Parish church at San
For the academic year 1994-1995, I took a sabbatical from the
Evergreen State College and along with my wife, Bethany
Weidner, and our two sons, JD Ross and Chad
the Rad Kid Queso, left for Zacatecas, Mexico in August 1994.
Zacatecas is located in North Central Mexico, a beautiful old
silver-mining town. However, the ocean, a necessity for those
of us who grew up on Puget Sound, was far away. I checked out the Lonely
Planet Guide to Mexico
for the nearest town on the Pacific Ocean and it was a place called San Patricio-Melaque in the state of
Jalisco, a twelve-hour bus trip.
What was more interesting, however, was that the guidebook
said that this town had a ten-day celebration leading up to St
Patrick's day, and that the two towns had originated from two
Irish haciendas. There was no doubt in our mind that those Irish haciendas
had been founded by veterans of the original battalion.
We immediately switched the site of our gatherings from the
Sacred Plaque in Mexico City to San Patricio, Jalisco and sent
out communiqués to all comandantes (arriba y abajo) to
converge on San Patricio ten days before St. Patrick's day, 17
March 1995. Thus began the now historic relationship between
the Heroico Batallón de San Patricio and the people of San
First St. Patrick's Day in San Patricio/Melaque
There were about fifteen of us there for St. Patrick's Day
1995. Friends and family came from Washington State. Two Canadians from
joined us, along with three Icelandic Vikings, Floki, Breki
and Steina, from Reykjavik. Two of these Vikings, Breki and Steina, would become famous
in battalion annals for tracking down one of the silver
medallions minted in 1960 in honour of the Battalion.
We had lots of fun celebrating our first Saint Patrick's Day
in San Patricio/Melaque and we established a pattern of
activity that lasted for the next seven years.
The swearing-in ceremony
We found a wonderful hotel, the Puesta del Sol, run by Nacho
and Maya Gutiérrez, that became our headquarters. We attended
the evening fireworks display in front of the Church on the
Plaza de Armas and dodged the 'torojito' like everyone else.
We marched in the Saint Patrick's Day parade proudly wearing
our battalion T-shirts and carrying Mexican and Irish flags.
We attended mass on St. Patrick's Day where Father Antonio
We also held a communal dinner on the beach at the Terraza
Cortez restaurant where we read the names of those who were
hung by the US Army and said: 'Muero por la Patria."
We drank bottles of Jameson thanks to the sponsorship of
Irish Distilleries and their public relations man, Paul
Scanlon. (Here, however, we came up with a new rule. Begin
drinking Jameson's during the day and don't consume it all
during the Saint Patrick Day's dinner.)
We also came up with a ceremony as a part of our communal
dinner to initiate new Comandantes into the Battalion. Each
recruit would have to tell us their four names and their
'cargo.' Then, Mary Rose or Marcos Frijolero would hold a hat
over their head (sometimes a Malcolm X hat, other times a sombrero),
announce their name, and all would salute the new Comandante
with 'arriba, abajo, al centro, a dentro' while downing 'your
best shot to be Irish,' compliments of Irish Distilleries.
As participation in our annual event grew, we began taking
our responsibilities to the San Patricio/Melaque community
more seriously. For a couple of years, everyone brought
similar things on the plane. One year it was baseball
equipment. The next year it was school supplies. We also
formed a Mexican civil association, helped fund a health
clinic, a mission church and held a book-signing event for
Patrick Hogan's The
Irish Soldiers of Mexico.
The battalion even got in the business of marrying people and
organised an elaborate ceremony for the marriage of Cmdte. Lawrence
Alford and Cmdta Teresa Terran. Lawrence
was a Vietnam veteran living in San Patricio, and doubling as St. Patrick
himself in the St. Patrick Day's parade. Teresa Terrán was
one of the first people we met in San Patricio/Melaque and
remains a loyal member of the battalion to this day.
Also, by 1999, the battalion was listed as one of the
community sponsors of the parade itself.
There was an earthquake in October 1995 that cracked many of
the buildings in San Patricio/Melaque and destroyed the town's
Kiosko in the centre of the town square. It was this tragedy
that brought us into closer and sustained contact with the
We met Dr. María del Carmen González and members of her
organisation, Grupo Femenino, at our battalion gathering in
1996. She had detailed plans to rebuild the Kiosko on the town
plaza and we pledged to help. Over the next two years, she
raised $16,000 and the battalion contributed a modest $2,000.
The new Kiosko was completed and opened in March 1998 and much
to our surprise, there was a beautiful bronze plaque honouring
the battalion's contribution. History had in fact come alive.
We were very proud to be recognised by the community.
San Patricio town
officials at the formal opening of the kiosko, March
English Language Contest
Our work with María del Carmen led to other projects. Her
brother Flavio taught at the local school, and we proposed a
trip for students who could tell the history of the battalion
in English. The school set up a contest and battalion members
Tini and Tom from Colorado
who ran a biking excursion company, offered a free trip to Ireland
for the winners. As it turned out, Ireland
was a bit too far for the students, so the battalion brought
the two winners, Ramón and Perla, to Washington State for two weeks of touring and celebrations. Several years
later, thanks to help from battalion members H. Dale and K.
Fortin, Ramón graduated in architecture from the University of
Guadalajara and is now a practising architect.
150th Anniversary (1847-1997): A Letter from the President
We made a great effort to highlight the 150th anniversary of
the battalion, as did the Mexican government, which produced a
postage stamp in our honour. We mailed postcards to all the
educational unions in Mexico inviting them to San Patricio and brought about fifty people
to our headquarters at the Puesta del Sol.
However, our greatest accomplishment was when battalion
members in Ireland convinced Mary Robinson, President of Ireland, to send a
letter to the people of San Patricio/Melaque.
She wrote, 'The San Patricio Battalion fought with distinction on the
side of Mexico and many members of the battalion paid the ultimate price for
their bravery. Their participation established a bond of
friendship and warmth between the peoples of Mexico
and Ireland that lives on to this day'. She concluded her letter by
writing, 'I would like to send my warm good wishes to all
those who will gather to reflect on the contribution of this
Irish battalion in San Patricio-Melaque, for a most enjoyable
and fruitful celebration.'