Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How the Irish Institute in Mexico got its name

The musical souls of two nations, Ireland and Mexico, are movingly brought together in the latest album from the renowned traditional Irish musical group "The Chieftains." The album features Ry Cooder, Los Tigres del Norte, Lila Downs, Linda Rondstad and more. I've already ordered my copy and can't wait to hear it!

The story of the Sn Patricios is linked to when I helped start the Irish Institue in Mexico City, way back in 1966. The founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. Maciel was very familiar with the story - a story which most Irish people at that time were unaware of. We named the street outside the school "The Batallion of Saint Patrick" and the link between Irish and Mexican history helped the "Irish Institute" get its name.

The St. Patrick Battalion (El Batallón de San Patricio) was a unique unit of the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The unit consisted of several hundred soldiers, who’d deserted the U.S. Army, because they believed they had more in common with the Mexicans. I had never heard of them during my schooling in Ireland. After defecting, they fought on the Mexican side in five major battles. Unofficially, the group was called the Irish Volunteers, or the “Colorados” (red guards) because of the many redheaded and ruddy-complexioned men in it. They’re considered heroes in Mexico because of their exemplary performance on the battlefield. They were ultimately defeated, suffering severe casualties at the Battle of Churubusco, which was the Mexican army’s Waterloo. General and President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who commanded the Mexican forces, stated afterwards, “if I could have commanded a few hundred more men like the San Patricios, Mexico would have won the battle.

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