Monday, May 18, 2009

history at bay

Mexico Bob threw down the historical gauntlet to me in his comments section the other day.

I commended him on the unsual bits if history he has picked up here and there for his blog. He responded:

A now live in a very interesting area. It is one end of an old Spanish land bridge from the Philippine trade to Veracruz at the other end. I am waiting to see what interesting stuff you come up with :)

That is a bit of a coincidence because I am about to start a little historical quest I discussed in standing pat in March.

The middle village of our three villages is San Patricio, named for Saint Patrick, the honored saint of the village parish. It is not that unusual for a place to be named after a saint usually associated with another country. If that were true, the capital of Chile could simply be called Jim.

But there is another Saint Patrick association with Mexico: the honored and reviled (depending on which side of the border you are on) Saint Patrick Brigade of the Mexican-American War.

I am soon going to start researching whether there is any connection between the brigade and this particuar village.

And I know I will hit some false leads.

An expatriate told me with a straight face (because I think she thought it was true) that the entire area was settled by the Irish. Melaque is a mispronunciation of "Melarkey," and Villa Obregon (the village whrere I live) is a bastardization of "O'Brien."

When I pointed out that the village is named for Álvaro Obregón Salido, president of Mexico in the early 1920s, she looked at me with that same pitying look that one child gives another when the Tooth Fairy is outed.

But, so far, I have found nothing authoritative to show a connection with the village and the Sant Patrick Brigade.

Bob make a good point, though. This area has strong colonial roots. We have no great Mayan or Toltec pyramids to act as extras in another Star Wars epoisode. But we played a big role in the trade between Mexico and the Philippines.

I covered all of that in
manila extract last December. So, I will simply let the moving finger move on. And you may do with your mouse as you choose.

The horizom on our bay has been hazy the last few days as we start our shift to the monsoon season. As I sat watching the haze and thinking about the great galleons that once sailed from this bay to the East, I thought I spied, for one brief moment, a ghost of the past.

I am ready for more sleuthing, Bob.


Gman said...

Good luck with your quest. I have an Irish Rock album by Black 47 with a song called "St Patricio Brigade" on it, so I actually had heard of it already! Here are the lyrics.

I came to this country an innocent boy
From the green fields of Galway
When the hunger was clawin' at me
Came for redemption, respect and regard
All I got was new masters
And a kick up the arse

Oh, they beat me and robbed me
On the streets of New York
When all that I wanted
Was an honest day's work
Saying "get up now, Paddy,
You're an ignorant sort
Far worse than a beast
You won't do what you're told"

Oh, they spat at my crucifix
Laughed at my church
They called me a papist
And many things worse
I soaked up their insults
And I swore revenge
Send them Know-Nothing bastards
Straight back to hell

I joined up their army,
My fortune to make
But my captain was just another
Nativist snake
He beat me and starved me
Insulted my Race
By the time I hit Texas
I was ready to break

Hiya, le hiya
Oh, hey San Patricio
So far from your homeland
Carinos we miss you oh
Hiya, le hiya
Oh, hey San Patricio
We'll never forget you
We'll always remember
The San Patricio Brigade...

The Mexican people
They treated us great
We danced at their weddings
And sang at their wakes
We fought in their battles
And where'er we'd go
Hiya le mad Irish
San Patricio

Oh, we fought the invader
And held him at bay
At the battle of San Angel
And Buena Vista
If Santa Anna had not fled Churabasco
We'd be chasing Know-Nothings
Up past Ohio

Hiya, le hiya
Oh, hey San Patricio...

They took us prisoner
When our bullets ran out
And they tried us in
Their military court
Not a word 'bout oppression
Or baiting our Race
My captain passed sentence
His eyes filled with hate

To death on the gallows
We would not bend our knee
So they murdered us
Far from Galway's green fields
We fought for liberty
Defense of our creed
So to hell with Know-Nothings
Their kith, kin and seed

Hiya, le hiya
Oh, hey San Patricio...

Bob Mrotek said...

Irish Catholic missionaries have a long history of activity in Mexico and still have a presence here. Obregon really is a form of O'Brien and Álvaro Obregon was part Irish like Vivente Fox. There is a clue to the Manila trade in Barra de Navidad. Look for Calle Urdaneta, named after Andrés de Urdaneta the Augustinian Friar and great navigator. You are doing great. Steady as she goes Mr. Zulu!

Larry in Mazatlan said...

Here's a link to something that might help in your quest. By itself it's a pretty good short history by Jane Fogarty. More interesting is that it's from an Irish/Mexican organization sponsored by UNAM. Good hunting.


