Monday, November 10, 2008

whose heroes?

My friend Gus, a great lover of history and a retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Marines, wrote the following on a recent trip to Mexico City. Every time he travels, which is often, he writes travelogues full of history and wonder.

Chapultepec Castle, site of the battle during the Mexican-American War in 1847. I am a little uncomfortable here. This is a sensitive site for Mexicans. On Sept 12-13, General Winfield Scott took the castle from General Santa Anna in a bloody battle that has been central to Mexican-American relations ever since.

Many non-combatant Mexicans were killed in the battle, as were six young teenage cadets from the military academy in the castle. Five of those cadets died in the battle, and the sixth wrapped himself in a Mexican flag and jumped to his death from the castle ramparts to avoid capture. The six are immortalized as the "Ninos (Children) Heroes" in a colossal memorial at the foot of the castle hill.

The battle played a significant role in US history also. "From the Halls of Montezuma", the opening lines of the Marine Corps Hymn, originate from this battle. The red stripe on Marine Corps dress blue uniform trousers commemorates this victory. [I don´t know if this is true, but I have heard that the US Marines at the embassy in Mexico City are not to wear their dress blue trousers for that reason.] Robert E. Lee, George Pickett and Ulysses S. Grant were all participants in the battle.

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