irish and the Mexican. Troubadours, storytellers, tragic, and Catholic come to mind. There are quite a few Irish here in Mérida and Mimi's red hair is not so uncommon.

The version I've heard is the one where they couldn't handle the brutality against other Catholics or the sacrilege against the churches and symbols. I believe that is the accepted theory down here. They are heroes throughout the Republic.

Steve said...

Larry -- Will do. There is a lot of material out there. And I find it fascinating.

Jonna -- The most popular read amongst the Mexican public is that the Irish felt a comradeship with the Mexicans when the Americans began emphasizing an anti-Catholic attitude during the war. It reminded the Irish far too much of how the English treated the Irish. Of course, you pays your money and picks your bias. Undoubtedly, each version has a bit of truth.

You are absolutely correct about the Mexicans viewing the brigade as heroes. There are plaques in Ireland and Mexico City honoring the fighters. I am just not certain if that connection extends to San Patricio itself.

Calypso said...

I am WILD about Mimi's red hair!

American Mommy in Mexico said...

We went into our local coastal village last night to the Irish Pub! It was a HUGE party. A Huge Stage and great bands rotating through. Got a T-Shirt even!

Steve said...

Calypso -- Says it all.

AMM -- Never underestimate the ability of Mexicans to put on a party.