Steve Cotton said...

Gman -- The San Patricio Brigade is truly an Irish tale -- as are the lyrics.

Bob -- The O'Brien/Obregon legend is indicative of many other Mexican legends (such as, Our Lady of Guadalupe's magic cape). There simply are no credible facts to substantiate the claim. Obregon is a Spanish surname. And, of course, the presence of Irish missionary and immigrants in Mexico add the appearance of plausibility. But temporal relations are not proof of causation. I have repeatedly found that my Mexican friends are seduced by romanticism despite what the facts say. And not just my Mexican friends. Just think of all the Princess Diana stories that have passed from fantasy to fact in the minds of what I once thought were an inherently rational people: the British. But I will continue my quest for facts. And where I find an interesting myth, I will pass it along as well, approriately labeled.

Frankly Ronda said...

Interesting photo ...

I enjoy the Bob and Steve banter especially when your lawyer side peaks through.

Bob Mrotek said...

Well, Steve, you are probably fact you are always right. However, consider the fact that I and millions of other people believe that the picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe on the Tilma of Saint Juan Diego is real and not just a legend. Also consider the fact that the Spanish surname "Obregon" originally came to the Santander region of Spain as "O'Brien" during the Irish dispersia of the early 1600's. But...okay so you win. No big deal :)

Steve Cotton said...

Bob -- You abandon the field far too quickly, sir. I almost included the Santander possibility in my last post, but I knew you would be back with it on your rebuttal. I think the best proof that El Presidente had, at least, some Irish blood is that Celtic mug of his. He could have stepped right out of a Tammany Hall smoker. Whatever his particular lineage, though, it is clear that the locals around Melaque did not do the name twisting. They simply were honoring one of Mexico's better (perhaps, best) presidents.

AMM -- Well, we must be making you very happy today. What fun to exchange information and ideas!

Diego said...

Hey Steve, I've been a lurker for a while but today I decided to come out of the shadows and help out with your research project. As far as I know, most members of the Saint Patrick's Brigade were executed after Mexico was defeated. However, several villages around Monterrey here in Nuevo Leon do have several blue-eyed red-headed families that claim to descend from members of the brigade and/or members of the french army that came to Mexico during the French Invasion. I also know this is true in several other states along the trail followed by both armies towards Mexico City.

I really like the blog, by the way. Great job!

Babs said...

Well, my dear, I will chirp in with this info. I have read and and verified that the Spanish missionaries, while trying to obliterate the "pagan" religions added a Saint's name in front of the name of a village. If you look at a Mexican map, you'll see a tongue twister ancient name preceded by a Saint's name. Of course the locals ignored it, unless they were in front of the missionaries who could easily slaughter them if they disobeyed....and sadly did in many instances........hence, San Patricio Melaque. Simple.

Anonymous said...

gee, I enjoy hearing about your dog, more.

Anonymous said...

In Puerta Vallarta, there is a nice little museum operated by the Mexican Navy, which has a number of exhibits about the trade between Mexico and the Philippines. If you're up that way, it's probably worth a visit. It's on the Malecón, near the pit amphitheater.

I think most of the stuff is in Spanish though. It'll be a workout for your second tongue.

As a nice extra, it's air conditioned, and a perfect place to stop when you've had enough wandering in the heat for a while.

Looking forward to more historical discoveries.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where, despite the relative newness of the houses--only about a hundred years old--we live in the oldest settled bit of Boston.

Steve Cotton said...

Diego -- Armies have a tendency to randomly distribute DNA. Family legends run rife -- especially for politicians. Obregon's biographers have had a terrible time verifying his lineage.

Babs -- Nice theory, but the local names appear to be post-colonial. Sleuth on, I shall.

Anonymous -- Dogs usually win out over history, but the readership is diverse. Unfortunately, the Jiggs tales are not all going to be happy ones.

Kim -- I have seen the exterior of the museum, but I have never been inside. When times are more propitious, I will spend some time there.

As for Boston, I have told you that both sides of my family are 17th Century Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colonies settlers, haven't I? Most of them left about 200 years before real estate went sky high.

Babs said...

I have a book I'll share with you if and when you get to San Miguel....St. Patrick could not be post-Colonial!

Babs said...

Well, I guess it could, since we are still in post-Colonial. Study the'll see.........

Steve Cotton said...

Babs -- The village itself is post colonial. I have not been able to find a founding date, but I understand it is rather recent -- and it is certainly post-Jesuit.