One Man's Hero: The Film
Heritage of America was able to present to over 1,500 students from local high schools and colleges and members of the community One Man’s Hero free of charge through sponsorships. It was our hope that this film was not only educational and informative, but also highly entertaining. In addition, Heritage asked a number of history professors to work with Heritage in providing curriculum guides on the history and implications of the Mexican War. These materials were made available to teachers and students to be used as adjunct teaching materials in the classroom.
Directed and produced by Lance Hool and Conrad Hool, One Man’s Hero presents a view of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 from a perspective not found in American textbooks. The film spotlights the heroic role played by the San Patricios (Saint Patrick’s Battalion), Irish immigrants who joined the US Army with the promise of citizenship and the opportunity to earn enough money to send for their families, who would also automatically be granted US citizenship. Disillusioned by anti-Irish bigotry, especially against their Catholicism, by the US Army, the Irish recruits cast their lot with Mexico.
Introduction Video Clip from One Man's Hero
One Man’s Hero calls attention to a little-known historical incident with resonance in the present. President James Polk’s policy of Manifest Destiny revolved around continuous expansion of US territory to include the Southwest and establish a coast-to-coast nation. The largely Protestant American army was poised to provoke a border war with Mexico in 1846. To swell the ranks of the US Army, the government solicited the Irish, decimated by the potato famine, to help fight the up-coming war, with the promise of US citizenship. The potato famine had triggered so much immigration to the US that many Americans began to view the Irish newcomers as an economic threat that resulted in anti-Irish prejudice—which escalated in the Army.
To set the tone, after experiencing mounting racism against the Irish recruits, Tom Berenger, as Sgt. John Riley, was not told that he had been promoted. After several privates were subjected to a severe flogging for attending Mass at a Mexican village church, Sgt. Riley feels compelled to lead his Irish men to desert to escape persecution. They end up in Mexican bandit Cortina’s (played by Joaquim de Almeida) mountain stronghold. The swashbuckling bandit agrees to spare them if they will fight with him. The multi-talented Daniela Romo stirs up a hornet’s nest when she switches her affection from Cortina to Riley.
When the Mexican War breaks out, the Irishmen’s deserter status becomes that of traitors. Riley and his men are persuaded to join the Mexican army to fight the Yankee invaders. In time, the Irish identify with the struggle for freedom and autonomy of their new (and also Catholic) countrymen.
Even though Los San Patricios have virtually been forgotten in the US, they are honored annually in Mexico and known in Ireland. In 1997 Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo honored the San Patricio Battalion in a public ceremony commemorating their sacrifice for Mexican liberty. In Mexico “One Man’s Hero” is playing to full houses. Perhaps this is because every Mexican kids knows about the “unjust U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846,” while most U.S. citizens “don’t have a clue how we acquired California, Texas, and most of the Southwest.” (Mark R. Day, “One History Lesson That We Need”)
Mike Kerrigan, of “Box Office Magazine,” writes about the film: “It tackles the subject (of the complex moral dilemma of the Irish soldiers) with diligence but still manages to be wonderfully entertaining.”
In addition, Kerrigan adds:
“Through the eyes of these Irish immigrants, we come to see the underbelly of North American history, and come to understand how we have arrived to such debates as anti-bilingual education in California, our collective guilt manifest in NAFTA, and anti-immigrant xenophobia.”
Video Clips from One Man's Hero
Irish soldiers defy orders and go to mass.
John Riley. as a deserter. learns more.
The Irish join with the Mexican soldiers.
Further Reading & Viewing
Y Andale Linda Ronstadt
Banda de Gaitas del Batallón de San Patricio
Mexican Army (The Patriot Soundtrack) War México vs USA: 1835 and 1848
Batallón de San Patricio 1846 - 1848. !VIVA MÉJICO! (o MÉXICO) - Spanish Translation
San Patrico Article from the New York Times with Video
San Patricos Documentary - Video
How Did John Riley Die? by Mark R. Day
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