Listen to the story.
Aaron Schachter: We have managed to avoid mentioning St. Patrick’s Day through the entire show up until now. We are in Boston, after all. But St. Paddy’s Day isn’t celebrated just in Ireland and here. In Mexico, this is the day they remember the Irishmen who fought for Mexico against the United States back in the 1840s, the so-called “San Patricios.” Martin Paredes is a blogger who’s written extensibly about them. Martin, the story of the San Patricios is familiar to some I guess, but I’ve never heard of it. Who were they?
Martin Paredes: The San Patricios was actually a military unit that was composed of mainly Irish soldiers that were serving under the US army when the US was invading Mexico during the Mexican-American War. These were US soldiers that left the US lines and joined Mexican lines and fought for Mexico against the United States.
Schachter: Why did the desert?
Paredes: There’s many reasons for it. You have to remember that during that time, many Irishmen had immigrated from Ireland to the United States. They faced a lot of discrimination. Their reason for immigrating to the United States was because of the potato famine in Ireland. When the US army actually went to war, many of them, being strong Catholics, saw what they considered an unfair invasion of a foreign country, and so because of the ongoing discrimination, their affinity to the Catholic religion and to the Mexican people, many of them defected the American lines and joined the Mexican lines.
Schachter: Now, Mexico lost the Mexican-American war, so I’m guessing there wasn’t much of a happy ending for these guys?
Paredes: No, there was not. Many of them were hung under the theory that they were deserters during time of war.
Schachter: Martin, you’re a proud Mexican citizen living here now in the US but born and bred in Mexico. How did you first hear of these fighting Irishmen, the San Patricios?
Paredes: There was this street in Mexico City called San Patricio and we had always heard, during family conversations and stuff, about Irishmen and there’s always an affinity for anything having to do with Ireland. There’s Mexicans that are very fair-skinned and redheaded, and so that always stands out in southern Mexico. Later on in school, I heard about it but it was one of those quick 15 minute presentations and then “let’s move on to the next subject.”
Schachter: Are there commemorations at all in Mexico?
Paredes: Yes, there are. There’s an annual commemoration, there are plaques all over Mexico commemorating them, there’s streets named after them.
Schachter: Will you be celebrating the San Patricios tonight?
Paredes: Definitely. Every St. Patrick’s Day, that’s the first toast that I make, is in honor of the San Patricios because a group of Irishmen came to the defense of Mexico and many of them died in the defense of Mexico. That has to be lauded as one of the greatest honors ever because they were fighting for an adopted nation and they died for an adopted nation.
Schachter: Mexican blogger Martin Paredes, happy St. Patrick’s Day.
Paredes: Likewise, enjoy it.