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Mexico salutes Irish International Brigade, Ireland winks back.
Account of Tuesday's ceremony.
Late last Monday night I scatched together a quick notice about ceremony on the 159th anniversary of the Saint Patrick's Battalion here in Mexico. Today on the day of Mexico's Independence celebrations I'll try to give a better account of the actual event.
Plaza De San Jacinto, San Ángel, Mexico City-
Just before 10am on Tuesday last Mexicans, members of the Irish community, artists and students paid solemn tribute to those volunteers who gave their live for Mexico after switching sides drom the invading US Army to the defending Mexican side in the war of 1847 which lead to the annexation of half of Mexico's National Territory.
The leader of the Saint Patrick's Battalion was Captain John Reilly, native of Clifden, Co. Galway and many others in the ranks of the battalion were also Irish. There were also many conscientious (Non-Mexican North-) American, German, French, Polish, Scottish and English volunteers. Among the names there are surnames from both of the major traditions in Ireland as it was only fourty nine years after Wolfe Tone's Rebellion. There is also one name that is Jewish and even one man called William A. Wallace!!! It's almost too romantic to believe.
The Mexican Republic sent an Admiral from the Navy and a General from the Army, numerous policeman and a brass band, the municipal "Delegacion de Alvaro Obregon" sent a local representative who gave an almost Chavezista speech on how by nature Mexico and Ireland are two peoples who will always recognise and fight against injustice, the member of the Irish Embassy of he Republic of Ireland spoke of how other non-military exchanges between Ireland and Mexico have helped enrich ours cultures and mentioned artist Juan O'Gorman and vitner James Concannon as examples. Representing the Irish community Martin Foley read out the names of the deadmen, the tricolours of the two republics were unfurled and the brass band played their national anthems as wreathes were laid. Also present in the crowd of about 50 was the grandnephew of Spanish Second Republic's President Manuel Azaña, novelist Javier García-Galiano.
My teacher Vicente Quirate, poet and playwright, invited our whole class to the Plaza as he didn't want me to miss the event. Quirarte has written a play on the last days of Oscar Wilde and is currently writing about Bram Stoker's youth in Dublin and the influence his Sligo mother had on him with Irish fairytales. In our group were Mexicans, a Colombian, a Spaniard and myself from Cork/Donegal. We had class over breakfast in a café in the Plaza after the ceremony.
It's very good of Mexico to put the time, thought, energy and money into such a ceremony. They certainly seem more comfortable with their revolutionary heritage than the Irish State does. The main streets in the city are called Insurgentes and Reforma, with another which runs through San Ángel called, quite simply, Revolución.
It was was however strange to think that the same army and police who came to the ceremony are involved in the murderous oppression of the desires of the people of Chiapas, the teachers of Oaxaca and the farmers of Atenco, Mexico City. Even more unnerving is to imagine that one of the pistols that were biilited to the waists of the policemen might soon be shooting at those who refuse to accept the recent electoral fraud.
In 1968 these pistols killed hundreds of activists in the Plaza De Las Tres Culturas in the north of the city. In April a death squad abducted, Noel Pavel González, a student activist from my Faculty. He was found three days laters, hanged from a cross in Ajusco, south of the city, having been tortured and raped for an extended period of time. In May, Alexis Benhumea another student from UNAM was shot in the temple by a gas-cannister fired by riot police, right in front of his father in Atenco, the police refused to let ambulances take away the injured, causing his death after some time in a coma.
1968 is a shadow over 2006 and last Tuesday the deaths of Pavel and Alexis were a shadow over my presence in the ceremony.
I hope that more people will travel to Mexico for the ceremony in future. Next year is the 160th anniversary and we should all try and make it somewhat special. Please start spreading the word and making some plans.
Fiachra Ó Luain