Things That Matter

Saint Patrick’s Battalion Was A Group Of Mainly Irish Soldiers Fighting Against The U.S. During The Mexican-American War

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and while everyone wants to be Irish, Mexicans are celebrating the Irish. That’s right. Every year on Saint Patrick’s Day, a group of Irish soldiers are remembered for their sacrifice on behalf of Mexico during the Mexican-American War. Here’s a brief history about the group of soldiers that made Saint Patrick’s Day an important day in Mexico.

This Saint Patrick’s Day, let’s discuss the Saint Patrick’s Battalion.

@mx_military / Instagram

Tension between the United States and Mexico reached a peak in 1846 after the U.S. annexed Texas the year before. The decision to take the land from Mexico led to the Mexican-American War that took place from 1846 to 1848. By the end of the war, the U.S. took one-third of Mexico’s territory including California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

Also leading up to 1846, Irish citizens were fleeing to the U.S. to escape famine and poverty that had plagued Ireland. During that time, Irish immigrants to the U.S. were facing relentless discrimination, both in and out of the military.

The discrimination and dehumanization some Irish immigrants felt in the U.S. led them to flee south to fight along the Mexican armed forces.

@radicalteatowel / Instagram

Mexican military officials who were preparing for a war against the U.S. learned about their circumstances and began recruiting the Irish immigrants. They were promised land and money to leave the U.S. and join their army.

Unhappy with the discrimination in the U.S., some Irish Catholic immigrants joined the Mexican army.

John Patrick O’Riley / U.S. Government

According to The Texas State Historical Association, the Irish soldiers were first called the Battalion of Foreigners. The name was later changed to Saint Patrick’s Battalion and they had their own flag, pictured above. The battalion, comprised mainly of Irish Catholics, was led by John Patrick O’Riley. They saw battle in Monterey, Saltillo, Buena Vista and, most importantly, Churubusco in 1847.

The Battle of Churubusco took place outside of Mexico City and was a victory that shed light on the end of the two-year war. According to TIME, Mexican military officials tried to raise the flag of surrender multiple time. However, Saint Patrick’s Battalion kept taking the flag down. They were outnumbered, running out of ammunition and over half of the battalion had been killed or captured.

The official day to celebrate the battalion is Sept 12, but why not celebrate them twice?

@stpatrickstoronto / Instagram

The U.S. won that battle and entered Mexico City. Shortly after they declared victory and began prosecuting the captured Irish deserters. Many were hanged for the crime of desertion. According to TIME, Mexican citizens were outraged by the hangings and attempted to attack the American prisoners. They were stopped by Mexican authorities.

The Saint Patrick’s Battalion is remembered to this day throughout Mexico as a valiant group of soldiers.

@aibrean62 / Instagram

“In memory of the martyred Irish soldiers of the heroic Saint Patrick’s Battalion who gave their lives for Mexico during the unjust North American invasion of 1847.”

What a touching tribute to a group of Irishmen, angry at the American society, willing to take up arms for the Mexicans. Honestly, there is something heroic about fighting to preserve someone else’s liberties when you feel like yours are under attack.

The Irish soldiers died protecting an adopted country from the U.S.’s idea of Manifest Destiny.

@miguelargueta94 / Instagram

“Saint Patrick’s Battalion Plaza. In memory of the Irish soldiers killed during the American Intervention in Mexico of 1847.”

Their contribution in the war meant so much to Mexican society that they have a Plaza dedicated in their honor. The offered a foreign country the ultimate sacrifice. Their life in exchange for being able to stand up to their enemies.

That’s why a holiday with Irish roots has a place on the Mexican calendar.

@al_jaram / Instagram

That’s a very brief story about Saint Patrick’s Battalion who fought for the Mexican side of the Mexican-American War.

