Saint Patrick’s Day

San Patricio Battalion Flag
[repost from, written last year]

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.

San Patricios

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:|loop=no]

28 thoughts on “Saint Patrick’s Day

  1. Of course, another Irish-Eastside connection is the fact that Boyle Heights is named after the 19th Century Irish immigrant Andrew Boyle who bought up the land and then subdivided it, giving many of the streets in Boyle Heights their present names.

  2. I saw a green shirt wearing homie in a car on Broadway this morning, honking at some rucas in green on the sidewalk. Looked like they were getting into the spirit!

  3. Great post Chimatli! And the link you gave was so right on I think it must have been written by someone I know.
    That’s my old neighborhood and schools and playgrounds.
    Thank You!

    BTW Lincoln Hts, especially around Sacred Heart Church was originally an Irish neighborhood. When I went to Sacred Heart School(1950’s), for a couple of years all the priests at churdh and school were Irish (from the old sod) and there were still many Irish kids at school with us Mexicans and Italians, Jimmy Mulally, Russell Duncan, and the famous (or infamous), Richard “Owl” Riordan from Clover St. come to mind.
    At Sacred Heart School we got a stay home holiday on St Patricks Day.

  4. Hey Chimatli, we should toast a shot of Irish Whiskey to one of the Eastsides favorite sons Anthony Quinn, Irish and Mexican, one of the greatest of all time

  5. Thanks as always for the remembrances DQ!
    Yes, a toast to Anthony Quinn but I’ll be drinking Guinness for my toast can’t stomach the hard stuff. 🙂

    By the way, based on a brief survey of folks on the street of Northeast LA, both young and old, I’d say I spotted green clothing or paraphernalia on at least 70% of people. I even saw a girl wearing a green Dr. Seuss hat and lots of teens with green necklaces. See, you all thought I was exaggerating, huh?

    One teen told me the kids that forgot to wear green, severely regretted their oversight when they found themselves on the receiving end of pinching fingers.

  6. Que vivan Los San Patricios!!!

    On the St. Patrick tip, on the opposite side though, his myth of driving the snakes out or Ireland is a metaphor for Catholicism killing off the Druids, and other woman based religions. There are no snakes native to Ireland. Woman knowledge is symbolized by the snake, since woman knowledge is close to the Earth, like the snake. When societies around the world went all patriarchal the snake became a symbol of evil, the devil and need to be killed. Like in the Mexican flag as well. An eagle associated with the sky/sun father/male energy is holding a dead woman/snake in its mouth.

  7. Che Guevara was Irish.

    You heard it here straight from the editor at

    So now you can celebrate St. Patrick’s with a Che fist-in-the-air t-shirt.

    First, Che’s real name was Ernesto Guevara Lynch. Che’s paternal grandmother was born in Galway, Ireland.

    The reason your Chicano Studies professors in Berkeley, CSU-LA, UCLA, or UC-Riverside never mention Che’s Irish family lineage is because it defeats the purpose of the agenda. A clover leaf just doesn’t fit with Che nor does it go well with a zarape or a fist in the air. But Che is as Irish as St. Patrick, and St. Patrick is not known for advocating revolution.

    In fact, Che’s own father was quoted as saying that “in my son’s vains flowed the blood of the Irish Rebels”.

    One could argue in an advance 4th year Chicano Studies thesis paper (hint, hint for you students still looking for a subject to write about), or even make this the subject the thesis of a Master’s program, that it was his Irish character that propelled Che into the life of adventure he so heroicly lead.

    There is a reason that Che’s Wikipedia page mentions only his mother by name, but doesn’t at all mention she was Irish. Any avid student would have to do some digging on the periphery of Che’s Wikipedia pages to learn of his deep Irish roots.

    For example on “Irish Diaspora”, Wikipedia lists Che as a notable descendant of the Irish Diaspora from Great Potato Famine. In fact, many notables in Mexico, even a President, were Irish; Obregon was really O’Brian.

    From the Editor who never took a Chicano Studies class in college because my grandfather did all the Zarape and guarache wearing for me, Happy St. Patrick’s day!

    The Editor,

  8. Wow. Mexicans have European lineage. Thanks, watch our city. Because we thought Spain was somewhere between Guatemala and Ecuador.

