Saturday, March 17, 2007

Micks - ico

While every single saint in heaven gets a parade of his own around here, St. Patrick's Day has, as of 4PM at least, gone completely unremarked upon by the Queretanos. This is a little weird because the Irish actually have a pretty colorful history in Latin America generally and Mexico specifically. Several years ago we were visiting Chile and were surprised to learn - because there were statues of him everywhere - that one of the greatest heroes of Chilean Independence was named Bernardo O'Higgins. His father was born in County Sligo, moved to Spain and, since he was Catholic, was able to emigrate freely to Spanish America where his son showed his gratitude by driving the Spanish out of Chile. You really have to wonder what the Spanish were thinking letting the Irish roam free in the New World, don't you?

Another Mex-Mick I was unaware of was an architect and muralist named Juan O'Gorman (Gorman being my mother's maiden name, in case you need to look me up in the phone book here.) He got his first big break when as a young architect he got hired to design a pair of houses for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, which is sort of like a getting hired to play at Madonna's wedding. He was later commissioned to paint an enormous three-section mural for Mexico City's new airport. Things were going great, until he went and got all Irish on them:

While the central section met with favor, two overtly political side frescoes, measuring thirteen feet by thirteen feet, did not. In scenes called Religious Myths and Pagan Myths, O'Gorman ridiculed the ruling class, church, military, and foreign capitalists by portraying them as villainous caricatures. Despite their obvious identity he hammered home his message with bitter labels alluding to flight in a social context. In one instance he placed a sign reading "sentenced to death for trying to fly" next to a post from which flyers in pre-Conquest times would have leaped in imitation of feathered deities. (He depicted the column as a gallows from which native people hang above piles of burning codices.)

Needless to say, none of this settled well with a sponsor hoping to engender good will among travelers transiting the waiting area. Nor did O'Gorman's inclusion of Hitler and Mussolini as serpents meet with approval at a time when Mexico still maintained full diplomatic relations with the Axis countries. When the German ambassador lodged a formal protest, O'Gorman was denied access to the nearly finished work.

Say this for the Irish: they never let self-interest deter them from making a futile and pointless gesture.

For example, the famous San Patricios Brigade. The 1846 US invasion of Mexico coincided roughly with the Irish Famine (caused, as the Missus often points out because the Irish were lazy, worthless and incompetent farmers.) America was flooded with out of work Irish immigrants who, for lack of a better option, wound up joining the army and fighting Mexicans. At some point the Irish, depending on whose version you read, either decided that, as refugees themselves, they wanted nothing to do with invading a fellow Catholic country; or they decided they liked tequila and the senoritas better than fighting for Uncle Sam; or most likely, they just said "fuck it, it's too hot for this shit," and about 200 of them deserted to the Mexican side. Quite a grand gesture, albeit a poorly thought-out one since the US was completely kicking Mexico's ass, and even 200 boyos in sombreros weren't going turn the tide. Most got themselves killed in battle. About a quarter were captured and hanged en mass, and the rest were horsewhipped, branded, and driven back across the border.

You'd think this would get St. Pat a round or two of fireworks in this town, no?

No comments: