Remembering the San Patricios, “the Irish soldiers of Mexico”

Plaque commemorating the San Patricio Martyrs in Mexico City.

Plaque commemorating the San Patricio Martyrs in Mexico City.

As US troops invaded Mexico City, the August 20, 1847 battle of Churubusco marked an important turning point in the city’s defense. Today the results of that war are known to many (but, not surprisingly, not to all). In its aftermath the territory comprising the current states of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and other regions (about half of Mexico’s territory) was ceded to the United States.

A lesser known chapter of this war is the role played by a battalion of Irish soldiers, recent immigrants to the United States, who deserted the US army to fight on the side of their fellow-Catholic Mexicans. As the references embedded in this post indicate, religion was not the only reason for these Irish to change sides. Questioning of the Polk administration’s expansionist and racist policies was also central to their defection.

In recent years, a series of works have been produced to commemorate and explain the role of these soldiers. On a more academic sense, Michael Hogan has written The Irish Soldiers of Mexico (1997), a book that sold out four editions in English and two in Spanish. The book has a Facebook page, and an article-length study of the soldiers by the author is available here.

One of my favorite commemorations of these men is The Chieftains album, “San Patricio”, released in 2010, a great celebration of the friendship ties between Irish and Mexicans.

The 1995 documentary “The San Patricios” by Mark R. Day has been recently digitized and released in YouTube. It also provides a good overview of this chapter in Mexican, US and Irish histories.

I thank Shaun Arron Cassidy for some of the references in this post.

4 thoughts on “Remembering the San Patricios, “the Irish soldiers of Mexico”

  1. Linda Torres

    Felicidades~Congratulations! Honoring “Los San Patricios” and our combined rich cultures of Mexican and Irish songs, music and dance is such a significant initiative.

    Gracias por parte de mi familia, I AM VERY PROUD of our IRISH roots; my great grandfather, Christopher Baine immigrated from Ireland to Arizona in 1870 and married my aunt Jesus Dominquez.

    I am a native Phoenician of Mexican descent…yet my heart & soul is Irish as much as it is Mexican. God Blessed us to Celebrate our Culture, Traditions, Arts and History.


    Linda Torres
    President CEO
    Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center~Galeria 147

    1. Luis Marentes Post author

      Happy that you enjoyed the post. I have been very interested in the historical relations between Irish and Latin@s for a long time. We have had a long history of interactions, with its ups and downs in the United States. I believe it is important to raise awareness of this long good relationship, as I feel that it is often forgotten.

  2. richard stevenson

    what is your face book page? I am a big fan of the san patricios, have visited their historical places, seen the pipe band, etc. currently i live in tucson, but used to live in df. we share some common interests.

    1. Luis Marentes Post author

      We do seem to have common interests. I have a FB page where I tend to post things for family and friends. I do post much more of general interest on Twitter @marentesluis. Are you on Twitter? We can certainly follow each other there.

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