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Heroes, victims or villains? Irish Presentations and Representations in Latin America and the Caribbean

Morelia, Mexico, 15-18 July 2009

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Irish Emigration to the Americas since before the famine - The vagabond element (a 2008 update)

Phillips, Anthony George (University of Buenos Aires)

When Mariscal López, President of Paraguay traveled to Paris his nation was of the World's most affluent. Within years he was dead, as were five of every six Paraguayans with him. He died in a river with his half Irish son, in front of the mother of his children; Elisa Lynch, born in Cork. Ms. Lynch was a fearless opportunist and she knew a good thing when she saw one. Her second relationship with a Russian soldier wasn't working out so she jumped at opportunity to get out of Paris, traveling to South America. Surely it had to be better than Algiers? When she arrived in Buenos Aires she was pregnant and depressed but she gave birth and was invited onward up the Paraná river to Paraguay. She was soon holding court in Asunción, chief socialite of the Asunción nobleza. Elisa Lynch is an extraordinary heroine whose fame has not spread far from her beloved Paraguay. She was not a military leader, a policewoman, a rebel, nor a nun or brother teaching in a catholic school. She was a woman of incredible adaptability who survived a cruel war and was spared by a Brazilian officer because she warned a soldier not to kill her, as she was "English."

The author shall return for the second time to his beloved Paraguay to investigate original archives and conduct interviews, combining these with resources from his Masters degree in the Political Economics of Mercosur in the University of Buenos Aires. This will be Ms. Lynch’s story as told by her Paraguayan people. But wait, there's more: the article covers the vagabond migration to Latin America. The author proposes to show that much of the stereotypes of the Irish emigrant just don't hold up to the acid test of hard reality. Taking as an example the opportunist evacuation of Ireland in recession in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when two US senators (Daly and Morrison) convinced the INS to pervert the Green Card Lottery Visa system and accidentally creating a strange migration. These migrants were opportunists too but they did (and some still do) some quite extraordinary things from the jungles of Mexican Laconda to Caracas and the Chavéz coup.


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