John Riley, Latino Family Traditions, Mexican American War, Mexican and Irish culture, San Patricios, St. Patrick's Day

The Irish Mexican Connection

Irish and Mexican Flags

There is an Irish connection in my family. My maiden name has Irish roots while my mother’s maiden name originates from Mexico via Spain. My nieces, one of whom is named Erin, are of Irish and Mexican heritage and I have a cousin born on St.Patrick’s Day. (Okay, that last one was a stretch).

Besides the personal connection, there are more Irish Mexican facts you may not have heard of:

Image of the flag carried by the St. Patrick Irish Battalion in the US Mexican War

1. The Mexican-American War of 1846-48:

Los San Patricios, led by John Riley, (Juan Reley was the name he enrolled in the Mexican Army) began with 175 immigrant Irish, German, English, French, and escaped African slaves from the southern USA and grew to over 700 men, the majority immigrants from Ireland. You can read more of their history in this 2014 post.

2. Mexican Irish beach towns:

San Patricio (St. Patrick). Villa Obregon (Alvaro Obregon -O’Brien- was the President of Mexico from 1920-24. Melaque, a version of the Irish word “Malarky.” There is no indigenous word called melaque.

3. Religion and culture:

The Catholic faith is one of the strongest connections between the two countries.

“Mexicans and the Irish are connected by their Aztec and Druid heritage to an earth-worshipping tradition, strong beliefs in spirit, life, family, and cultural gatherings.” Mexico Insights-Judy King

 4. Music:

Ireland has a full Mariachi group, Mariachi San Patricio. Dublin also has an annual Taste of Mexico festival. 

Mariachi San Patricio-Ireland
Mariachi San Patricio-Ireland

And for a musical break, let’s hear how they sound:

5. Rebels, Actors, and Artists:

Zorro, yes, the famous Mexican Robin Hood, was not a fable. Born William Lamport, he was the son of a wealthy Catholic family in Wexford County, Ireland. He used the name Guillen Lombardi but was not a Spaniard. He was an Irishman, educated by the Jesuits in Dublin.

Zorro Poster
Zorro Poster

Juan O’Gorman, the artist, and architect, was born in Coyocan, Mexico to an Irish father and Mexican mother. He built the home and studios of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. His brother, Edmundo, was an esteemed writer.

Actors Anthony Quinn, Sara Ramirez, and several others are Mexican Irish. Add comedian and director, Louis C.K to the list.

Sara Ramirez-Actor, Grey's Anatomy
Sara Ramirez-Actor, Grey’s Anatomy

I’m sure there’s an Irish Mexican food connection, besides Jose Malone’s or Carlos O’Brien restaurants, but I’ve never heard of a specific dish.

So, on St. Patrick’s Day, my family will enjoy our annual meal at an Irish (American) pub, maybe with a Harp Lager and celebrate our Irish Mexican connection.

Have a great weekend!


Authors, Book Review, Books, Boycotts, Cesar Chavez, Family, Latinos in film, Uncategorized

América and Anthony Quinn

America's Dream

Ever since I figured out how to use the Goodreads widget I’ve been posting reviews on books I’ve read.

Either the widget is dead, malfunctioning or my brain is on overdrive and I’ve forgotten how to use the darn thing, but the widget is not working. Hence, here are reviews on the two latest books I’ve enjoyed in the last month.

América by Esmeralda Santiago

América Gonzalez is a hotel maid at an island resort off the coast of Puerto Rico. She cleans up after wealthy foreigners who look past her as a non-entity. Her married boyfriend, Correa, beats her and their fourteen-year-old daughter thinks life would be better anywhere but with América. When a wealthy, too busy, family asks her to work for them in the United States, América plans her escape from Correa and her old life.

Domestic violence, family dynamics, fear, and choices are themes in this novel. The ongoing violence that América endures is sometimes difficult to read. One feels like yelling at her to drop the bastard and make better decisions, however the author illustrates that this is no easy task. 

Reading about a character who makes poor choices can often be a turn-off, however the author engages the reader by describing the protagonist and her backstory effectively.

Beautiful descriptive prose keeps you reading but the redundant descriptions on setting is sometimes too much and the eye wants to scan for the forward movement in the story.

I love the dialogue, the emotional reactions, and interplay between the maids. I loved how the author gave us the dialogue between the mother and protagonist. The villain in the story was well played.I learned some things about Puerto Rico, the culture and language which is a plus in my opinion.

I didn’t like the way the daughter’s character was written. She had the same extremes of reaction over the entire book.

These glitches may be because this is the author’s first novel (1996). I would definitely read Esmeralda Santiago’s other books.

one man tango

One Man Tango by Anthony Quinn and Daniel Paisner

Description from publisher:

“While bicycling near his villa in Ceccina, Italy, veteran actor Anthony Quinn begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery through a varied and colorful past–and delivers one of the most fascinating star biographies ever written. Resonating with Quinn’s own passionate voice, an infectious zest for living, and a wealth of juicy anecdotes, One Man Tango is by turns resilient and caustic, daring and profound. It is a memoir as bold as the man who wrote it. Includes a 16-page photo insert. HC: HarperCollins.”

Anthony Quinn was a hero of many Latino’s, being that he was a well known actor in the ’40-’70’s when few Latinos were on the big screen. Not only did he come from Mexico, but he grew up in East Los Angeles. He was associated with the Kennedy’s, Catholics, Cesar Chavez, laborers, and California politics which further endeared him to the Mexican American community.

I couldn’t help loving this book.When I read the memoir it was as if Anthony Quinn himself was in my family room recounting his memories. He lived as passionately as his many love affairs.

Remember Zorba the Greek? Well, Anthony Quinn had that enthusiasm for living. His early life was one of extreme poverty in Mexico, with his Mexican Irish father who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and his Mexican Indian mother. 

The memoir is as fast paced as his bicycle ride through the hills of Ceccina, giving the reader an insight into the hills and valleys of the actor’s life, which is fascinating. Besides being an actor he was a laborer, boxer, artist, vintner, writer and philanthropist.

His memory of the movie stars, producers, and directors that he worked with is fascinating, juicy and very entertaining. He worked with Marlon Brando, Laurence Olivier, Mickey Rooney, Carole Lombard, Maureen O’Hara, Rita Hayworth, and numerous other memorable actors. His memoir reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and the world, with all the side dishes that go along with these characters.

Particularly interesting was his experiences and conflicts with mobsters, politicians, and movie moguls, including his father-in-law, Cecil B. De Mille. Their family dynamics were extremely interesting.

Anthony Quinn often reminisces about his poor choices, the emotional turmoil he put his wife and family through, and looking back it seems he regrets some of his decisions. But what also comes through the memoir is that he loved his family like a ferocious lion.

This memoir is one of the most well-written, insightful, and candid story I’ve ever read. There are many beautifully written phrases and visuals that make you feel you are on that bicycle ride through the towns and cities of Mexico, East Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Italy.

as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando's Emilian...
as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando’s Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)