Do I really wish I were Mexican? No. That is not what this is about. It is just a slogan.
Is that not the cutest Irish boy your have ever seen dressed up in a charro outfit? Before you accuse me of misappropriating a culture, that is my son. He is Ire-can, or Mexi-irish, or Leprecano by ethnicity. He may not "look" Mexican based on your media influenced stereotype, but I assure you he is 100% Mexican. If you need proof by demanding a birth certificate, this is probably not the blog for you; no birther movements allowed. I am an American with Irish roots raised mostly surrounded by Irish/American Catholic culture. I married a Mexican, not a Mexican-American, but a Mexican Mexican.
One day before I had kids, I was with family and my husband in Las Vegas. I saw a chalkboard sign outside of a restaurant that said "Irish I Were Mexican." It caught my attention. I think just the play on words stuck in my head. Since it also struck a cord between my upbringing and my marriage to a Mexican, I was wondering if this was an actual thing I didn't know about, or just creative Vegas restaurant staff. So I consulted google. The phrase "Irish I Were Mexican" seems to have first appeared many years ago as an advertising slogan for St. Patrick's Day at a Mexican food chain called "El Torito." I have actually eaten at a few of these TEX-MEX, not mexican, restaurants (Mexican food vs. Tex Mex is another post entirely).
Why would El Torito be celebrating St. Patrick's Day a few decades ago you may ask? Well Irishmen and Mexicans really kind of like each other. There is a kinship that exists between them and Mexicans will often call Irishman "hermanos." A shared belief in Catholicism, a deep sense of family, and a love of savoring alcoholic beverages as a pastime are some of the basic things that link these two cultures. The reason Ire-cans and Mexi-irish exist as a slang term is because the two cultures are drawn to each other, resulting in many Irish/Mexican marriages resulting in beautiful Leprecano babies. But beyond this, there is a bit of a history here you may be unaware of. I promise you most Mexicans know the story of the time Irishmen took up arms for them. But most Americans are unaware of this little slice of history.
During the Mexican-American war, the US Army invaded Mexican territory to gain control over what is now the Southwest. The two year war resulted in the Mexican Cession through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Mexico lost 1/3 of its territory. This war was not popular at the time and indeed history looks back at it as nothing more then an unprovoked land grab. The Irish were new immigrants to America facing impoverished conditions and harsh discrimination. Desperate for employment some were recruited into the army. They were not US citizens, did not have voting rights, but were allowed to join and fight in the US army, just like immigrants today. As they started fighting in Mexico many Irishmen began to wonder if they were on the right side of the conflict. Several hundred Irishmen "on the advice of their conscious" switched sides. The Irish were artillery men trained by the British and they brought their cannons with them and joined the Mexican ranks. The were led by John Patrick O'Riley, formed the St. Patrick's Battalion and fought under a green flag with the Irish harp and shamrocks emblazoned with Erin Go Bragh on one side and an image of St. Patrick on the other.
It is worth it to note that there were other European fighters who joined them such as Scots and Germans. They fought bravely in many large battles, but were ultimately defeated by the US Army right outside of Mexico City. Around 50 members of the St. Patrick's battalion were captured by the US Army, branded with the letter "D" on their cheeks for "deserter," and hung. Legend says they were hung at the moment the US flag was raised above Mexico City so they would die with that image in their minds and carry it with them to hell. But in the minds of the Mexican people they became martyrs and heroes.
Mexicans to this day still remember the group of Irishman who picked up arms to fight with them against the invasion of their territory and celebrate them every St. Patrick's Day. They are remembered with street names, postage stamps, and plaques. The name of the battalion even appears on the chamber walls of the Mexican House of Representatives. You can visit the site of the last battle at the old convent at Churrubusco in Mexico City. You can still see bullet holes in the walls and touch the cannons. In San Jacinto Square in Mexico City there is a plaque carved with the names of Irishmen who died in the cause and in Plaza San Angel you can see the bust of O'Riley, a gift from Ireland to Mexico.
So as you can see the brotherhood is deeper then religion and propensity to imbibe. The bonds of war and spilled blood unite them. VIVA!
These are two great cultures, both which hold a special place in my heart. "Irish I Were Mexican" is just a phrase that captures that unity. I plan to hunt down all the similarities between the two and post them here, a repository of that connection. This will be an exercise of fun and exploration, nothing more. It is a passion of mine as well as other Leprecanos out there. Reach out if you have something I must know about.
In Love & Tacos (and Potatoes)
A cultural Match Made in Heaven
Irish and Mexican folk have a TON in common and the two cultures really are like kindred spirits. This is my dumping ground for all things Mexi-irish, Ire-can, and Leprecano. I find infinite pleasure in digging up gems where our cultures intersect, compliment and occasionally differ. Please refer to my very first blog entry here to learn more about why this is a thing.