  9. Anthony Quinn was part Irish and part Mexican, too. And, he had a kid when he was 80. Now, that’s some sperm. Bet you “the editor” tries to credit that to Quinn’s Irish warrior blood, as well, even though most Irish people I know are incapable of having kids after age 23.
    (I’m part Irish, so spare me the reverse, reverse, triple reverse racist guilt trip…)

  10. Good point Rob, and now that I think of it Anthony Quinn never played an Irishman, or any other northern European part that I can remember. Quinn,(from Hammel St Elementary, Poly High School, Belmont High), played Italians (The Pope, La Strada), Mexicans (Viva Zapata, Guadalcanal Diary, Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Oxbow Incident), Zorba the Greek, An Arab(Lawrence of Arabia,)A dark Frenchman (Lust for Life),
    A Chicano from the Eastside is what I would call Quinn.

  11. from The Editor: “The reason your Chicano Studies professors in Berkeley, CSU-LA, UCLA, or UC-Riverside never mention Che’s Irish family lineage is because it defeats the purpose of the agenda.”

    WOW did you take Chicano Studies at that many schools!!! Chingao you are Chicano for getting kicked out of all them.
    ooops sorry transfered out.

    OR are you some CIA planta that listens in on every Chicano studies course? hmmmm Watching our city huh? I got my eye on you now.

  12. First of all what would it matter to Chicano Studies professors if Che was or wasn’t of some sort of Irish descent? He was NOT Chicano (or Mexican) much to the chagrin of those who are not in the loop.

    And this: “it was his Irish character that propelled Che into the life of adventure he so heroicly lead” is so essentialist it is dazzling. Therefore, because I am a Chicano I must drive a low-rider and or maybe paint some murals, or maybe even have 5 kids already.

  13. Oops. hit a soft spot, I see.

    How to extricate myself out of this gracefully?

    The defense rests its case, your honor.

    The editor,

  14. You didn’t hit a soft spot, Editor. You educated us. You taught us that Che had European blood. A Latino with European blood? You don’t say? Perplexing. Just perplexing. We thank you. We’d be lost without you.

  15. Hey DQ this is for you. About 10 years I was talking to a long time Lincoln Heights resident at Lincoln Park and he said he was from the old Clover neighborhood. He showed me a magazine or a program type book that had all kinds of photos and it was about the “Clover Club”. Do you know anything about this club?

  16. Rob Thomas, et al,
    sophomoric sarcasm won’t carry you too far in life, or in making points in discussions.

    You missed the point about Che’s Irish background, and then go off on some tangent. Much like a Chicano Studies program does.

    And don’t start this east coast colleges vs. west coast colleges thing with me. you won’t win that discussion, because there is no discussion there to begin with.

    In any case these comments are actually quite amusing and spirited. You guys are way too easy. One button pressed and you go off. This is good. Just how to harness this passion beyond blogs?

    Anyway, it was an idiosyncratic historic footnote on Che, on St. Patrick’s day, on a blog with an Eest L.A. POV.

    Adding empty sarcasm to a debate is like having a meal full of calories but with zero nutriotional value.

    The Editor,

  17. Editor, I just found out that Antonio Villraigosa has Spanish blood. I knew he wasn’t a real Chicano! Thank you for turning us on to this disturbing reality that many Chicano heroes have European blood. You’re a trail blazer. We’re so glad we have you, you know, watching cities, or whatever…

  18. Javi, yea there is an annual Clover Club Dance and although I haven’t attended in a few years due to other demands it is a great get together that brings together many people from the old neighborhood. And it isn’t just for the old families and homies from ESC, it’s great to see old veteranos from Dogtown, Avenues, Happy Valley, and even Hazard (although not many), get together and shoot the shit about old times and new times. Guys that used to try and kill each other on sight now laughing with their arms around each other and many related by marriage and circumstance.

  19. Editor, I’m not a Chicano studies student. But what is your problem with Chicano studies, aside from the fact that there isn’t enough emphasis on Che Guevara’s Irish lineage? LOL.

    Speaking of St. Patty’s day, we should have had a drinking game Tuesday based on how many times Editor said, “Chicano studies”. We still could. DQ, you got an old bottle of Cuervo around? Or perhaps Che’s old drink, Bailey’s?

