It can be argued that St Patrick’s Day is like a national holiday in my neighborhood, despite the fact there is no sizable Irish community in this area. Here in Lincoln Heights, it’s common to see people wearing shamrock paraphernalia all year round. As was recently pointed out to me, stores in Lincoln Heights will stock green colored clothing more frequently as it tends to sell more quickly than other colors. Shamrocks magically grace the walls after long weekend nights, spreading the luck of the Irish throughout our little hood. One year my previous neighbors, who were as chuntaro as you can get, had a huge St Patrick’s day party with green streamers, green balloons, leprechauns y todo. I couldn’t figure out why these kids of Mexican descent would celebrate St Patrick’s when they rarely celebrated any other holidays. They didn’t even put that much effort into their own birthday parties. Then it dawned on me, the name of their gang, which was taken from a small street that no longer exists, is the name of an Irish symbol. I imagine these celebrations, which show no hint of irony or recognition of the absurd cross cultural hybridism, will most likely take place again this year.
There are many cultural connections between the Irish and Mexicans than just the random name of an extinct road in an old Los Angeles Mexican-American neighborhood. Back when I used to do an underground radio show, we did a piece on the cultural connections between Mexican and Irish and more specifically, the San Patricio Battalion, a group of Irish soldiers who deserted the US army for Mexico during the the US-Mexican War. On the other side of the Rio Grande, the Irish soldiers found prettier women, better food, livelier living and sympathetic Catholic brothers. Hey, sounds like Lincoln Heights! There’s even a movie and documentary about these smart turncoats. To add to this historical tribute, the Eastside band Ollin just released an album dedicated to the San Patricios. So though St. Patty’s day might seem initially out of place here on the Eastside, there’s many reasons why Mexicans would choose to recognize the date. Just take your pick.
Next, one of my favorite Irish folk tunes by Margaret Barry. A song about crooked cops, prejudice and poetic justice, quite appropriate for Mexican Saint Patrick’s Day! [audio:http://laeastside.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/09_moses_ritoolarilay1.mp3|loop=no]