It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and, at least for 24 hours, just about everyone is Irish, or, as the old Dublin saying goes, “wishes they were.”
And even though the Irish community in Mexico is relatively small — less than 5,000, including descendants of the martyred San Patricios, an artillery battalion made up of mainly Irish Catholics who fought for Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848 — the País Azteca will be joining in the “global greening” experience with a shamrock-hued illumination of the capital city’s iconic Ángel de Independencia monument tonight and a festive Celtic Pride parade — replete with bagpipers and thunder pipes — down Avenida Tamaulipas in Condesa tomorrow.
St. Patrick’s Day is the national holiday of the Emerald Isle, and it commemorates the death of that nation’s patron saint, Patrick Maewyn, in the year 461. (No one knows exactly when he was born, so they celebrate his death anniversary instead.)
As a young bishop, the Welsh-born Patrick spent more than 30 years in Ireland and was almost single-handedly responsible for the widespread conversion of the island to Catholicism.
Over the centuries, many myths about the saint have flourished, including claims that he raised the dead and drove the snakes from Ireland, but few of these stories have been substantiated.
What is known is that St. Patrick set up a massive network of schools and churches that laid the foundation for much of that European nation’s subsequent cultural and social development.
Originally, St. Patrick’s Day was only celebrated in Ireland as a solemn religious holiday.
But by the 1700s, it began to evolve into a global secular holiday, particularly in the United States, where Irish immigrants organized St. Paddy’s Day parades as a show of patriotism and a manifestation of their discontent with their low social status in America.
Today, St. Patrick’s Day is recognized as an international celebration of Irish heritage and culture, with shamrocks and leprechauns symbolizing a universal passion and appreciation of the Land of Saints and Scholars.
Here is Mexico, the Irish and their descendants left an important mark on the nation’s rich cultural and historic heritage, most notably Spanish viceroy Juan O’Donojú, muralists Juan O’Gorman and Pablo O’Higgins, real-life Zorro William Lamport and Álvaro Obregón (O’Brien), who served as president from 1920 to 1924.
Combined two-way trade between the countries continues to grow, reaching nearly $2 billion in 2016, making Mexico Ireland’s 12th-largest export market.
In fact, about 65 percent of Ireland’s total sales to Latin America are earmarked for Mexico.
And Irish companies in Mexico now employ about 7,000 workers in a wide range of sectors, including paper production, food processing and dairy.
So, happy St. Patrick’s Day, and don’t forget to wear green, or you might get pinched.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.