Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Instead of green beer and pinching and Riverdance, I'd like to tell you all about the Batallón de San Patricio, or St. Patrick's Batallion. In the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, some US soldiers were disgruntled about all sorts of things: low pay, poor living conditions, religious and ethnic discrimination, harsh army discipline. Other soldiers didn't see the reason for fighting against the people on the other side, and were disturbed by army atrocities.
The San Patricio Battalion had its humble beginnings with a couple of soldiers swimming across the Rio Grande to Mexico on March 30, 1846. Desertions from the US Army became more common over the next few nights. While the majority of the swimmers were Irish Catholics, they also included African-American slaves of the US officers, Native Americans, German and Polish immigrants, and other Catholic or foreign-born soldiers. Once on the side of Mexico, they formed the Saint Patrick's Batallion, also known as Los Colorados for all the redheads and sunburns in the company. They were commanded by John Riley, who had been a lieutenant on the American side.
From a US perspective, the San Patricios were turncoats. About half of the batallion was executed by the US after the war was over. On the Mexican side, however, the valor of the Irish soldiers has created a long-lasting bond between the two cultures. So if you've felt strange celebrating St. Patrick's Day in New Mexico, just keep in mind that you're continuing a long and enduring friendship.
Photo of San Patricio plaque courtesy of Mexico Trucker. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.