Happy St. Patrick’s Day, cabrones! Remember Damballah! And why not
babble about my Irish heritage?
It’s all the fault of a cabin boy who jumped ship back in San
Francisco back in the 19th century. He wound up in New Mexico.
Yes, the New
Mexico Irish are a thing, thanks to the Spanish Armada and the Catholic
Church. The most famous one is Billy the Kid,who spoke fluent Spanish, wore
sombreros, and was killed in his Mexican girlfriend’s house, “Quien es?” for
his last words. Members of my family rode in a posse after him and testified
against him in court.
My Irish ancestor was back in San Francisco for the 1906
earthquake. Then nobody ever heard from him again. No proof or report of his
He may have been one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, but again,
A monument lists a Hogan as being killed as a member of the Battalion
San Patricia. No way of knowing if he was any relation.
Grandpa Hogan, who looked Irish until he started speaking Spanish,
didn’t have a birth certificate. “The church burned down,” he said.
All these Hogan family mysteries! We have a long tradition not
reporting things to the authorities. Maybe there are good reasons for remaining
In honor of her children’s heritage, my mom learned to cook corned
beef and cabbage, and would make it every St, Patrick’s Day.
More chingaderas to make life complicated for me. People get
confused, and even disturbed when forced to confront a six-footer with brown
skin, an Aztec nose, and an Irish name. It seems to be my mission in life to
confuse the issues.
During my youth I grew to dread filling out forms. There was often
no right box for me to check. I wasn’t black or white. “Other” is just too damn
vague. When they started including “Hispanic” it was often amended with
“Spanish surname only.” Why do bureaucracies keep trying to categorize me out
No wonder my dad would hold up his clenched fists and say, “This
is how I proved I was a Mexican.”
I developed an attitude that scares a lot of people.
I feel that none of this makes me less of a Chicano. The word lets
folks know where and when I’m from instantly. And the dash of Irish only makes
me more of a mestizo. Forget my bandido flourishes, it’s the Irish hooliganism
that you have to watch out for.
I also find it difficult to sort out the Irish from the Mexican.
What is the difference between la Llorona and the Banshee? Who is that crying
in the Aztlán night? Ask St. Patrick. Or Damballah. Or the powerful spirit of
an Aztec woman who heroically died in childbirth.
And now, I’m gonna get me a cerveza . . .