St. Patrick's Day is a Big Deal in Mexico

Mexico and the United States celebrate many of the same holidays, but often in slightly different ways and sometimes for different reasons altogether. For example, St. Patrick's Day probably does not give you a craving for the best Mexican food at the Lake of the Ozarks, but maybe it should. 

Here in America, St. Patrick's Day is a time to indulge in corned beef, cabbage, beer, whiskey, and a bit of Irish pride (even if you aren't Irish.) In Mexico, it is a day to honor some very important men from the country's history, most of which were Irish rather than Mexican. 

Saint Patrick's Battalion
During the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, a group of anywhere between 175-several hundred (accounts vary) immigrants & expatriates formed & were led by Irishman John Riley. Many of these men were Irish, but lots of different countries were represented. They were called Batallion de San Patricio in Spanish, later reorganized as the Foreign Legion of Patricios, and most often referred to as San Patricios.  

The majority of these men had defected from the U.S. Army. Some were unhappy with their treatment by the U.S. Army and to some, it was a religious decision. The United States was mainly Protestant and the Irish soldiers preferred to fight for Catholic Mexico. Another reason that many joined the Mexican forces was due to the propaganda the country had printed in many different languages promising citizenship, higher pay than the U.S. Army, and generous land grants to anyone fighting for them.  

Mexico's Heroes 
The San Patricios were at the center of the toughest battles that the United States encountered during the war. Riley's team turned out to be an integral part of Mexico's defense. Wherever they fought, a distinct green flag would be seen flying nearby. 

There are conflicting stories about the exact design of that flag and none are believed to have survived to present day. Combining various accounts, it seems that the flag most likely was made of green silk. St. Patrick, the Harp of Erin, and shamrocks were used on the flag. So were the words "Erin go Bragh" which loosely translates to "Ireland Forever." 

By John Patrick O'Riley (Brevet Major) - The Flag Book of the United States by Whitney Smith; Page 272 ("Other American Flags") March 1976; William Morrow & Co; Edition: Revised; ISBN-10: 0688029779; ISBN-13: 978-0688029777 W3C-unspecified vector image was created with Inkscape., Public Domain, 
The Final Battle
There were many important battles involving the San Patricios, but the Battle of Churubusco is where they were ultimately defeated. The U.S. troops had them outnumbered and surrounded, forcing the San Patricios and the Mexican soldiers to retreat to a convent. A lack of ammunition was a huge problem for Mexico at this battle. When the ammunition wagon finally arrived, much of it did not fit the muskets being used. Even worse, a stray spark caused the newly arrived ammunition to explode! 

Some of the Mexican fighters tried to raise a white flag to surrender, but the San Patricios, many holding a grudge against the U.S. they had defected from, tore down the white flags and were ready to fight with bare hands if necessary. Eventually, the U.S. won this battle and the remaining San Patricios, including John Riley, were captured. 

As a defense in the trials, some men claimed that Mexico had forced them to desert, while others stated they had too much to drink and didn't realize what they had done until too late. Most of the convicted San Patricios were sentenced to death by hanging even though the penalty at the time was death by firing squad. Those who survived either returned home to Ireland or chose to try to make a life in Mexico. 

Celebrated Today
The men of the San Patricios are still honored in Mexico every year on two dates -  September 12, the generally accepted anniversary of the executions of the convicted soldiers, and on St. Patrick's Day, March 17. Ceremonies are held and today many streets, schools, churches and other landmarks take their name from the battalion. There is a plaque in San Angel, where some of the executions took place, listing the names of those who died during the invasion of 1847. 

photo from
In 1997, a ceremony commemorating the 150th anniversary of the execution of the San Patricios was held. Both Ireland and Mexico jointly issued postage stamps in honor of the occasion. In 2004, an official ceremony was held and attended by international dignitaries. The Mexican government gifted a commemorative statue to the Irish government as a thank you to the bravery, honor, and sacrifice of the San Patricios. That statue was placed in the town where John Riley was born, Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. 

So you see, since St. Patrick's Day is such an important day to the country of Mexico and its ties to Ireland, it really isn't strange to celebrate the holiday at our Lake of the Ozarks Mexican restaurant! Mexicali Blues is closed on Sundays, and that happens to be the day the 17th falls on this year, but you can join us to celebrate on Saturday instead for some Mexican food and margaritas. Then, on St. Patrick's Day, go ahead and have your corned beef, cabbage, and beer. The best of both worlds, all rolled up into one fun weekend!
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