Monday, March 17, 2008

If The Boys Wanna Fight You Better Let 'Em

Well, here we are again. Another St. Patrick's Day - or, as we like to call it, "Amateur Night." We've always been more "Easter Uprising" Irish than "Kiss Me I'm" Irish. (Because, trust us, we know what it is to live under the yoke of British oppression.)

Plus, as America's original Reviled Immigrant Group, we feel a kinship with our Mexican hermanos who are having their loyalty questioned by the anti-immigrant goon squad. (The theory being that if the Mexicans are allowed to become US Citizens, they'll constitute a Fifth Column that will hand California back to Mexico by legislative decree. Really.)

Not that the Irish did much to reassure their new countrymen of their allegiance, at least early on...

The [San Patricios] battalion's story begins with Ireland's Potato Famine of the 1840s, which forced thousands of Irish to emigrate to the USA and other countries.

In May 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico in a dispute over the boundaries of Texas. Many of the desperate Irish were recruited for the war, sometimes within days of landing in New York, said Carlos Mayer, a Mexico City historian and expert on the battalion.

Most of the American commanders were Protestants, and they treated these Roman Catholic immigrants badly, Mayer said. Mexico offered land and higher wages to its recruits. As the fighting wore on, some of the U.S. recruits began to grow restless.

"Many of them began to realize that Mexico was a fellow Catholic country that was being invaded and that was really defenseless in the face of the American military superiority," he said. "So they began switching sides."

This ended as badly (or, if you're Irish, as romantically) as you might imagine.

The Americans eventually reached the outskirts of Mexico City on Aug. 20, 1847. Mexican forces, with the remaining San Patricios handling the artillery, pounded the Americans from a monastery-turned-fort on the Churubusco River until they ran out of ammunition. Thirty-five San Patricios died in the battle, 85 were captured, and another 85 retreated with the remnants of the Mexican army.

On Sept. 13, 1847, the Americans seized Chapultepec Castle in the war's last major battle. San Patricios who had deserted before the war were branded by the Americans with the letter "D" on one cheek. The rest were hanged, including 30 who were executed at the foot of Chapultepec Hill.

"They were hanged at the moment that the American flag was raised over the castle of Chapultepec, so that they would take that sight to hell with them," Mayer said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boy, and I thought the signs "Irish need not apply" on employment office windows were bad!
It's good of you to continue to educate the masses.