With St. Patrick’s Day approaching and the inevitable hankering for Guinness and corned beef and cabbage, we got to thinking of our plans, things to do in Puerto Vallarta on St. Patty’s Day. Living in Puerto Vallarta, it may not seem like the obvious place to celebrate but then again, how fun is obvious?
My father is of Irish descent and my mother is Mexican. These two cultures certainly don’t seem similar at a glance, but a closer look shows that Irish and Mexicans may have more in common than we thought. Of course, both are traditionally Catholic countries, have tightly-knit families, are passionate about regional music and let’s just say that maybe they enjoy their adult beverages. Surprisingly for many, they also share a war.
In the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, there was an infantry and artillery unit of Irishmen, headed by John Riley, also know by the Mexican Army as Juan Reley. Riley formed the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, known to Mexican soldiers as Los Colorados Valientes (The Valiant Reds) and later, Los San Patricios (The Saint Patricks). Initially, Los San Patricios was made up of 175 soldiers, chiefly Irish, German, English, French immigrants and escaped African slaves. Soon, the brigade swelled to over 700 men, mostly from Ireland who grew disatisfied with the United States Army. It is speculated that among the factors leading toward desertion were the mistreatment of immigrant soldiers, a bias against the practice of Catholicism, overall alienation and the lure of higher wages and promise of land. They also saw their mistreatment mirrored in the behavior of factions of the US occupying forces, including some commanding officers of the Texas Rangers who robbed, raped and murdered. In addition, they were offended by the Rangers’ desecration of Catholic Churches in Mexico.
Riley held firm that the U.S. reason for war was one of conquest, while Mexico’s was one of defense against foreign intrusion. Los San Patricios were viewed as traitors by the US and treated as such. Upon their capture, 72 soldiers were court-martialed and though they were never given representation, were sentenced to death by hanging. In Mexico, Los San Patricios were and are looked on as heroes and still honored in places like Mexico City that has a street named Martires Irlandeses (Irish Martyrs), Monterrey that has a street named Batallon de San Patricio (Battalion of Saint Patrick) and even a town bearing the name San Patricio, Jalisco.
This St. Patrick’s Day, we may raise a glass to Riley and his battalion for their service to Mexico. We will saunter up to Murphy’s Irish Pub on the Malecón, ask the owner Jon Murphy for a pint, look across our beautiful bay and toast. Later, we will continue the revelry at the always-hopping St. Patrick’s Day party at Shamrocks in Bucerías. This event is always packed, always fun and shouldn’t be missed. In keeping with mixing the two cultures, we will ask for a delicious baked potato at Carboncito with pastor toppings, of course.