Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day... is Coming Soon

On the surface, it would appear that New Mexico has very little in common with Ireland. For one, the Emerald Isle is just that, an island. It's green and lush and surrounded by the ocean. It rains a LOT. While soda bread and cabbage and Colcannon are yummy, they are the antithesis of spicy ... as unlike traditional New Mexican fare as could possibly be. The question which brings New Mexicans to the table is Red or Green (chile), while the question in Ireland is Green or Orange (Catholic or Protestant), and has had a very divisive effect on the populace for centuries.

Common knowledge has it that the Irish came to America because of a potato famine. And that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. Ireland was an early colony of Great Britain. And while the country was rich in seafood, produce and livestock, the British rulers confiscated it all to be exported to England, leaving the Irish with a few fish, potatoes and kelp. And so when the potato famine hit, Ireland's native population was decimated. Many made their way to England to work, and many braved the ocean crossing to come to America.

Irish immigrants in America soon became the backbone of society, filling the ranks of the fire department and constabulary in many U.S. cities, bringing with them a rich culture of stories and music, an easy laugh, and a willingness to do the hard jobs.

But in a very unusual way Ireland was always blessed. It is one of only four countries on earth which has no snakes. For that, the Irish everywhere honor St. Patrick, who, according to legend, drove the snakes into the sea sometime during the fifth century, banishing them from Ireland forever.

Here again on the surface, it would appear we New Mexicans have nothing in common with Ireland, for we certainly have our share of snakes. But we do have a little guy we revere, who does his best to keep the snake population down. And that’s our state bird, the roadrunner, whose diet consists largely of lizards and snakes. So on March 17th this year, as New Mexicans sit down to their green chile (which I understand is great with corned beef!) or celebrate the day in their favorite tavern, let’s all remember to raise a glass to our little roadrunner, the closest thing we have to St. Patrick.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at one of Taos’ favorite watering holes

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