  20. Thanks for the link Drinking Tony. I went to the site and saw a familiar photo, my own! He should at least link back to my Flickr account, oh well. There’s way too much netbanging in the comments.

  21. Wait, like half of that post is lifted from one I did on the old Eastside Police Station. Ah, the internet! It’s cool though, I don’t mind if it;s just regular folks. Professional journalists on the other hand…

  22. chimatli, Lonewolf is a b-a-d boy!
    Thank you for elucidating the fact.

  23. I went to this exhibit some years back called “Distant Relations/Cercancias Distances/Clann IgCein: A Dialogue Among Chicano, Irish and Mexican Artists.” It was held at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.

    I went mainly to support John Valadez, maybe the best painter I know. I also got to see Ruben Ortiz-Torres who does some very interesting things by mixing up cultural and iconic imagery. For example:

    What most fascinated me were some photos. They reminded me of the graffiti marked walls from near Ramona Gardens or Baldwin Park or even Fresno, places I knew well, but they were from West Dublin or Belfast!

    As I was really breaking a foto down, I was approached by a woman and we started talking about the exhibit. I told her I was from the east side and I knew John Valadez, she also appreciated his painting. She was from Dublin but lived in Venice. Real gentle soul and funny as hell. We stepped outside because we were laughing so loud. Neither one of us drank the wine offered but we just got along.

    She couldn’t believe that I had a recurring dream that I was going to marry a Vietnamese chola and live in Belfast. She was dying, even her freckles were laughing. Because of her blunt manner, we started to compare Irish and Chicano/Mexicano experiences. We rattled off catholicism, machismo, alcoholism, too many kids, crazy loyalty, strong familial ties, excessive pride, bad ass artists (obviously), perseverence, deadly bad tempers, colonialism, Toltec/Aztec and Celtic/Druidic mythologies (stupid ideas that our ancestry needed help from outer space aliens) and on and on. I told her all I knew about Ireland was an old poem by Yeats, the punk band Stiff Little Fingers and boxer Barry McGuigan. That cracked her up. Said she wasn’t a fan of poetry. Too much posing. I told her a writer once said, “I see how God crossed his legs, lit a cigarrette and said, ‘I see where I have made many poets but very little poety.'” Her laugh was loud and obnoxious, perfect for a room filled with artistes.

    She wasn’t much for punk rock either, but she said her uncle had turned her on to boxing. The same had happened to me with my uncle Ernie. I told her we would watch Roberto Duran fight on Channel 2 on Sunday and marvel at not just his toughness but also his skill. She mentioned Jerry Quarry and Sean O’Grady and then I mentioned Salvador Sanchez and Julio Cesar Chavez and her eyes just lit up. Her uncle, a tough old-school alcoholic (now is that catholic or what?), always referred to Duran and those two fighters. Her uncles revered these 2 men because they never backed away and were always underrated. Her uncle, like mine, both admired the fact that Julio Cesar Chavez boasted about never studying fight tapes of his opponents. He simply trained and got in the ring and figured out the guy. (She said that was so familiar to her, that “we” just went for it sometimes. I had to agree.) My uncle Ernie always loved hearing that, as did hers. We argued about Chavez once having had an 82 fight unbeaten streak!!! and was NEVER knocked down until he finally tasted the canvas and defeat and became a notorious cry baby and bad sport.

    We talked for more than an hour. Yes, I have a good memory. Then she asked me an odd question. “Where does that crazy slang come?” From boxing to slang? Two of my favorite topics. We went back and forth, trying to break down “frajo” and “not even” and “al rato.” I forgot some of the Irish examples she used. Then we went back in and mocked the artists at the same time admiring the pieces.

    Her boyfriend showed up and the fun was over. She introduced me and when he walked away, she said, “Oh yea, uncontrollable jealousy, add that to the list.” Toldya she was funny. It was a good time. I still haven’t been to Dublin and I still haven’t found my Vietnamese chola. Maybe I’ll take a drive to San Gabriel or East Westminster, since Belfast and Hanoi are a bit far. haha Happy St. Patricks Day, every day!

  24. dq,
    Thanks for the info about the Clover Club. The guy was proud to show me the program and he always had it in his car. In the program was some really nice photos of the old neighborhood. I haven’t seen him since then.

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