Celts in San Miguel and the St. Joe’s parade
By Joseph Toone
March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day. Mexicans use the day to honor the San Patricios. These Irish immigrants to the US were drafted into the army and sent to fight in the Mexican-American War (1846–48). Dismayed at fighting fellow Catholics and suffering from mistreatment by their Protestant commanders, hundreds of the Irish soldiers deserted to the “enemy” and formed the San Patricio Brigade of the Mexican Army. Dozens were killed in battle, and many more were captured and executed as deserters by the Americans. The Mexicans remember them fondly as “The Irish Martyrs” and as heroes.
There is a late afternoon parade that ends at the Parroquia. Throughout the day people visit the St. Patrick statue in the Parroquia to place milagros (miracles) on his clothing to invite his intercession for specific causes.
March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day. San José, the husband of the Virgin Mary, is one of the patron saints of San Miguel. The day is marked by a late afternoon parade featuring many depictions of St. Joseph, fireworks and a special mass at the Oratorio church.
St. Joseph is rarely mentioned in the Bible but is considered the most powerful of the saints and the only saint to have two feast days: March 19 is for St. Joseph, as patron of fatherhood, and May 1 as the patron of workers. Until recently it was common for most Mexican men to have the first name of José (and women, Maria).
St. Joseph’s traditional colors are yellow and green. He is often depicted in art holding the baby Jesus and a lily. The lily with St. Joseph reminds us that his spouse was the spotless Virgin Mary.