Saturday, January 9, 2010

Those Rebellious Irish. Is This the Real Zorro?

You may be surprised to learn that the Irish have had an important role in the history of Mexico and Latin America.

When I lived in Chile, I learned that their "George Washington," the founding father of their country, was Bernardo O'Higgins. Somehow, you don't think of "O'Higgins" as being someone you'd find in South America.

Similarly, in Mexico, there was the Irish rebel leader William Lamport, after getting in trouble with the English overlords in his native Ireland, escaped to Spain and changed his name to Guillén Lombardo de Guzmán. He was a pirate for while in the early 1600's (a fun diversion). And then, in the 1630's, became a loyal and favored partisan of the Spanish court. He then sailed to New Spain (Mexico) in the 1640's, where he spied for the Spanish Court. Later, he changed sides and became a leader of the early independence movement, supporting the indigenous peoples, slaves,and creoles. His dream was to declare himself King of Mexico.

As you can imagine, that didn't set well with the Spanish authorities. He got himself arrested and hauled before the Inquisition. You can read his story here: As one of the earliest advocates for a Mexico independent of Spain (180 years before that came to pass), today, his marble statue has a place of honor at the Independence Column in Mexico City. And many think he is the role model for the fictional ZORRO stories, given his larger-than-life exploits.