So once again, it's St. Patrick's Day and as all of my friends know, I admire the Irish as a people. Despite facing discrimination on several fronts, they retained their belief and the Catholic religion.
I've read accounts of during the Famine, Irish Catholics were told in order to receive public assistance, they'd have to renounce Catholicisim. My friends in Ireland showed me what they called mass trees or mass rocks. These were places where the outlawed Catholic religion was practiced in secrecy from the occupying English. I might have mentioned this before but growing up where I did, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam .... well, pretty much anything besides Southern Baptist wasn't really welcome. So I can truly appreciate the fact that despite overwhelming odds and obstacles, these people were practicing their religion despite laws that forbade it.
I admire the Irish also for the position that several of them took during the Mexican-American War. Anti-Catholic sentiment was high; discrimination against the Irish was huge; and many Irish remembered the travesty that indentured servants went through; many Irish weren't keen on fighting to secure southern territories so that slavery could be expanded even further. So many Irish decided to fight with Mexico, which incidentally outlawed slavery (part of my gripe when people glorify the Alamo as a fight for "freedom"). They formed the San Patricio Battalion and if captured, were summarily executed for desertion by the US military.
I admire the Irish for making the best of a shitty situation in how America operates. Rather than let themselves be continually beat down, they opened their own parishes, their own schools, and worked the system for all it was worth. They helped open Irish grade schools and universities to both preserve their heritage and to promote themselves.
I admit a bit of jealousy because I really think Latinos could take a cue from these hard fought lessons. I think opening these schools and universities or making the best possible use of those already in place would serve us well.
In the end today, it is the one day when we all want to be Irish for the day. So I say "slainte" (cheers in Gaelic) to Ireland and the Irish. I look forward to visiting the Emerald Isle in the very near future!
P.S. The picture above is the John Locke Distillery in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, where my friend Edel is from and where, God willing, I'll be for her wedding in May.