I’ve mentioned before that my Spanish teacher, Sally Wall and her husband took three teenagers, including myself to Mexico in the Summer of 1967.
I instantly fell in love with Mexico, with Oaxaca, with Mexican food, and Mexican History.
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec Castle.
America was at war with Mexico, General Winfield Scott and his army had marched and fought their way from Texas to El Distrito Federal, or Mexico City.
The battle was an American victory, but it wasn’t without its Mexican heroes.
There were six young men who died that day defending the Castle.
The castle sits atop Chapultepec Hill, which means “at the grasshopper’s hill”, the word is Nahuatl, one of the native Mexican languages used by the Aztecs. The hill itself was a sacred place in the Aztec society. They used it for human sacrifices!!
It is now a museum, and is the only Royal Residence on the North American continent. Emperor Maximillian and Empress Carlotta resided there prior to his removal and her escape to Europe. That’s another sad story for another day.
There were probably 100-200 cadets defending the hill, they were greatly outnumbered by General Scott’s troops, and defended the Castle for about two hours before their leader, General Bravo ordered retreat. The six Niños Héroes refused to fall back and fought to the death.
While in Mexico, we were lucky enough to go to the Castle, it’s a beautiful place, rich with history.
The place is so beautiful, and a great picture back drop…Mrs. Wall even made sure it was in our High School year book!
But, back to Los Niños Héroes: Ranging in age from 13 to 19, they were cadets from the only military academy in the city at the time, and they all gave their lives defending the castle.
They were: Juan de la Barrera, Juan Escutia, Francisco Márquez, Agustín Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca, and Vicente Suárez. All of them fought valiantly, all of them gave the ultimate sacrifice. Juan Escutia, who was one of the 13 year olds, wrapped himself with the Mexican flag and jumped from the roof of the castle to keep the flag from falling into hands of the enemy.
The mural, painted by Gabriel Flores, is on the main ceiling of the Palace. In 1947, President Harry Truman visited Chapultepec Castle and placed a wreath on one of the monuments honoring the Niños Héroes. A first for an American President.
So, today in Mexico, there’s a party going on, celebrating the lives and deaths of boys who became heroes far too early. As we continue to remember our heroes this week, bear in mind that there are heroes everywhere, every day. And it’s a good thing to remember them.