March 17 marks the Feast Day of St. Patrick in the Christian calendar; as patron saint of Ireland, he is often connected to the shamrock, and the colour green. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in the USA and to some extent in Canada; parades, parties and menus with traditional Irish dishes or green-coloured food were adopted as a way to acknowledge Irish heritage, and over the years they have also become very popular as a way to welcome spring and the return of green to the ground. In Mexico, the first organized “San Patricio Fest“, a parade and music festival, took place in Mexico City, in March of 2016, with more than two thousand people in attendance, featuring Mexican-Irish music and dance groups; organizers have refrained from in-person celebrations this year, with the event being all virtual due to the continued fright of the COVID19 pandemic. In addition, several buildings in Mexico city have been decorated with green light displays, to acknowledge the ties between Ireland and Mexico.
Several historical figures and groups with Irish heritage have played an important role throughout the History of Colonial and Independent Mexico.
Juan O’Donojú, a Spanish officer of Irish descent, and last viceroy of the colonies, was a man with liberal convictions, who snorted at the archaic Spanish colonial model and signed the Treaty of Cordoba in 1821, recognizing Mexico as an independent entity.
During the Mexican-American war of 1846-48, many Irish immigrants who were part of the US army were vilified for their Catholic beliefs, which prompted them to join the Mexican army; their heroic participation as the St. Patrick’s Battalion (“los San Patricios”) did not end well, with most of the battalion killed or captured in the Battle of Churubusco in 1847. Later, the prisoners were either hanged or branded. A bust of their leader, John Riley, as well as a plaque on the front wall of a building in Plaza San Jacinto, San Angel (Mexico City) commemorates the place where they were executed.
In more recent years, personalities of Irish descent include: Álvaro Obregón (his father’s family name was originally O’Brien), who occupied the presidency of Mexico (1920–1924); and Romulo O’Farrill Sr. (1897-1981), founder of one of Mexico’s most influential television and news empires. Juan O’Gorman (1905-1982) was born in Mexico City; a recognized artist and architect, he is most celebrated for the four thousand square meters of murals covering the four faces of the building of the Central Library at Ciudad Universitaria (Central campus of the National University of Mexico, UNAM). The East and West walls depict scenes from the contemporary World and The University and modern Mexico, respectively, while the North wall is dedicated to the pre-Hispanic era. A picture of the South wall, representing Mexico’s colonial period, is featured at the top of this post (c. 1994).
In past years, I have shared recipes featuring green ingredients, or spring stories from my backyard to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day. This year, my previous post features a recipe of tlacoyos, with bright tones of cilantro and tomatillo sauce, and an equally festive filling of green peas: