We like the Irish around here
The Irish in Mexico have an honourable history. Their most celebrated intervention was that of the San Patricio Battalion, some 200 Irishmen who crossed to the Mexican side in 1848 during the war with the US. It's impossible to be sure what inspired their defection but it seems that reminders of a shared faith, offers of land, and large amounts of tequila all played their part! Kindly, the Mexicans today insist the Irish became convinced of the justice of the Mexican cause.
It is true that the San Patricio Battalion fought bravely and was decorated for its exploits in the Battle of Buena Vista before being overrun at Churobusco. Fifty of them were court martialed by the US army and sentenced to death. They were taken to where they could see the Mexican citadel, the Castillo de Chapultepec, and only when the last of its defenders, the 'child heroes', had hurled themselves from the battlements to avoid capture and the Stars and Stripes had been run up over the fortress were the Irish hanged.
Today, almost 150 years later, in the mountains of Southeastern Mexico, where the people, peacefully pursuing the age old demands of land and freedom, have suffered years of repression and deliberate marginalization, the Zapatistas have offered themselves as instruments of the Mexican people in their struggle for democracy. They have met with a ferocious and disproportionate military response. Chiapas is now occupied by 40,000 government troops, 1 for every man, woman and child, who threaten an all out offensive at any moment.
Writing to supporters of the Zapatistas around the world on March 17th of this year, Marcos invoked the spirit of the San Patricio Battalion. This is what he said:
When Mexico was fighting, in the last century, against the empire of the bars and crooked stars, there was a group of soldiers who fought on the side of the Mexicans and this group was called 'St. Patrick's Battalion'. And so I am writing you in the name of all of my companeros and companeras, because just as with the 'Saint Patrick's Battalion', we now see clearly that there are foreigners who love Mexico more than some natives who are now in the government. And we hear that there were marches and songs and movies and other events so that there would not be war in Chiapas, which is the part of Mexico where we live and die. When you are old, then you will be able to say to the children and young people of your country that, 'I struggled for Mexico at the end of the 20th century, and from over here I was there with them and I only know that they wanted what all human beings want, for it not to be forgotten that they are human beings and for it to be remembered what democracy, liberty and justice are, and I did not know their faces but I did know their hearts and they were the same as ours.' Good-bye.. Health and a promised flower: a green stem, a white flower, red leaves, and don't worry about the serpent, that flapping of wings is an eagle which will take care of it, you will see...
We in Ireland have been slow to pick up the internationalist banner of our ancestors, but there is still time, perhaps we have just been shaking off the political lethargy that afflicts our generation. But now we must act. Once again there is an unjust war in Mexico, once again the Mexican people are being dispossessed, this time by their own government backed elite, in thrall to the US. Once again they need our help. The more international support the Zapatistas have the more likely it is that can open up space for a political solution to the conflict, and the less likely it is they will have to hurl themselves from the mountains in defence of their land, their people and their hopes. The Mexicans need another San Patricio Battalion; the cause is still as just, the shared faith in human dignity is still as strong, and the tequila is still is good.
Be a Zapatista wherever you are!