Photo: St. Patricios supported Mexicans in the War against the US
St. Patrick’s day might be the day of the Irish, but it holds a special significance to Mexican people too, due to the brave actions of heroes known as San Patricios.
While tales of their military skills and rock solid determination are not popular outside of México and the South West, in México the redheaded group of men known as “los colorados” who fought alongside the Mexicans in the Mexican American War, have national hero status.
“Los San Patricios” became a crucial part of the Mexican Army during the war; a group of foreigners who, displeased with the ethnic and immigrant bias on the part of Anglo-Protestant officers, and losing faith in the reasons they were given for fighting Mexican Catholics, deserted the American Army, and joined the Mexican side.
“The San Patricios were alienated both from [U.S.] American society as well as the U.S. Army,” says Professor Kirby Miller of the University of Missouri, an expert on Irish immigration. “They realized that the army was not fighting a war of liberty, but one of conquest against fellow Catholics such as themselves.”
They were led by Captain John Riley of Clifden in County Galway—and in deference to Ireland referred to themselves as the St. Patrick’s Battalion. They fought against the U.S. forces in all the war’s major campaigns and according to their Mexican comrades “deserved the highest praise, because they fought with daring bravery.”
Despite fighting with tremendous might, the Mexican army—even supported by a squad of Patricios that fought like their Norse ancestors, the American Army proved to be more powerful, and these Patricios paid the ultimate prize for switching sides.
Every San Patricio who deserted from the U.S. Army was jailed and subsequently court-martialed. Many were set free, but the Irish paid for their crime; accounting for approximately half of those executed.
Respect for the Irish remains high in Mexico, as well as those of Mexican heritage. In 1959, the Mexican government dedicated a commemorative plaque to the San Patricios in San Angel, a Mexico City suburb. The plaque lists all the names of the battalion of immigrants who lost their lives in battle and execution.
On this St. Patrick’s Day (and future ones as well) don’t forget to the toast to the San Patricios, who understood the tribulations of immigrants and chose to stand with them in battle until the end.
¡Viva los San Patricios! ¡ Viva la justicia!