Happy San Patricios Day!

Did you know there's an obscure bit of history that links the Irish with the Mexicans?

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It's the story of the San Patricios, also known as the St. Patrick's Battalion, Irish immigrants who defected the U.S. Army and fought on the side of the Mexicans during the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848.

They were led by Capt. John Riley of Galway, who didn't want to fight against fellow Catholics and didn't like the Protestants in the U.S Army. He formed a battalion of about 200 Irish men to fight with the Mexicans and against the United States.

Now sadly, many of the San Patricios were captured by the U.S. Army, and later some were executed.

They are celebrated every year in Mexico on St. Patrick's Day and also on Sept. 12, the anniversary of the executions.

Now their story will be more widely known as it is the inspiration for a new Chieftains album called "San Patricio."

The Irish band also teamed up with Ry Cooder and many well-known Mexican artists. Remember Cooder was behind the Buena Vista Social Club, which brought attention to Cuban musicians who had long been forgotten.

On this new album, released March 9, Paddy Moloney, the founder and leader of the Chieftains, has collaborated with various Mexican and Mexican-American artists, including Lila Downs, Los Folkloristas, Los Tigres del Norte, Chavela Vargas and Linda Ronstadt.

Downs is a Mexican-American artist who sings "La Iguana" and "El Relampago" on the album and the 91-year-old Vargas performs "Luz de Luna."

This is a logical cultural collaboration as the Irish and Mexicans have many things in common, including religion, music and the love of a good fiesta.

I'll end with some lyrics of the song "March to Battle" narrated by Irish actor Liam Neeson.

We are the San Patricios, a brave and gallant band
There'll be no white flag flying within this green command
We are the San Patricios, we have but one demand,
To see the Yankees safely home across the Rio Grande...
We've disappeared from history like footprints in the sand
But our song is in the tumbleweeds and our love is in this land
But if in the desert moonlight you see a ghostly band
We are the men who died for freedom across the Rio Grande.

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  • Hello, Teresa, I recently heard about Patricios when NPR was interviewing The Chieftains about their historic album. So, I started a blog. I'm a novice at this. Advice, information and pointers would be of great assistance. Many years ago I was, I guess what you would call a community organizer in Blue Island. 66th and Archer Ave. Chicago, IL http://my.opera.com/Utzer0n13/blog/patricios

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