One might ask why Mexicans so embrace St. Patrick’s Day and the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.
During the Mexico-U.S. War of 1846-1848, a group of primarily Irish immigrants defected from the U.S. Army and joined the Mexican Army. Known as the St. Patrick’s Brigade, or, Los San Patricios, these men are highly revered to this day in both Mexico and Ireland. There are many theories as to why the Irish changed sides: not being allowed to follow their Catholic beliefs; feeling that the U.S. invasion of Mexico was not justified; offers of land and better pay are a few.
Celebrations in Melaque/San Patricio leading up to March 17 are representative of the intense fondness and respect for the Irish and St. Patrick. Activities include dancers, singers and marchers in brilliant costume, rodeos, carnival games, parades, floats and processions. The Senior priest of the parish, Ortiz Ramirez, has personally invited all communities to participate in this 50th anniversary event. Beginning March 8, daily processions led by the priest start at Los Arcos and culminate at 7 p.m. at the Iglesia across from the Jardin.
Thousands come to the Jardin to watch, dodge the fireworks, to see and hear banda, ranchero and mariachis – in a literal “cacophony of sound and color,” says Jeff Norgran, a 10-year plus attendee. At around 10 p.m., residents and extranjeros anxiously await the release of the toritos, wire-framed bulls with fireworks blazing from their horns and frame. There may be as few as three or as many as 20 toritos depending on funds raised leading up to the events. Men, women and children run toward and away from the bulls. Spectators often sport cardboard shields as protection from the flying embers. The daily events are closed by the lighting of the castillo or castle, an intricate structure of wood, fuses and spinning parts illuminating colorful images and casting brilliant sparks into the night sky. This tower of fireworks can be three to five stories in height. When lit, each level presents a different picture – a wheel, a square, a clover or the patron saint himself, each more elaborate as the fiery show ascends. The top of the castillo is always the corona or crown which separates and rises up into the darkness. Everyone watches until the corona lands.
Masses will be held daily at the Parroquia San Patricio, Melaque, March 8 through March 17 at 6 a.m., noon, 7 and 8 p.m. The church is located on Miguel Hidalgo 158, across from the Jardin. At any mass, before communion, people are invited to place gifts on the altar to be blessed by the priest and donated to those less fortunate.