READ: Because Some People Still Can’t Tell You Why Cinco De Mayo Is Significant, Here’s An Easy Explainer

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

From Protests To Soccer Matches, The 2010s Have Been Full Of Historic Moments Across Latin America

Things That Matter

From Protests To Soccer Matches, The 2010s Have Been Full Of Historic Moments Across Latin America

CommonDreams / Instagram

The 2010s was by all accounts a convoluted decade the world over. As the decade started, it all seemed to be sort of fine and dandy after the world had managed to slowly pull itself together after the Global Financial Crisis that welcomed Barack Obama to the presidency. However, as the decade comes to a close things have gone de mal en peor for the world in general, but for the Latino population in the United States and Latin America as a region in particular.

Latinos in the US are facing unprecedented discrimination as immigration policies are tightened and white supremacists are emboldened by political discourse.

Latin American nations are facing challenges such as the overbearing influence of the drug cartels, conservative governments that cater for the interests of the most powerful and increased class warfare (countries like Mexico, Colombia and Chile, for example, are experiencing radical social polarization due to conflicting political views). 

Let’s start with a positive note. “Despacito” makes Latino music mainstream throughout the world in 2017.

This might seem like a banal example, but that is not a fair assessment. Luis Fonsi did what even big acts such as Ricky Martin and Shakira failed to do: he took Spanish-language music to markets that were previously hard to break into, such as the highly profitable Asian music scene. Des-pa-ci-to is the tune of the decade, regardless of language. 

Female presidents became the thing in South America.

Credit: Dario Oliveira / Anadolu Agency

In the mid 2010s female presidents in Latin America formed an alliance and stateswomen like Dilma Roussef in Brazil, Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina promised to lead the continent towards a brighter future. Even though their political fates ended up being grim, they collectively challenged the patriarchal structures in the highest echelons of political power in the continent. 

United States-Cuba relations became even more of a roller coaster.

Since Fidel Castro’s revolution in the 1960s, relationships between the US and Cuba have been rocky, to say the least. However, president Barack Obama opened up the Cuban market for American business (folk could finally get Cohiba cigars legally yo!). But as has happened with most of Obama’s foreign policy efforts, this increased closeness with the island has been reversed by the Donald J. Trump administration.

DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Even though the Trump administration has practically waged a war against this legislative initiative that grants a deferred action to people who were taken to the US as minors, this remains a high point for Latino culture. The act was approved by then president Barack Obama in 2012 and is now at risk of being cancelled. 

Brazilians said enough is enough: they love soccer, but they protested the 2014 World Cup.

The South American country is synonymous with soccer: they love the beautiful game and live for it. However, they grew tired of overspending when the country was living an economic crisis and government services were mediocre, to say the least. Brazilians took to the streets to denounce government corruption and the pan y circo approach to public administration. By the way: the national team did terribly and they suffered a humiliating defeat to Germany in the semifinals.  

Haiti is also part of Latin America and its capital city basically crumbled in the fatal 2010 earthquake.

We often forget that the French-speaking country of Haiti, one of the poorest in the world and the only nation founded by emancipated slaves, is also part of Latin America. In 2010 the island nation which borders with the Dominican Republic suffered a devastating earthquake that forced the displacement of 5 million people, caused cholera outbreaks. Approximately 250,000 people died and 300,000 were injured. This was basically the end of the world for many. For the rest of the decade Haitians migrated to countries such as Mexico, which launched a special program to host some of the displaced. 

Roma became the film event of the decade in the Spanish-speaking world.

Credit: Roma / Netflix

Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron partnered with Netflix to launch the 2018 film Roma, which is perhaps the best representation of Latin American identity in terms of gender, political and racial relationships ever captured on film.

The story of a domestic worker and the tribulations of the middle-class family for which she works broke into the mainstream and won Oscars, such as Best Director and Best Cinematography, generally reserved for English-language films released by one of the big studios. The film also triggered discussions around race and privilege in Mexico due to the criticisms received by the lead actress, indigenous woman Yalitza Aparicio.