Remember the boy heroes — Mexicans do.
Who were the boy heroes?
Los Niños Héroes (the “Boy Heroes”) were six teenage military cadets who died defending Mexico at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle (then serving as the Mexican army’s military academy) from invading U.S. forces in the September, 1847 Battle of Chapultepec.
Their commanders, General Nicolás Bravo and General José Mariano Monterde, had ordered them to fall back from Chapultepec, a large building on a steep hill near Mexico City, but the cadets did not; instead, they resisted the invaders until they were killed, with accounts maintaining that the last survivor leapt from Chapultepec Castle, down a steep cliff, wrapped in the Mexican flag to prevent it from being taken by the enemy.
The cadets are honored by an imposing monument at the entrance to Chapultepec Park; and the name Niños Héroes, along with the cadets’ individual names, are commonly given to streets, squares and schools across the country. For many years they appeared on the MXP $5000 banknote, and they currently appear on the MXN $50 coin. Mexico City Metro station Metro Niños Héroes is also named after them.
Why do I bring this up?
The US Joint Forces Command issued a report in late 2008 which included a comment on the growing drug violence im Mexico.
In particular, the growing assault by the drug cartels and their thugs on the Mexican government over the past several years reminds one that an unstable Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States.
Incidentally, the report was signed by General James Mattis, USMC, who became infamous for saying:
You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling.
This is one sick puppy. But I digress.
SecDef Gates was asked about this report and downplayed it:
I think that a lot of the violence is among or between the cartels, as they strive for control of certain areas in Mexico.
I think that the chances of the Mexican government losing control of some part of their country or becoming a failed state is – are very low.
I don’t know why, but when a Pentagon person says one thing I always think he or she meant the opposite.
Secretary Clinton recently spoke of military aid:
I am pleased to announce that the Obama Administration, working closely with Congress, intends to provide more than $80 million in urgently needed funding for Blackhawk helicopters for Mexican law enforcement. . .I have discussed with the Secretary and with the President what the United States can do to reduce the demand for drugs in our own country, and to stop the flow of illegal guns across our border to Mexico. And I reported to them on the major steps that our government announced yesterday.
President Obama, paying a quick visit to Mexico, said:
“It is absolutely critical that the United States joins as a full partner” . . . The two nations must “stand side by side in order to promote common security and common prosperity.”
Mexico is now employing military forces against the drug cartels. Does Obama’s remark mean that US military forces will be employed in Mexico?
I would recommend that anyone considering the employment of US military force in Mexico, because of any problem of “immense proportions to the United States”, or to “stand side by side” with the Mexican army, remember the boy heroes, and their place in the hearts of Mexicans, who are not fond of the US military.
What Mexicans are most fond of in reference to the US military, by the way, besides Los Niños Héroes, is the memory of Pancho Villa and his successful year-long evasion of General Pershing and US troops in 1916.
Unabashed by his failure to capture Villa, General Pershing claimed the expedition was successful as a learning experience. However, in the minds of Mexicans, Pancho Villa was the clear winner. He had emerged triumphant from battle with the United States led by the great General Pershing. No doubt, in the eyes of the Mexican people, Pershing’s withdrawal from Mexico added to Villa’s myth of invincibility.
P.S. I have been in Mulegé, Mexico (Baja California Sur) to see the annual parade celebrating the great (?) victory over US naval forces in 1847. With military units and bands, it was most festive. You can read about the “battle” here.
Recuerda Los Niños Héroes = ray-KWER-do los NEE-nyos HAY-rdo-ays
Mulegé = mul-ay-HAY
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here and here.