Some of you might remember My Second Meaningful St. Patrick’s Day, which I posted a few weeks back. It didn’t get the attention I had hoped it would, but I was sufficiently happy with it to submit it as a freelance article to the school paper. I had to do some
censuring editing, chiefly because I don’t think they would publish something with the phrase “dirty Prod Anglos.” After changing that to “Anglophone Protestants” and doing a little fine tuning I submitted my piece. On Monday someone I didn’t even recognize approached me and said “hey you’re in this month’s paper!” So I rushed to the nearest newspaper rack and picked up a copy. I found it very satisfactory to see my work printed in ink. Now can say that I am a published author, which has been a dream of mine for years. Many people have told me that they really enjoyed my article and learned a lot of interesting things from it, which was exactly the reason why I submitted it. Bernardo O’Higgins seems to be of particular interest to many readers, so I’m glad I mentioned him. Some people have said I ought to join the newspaper staff, so I have decided to apply.
For those who didn’t read it, here it is in its uncensored glory: https://djgarcia94.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/my-second-meaningful-st-patricks-day/
I have always enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day because I like corned beef and Shamrock Shakes, however it meant anything more than that. However two and a half years ago I learned that I am part Irish, from my father’s predominately Hispanic side. His maternal grandfather was half (along with half Navajo, but that’s beside the point), but my dad had no idea despite having grown up with him. My grandma randomly brought this up, and while it surprised me it makes perfect sense. My paternal family has lived in what is now New Mexico (NOT MEXICO, NOT MEXICO YOU GOT THAT?!?!) for around eight generations, having come from primarily Spain before that. New Mexico has a notable Irish community, many of them came from NYC looking for more greener (figuratively), more Catholic friendly, pastures. Most noted of the early Hiberno-Nuevomexicanos was Billy the Kid. His mother thought leaving New York would save him from death as a petty street gangster, yet ironically the move resulted in him dying as one of the most illustrious outlaws in American folklore. I know nothing of my Irish ancestors before or after they moved to the Southwest, but watching Gangs of New York gives me some idea to what it may like for them before they packed up. My great grandfather spoke no English, only Spanish. Of course Irish Gaelic was Ireland’s main language into the nineteenth century and those Irish who went to NM were trying to escape those dirty Prod Anglos, so they probably had little attachment to the English language.
Hispanic and Irish are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Hispanic is a linguistic term (not a racial one) that is far more inclusive than many think. Argentina has its Italians, Costa Rica has its Jamaicans, Peru has its Japanese, Panama has its Chinese, Chile has its Germans, Mexico has its Lebanese, and Irish are to be found all over. Chile’s first President was named Bernardo O’Higgins. Che Guevara, perhaps the most iconic Latin American of all, had an Irish father and the birth name Ernest Lynch. He viewed himself as being part of a tradition of Irish rebels who fight against empire, and now the ironic icon is immortalized in murals from Bogota to Belfast. Billy the Kid is no one to be proud of, O’Higgins is in the shadow of Bolivar and San Martin, and Guevara outright polarizing. Still they show that the Irish have made lasting impressions in Hispanophone areas.
St. Patrick’s Day is all about cultural identity. I am only a sixteenth Irish and that has zero impact on my day to day life, but knowing that bit of trivia has greatly enriched my sense of cultural identity.
One of the most exciting developments in “Dark Age” art are the illuminated manuscripts produced by the monasteries. After the fall of Rome there was a huge risk of Classical books being destroyed (which sadly happened with many works). To prevent this knowledge from being lost, monks decided to make transcriptions and occasionally translations of books so they would be accessible even if the original was lost. Rather than merely create carbon copies of the copied works, monks decided to elevate the practice of producing the book itself into an art. Such projects were known as illuminated manuscripts, and were characterized by calligraphic text accompanied by lavish illustrations. These required extensive use of a wide variety of pigments, which made the production very expensive. It was also very time consuming, generally spanning several years and requiring several dedicated contributors. All of these factors meant that each illuminated manuscript was unique, they might be copies of the same book (generally the Bible or a Classical work) but for all intents and purposed they were different. While there are many illuminated manuscripts, the most famous is a vellum copy of the Four Gospels known as the Book of Kells.
The origin of the Book is matter of debate, it may have been produced in Scotland or Ireland or started in the former and produced in the latter. The most first element of the Book one would notice are the elaborately interlaced abstract designs that are familiar in Celtic art. Closer examination reveals that some of these designs are not abstract at all but in fact depict people and animals or are letters. These show a strong Germanic influence from the contemporary Norse, as well as Goths and Vandals who were very important in the Roman Empire’s last days. Two of the most important contributors have been identified as a Celt (either a Scot or Irishmen) and another who may have been Arab, Italian, or even Armenian (Lincecum). That makes it very clear that the book is a synthesis of cultures which showed the Dark Ages were actually quite productive. It has been proposed that the monks served as models for Apostles and other individuals appearing in the pages, as was a common practice for scriptoriums for the time (Lincecum).
Pages like these show that the Book of Kells is timeless and can be appreciated without reading the many analysis that have been written about it. While it is the most notable illuminated manuscript, it is by no means the only masterpiece in the field. The field flourished well into the Middle Ages but declined after the printing press debuted. However the tradition is continuing today with St. John’s Bible, an ongoing project which I have been lucky enough to see in Santa Fe while it was touring there. Like the Book of Kells, St. John’s Bible mixes different cultures into one, this time providing a Postmodern take on illuminated manuscripts. Such a project makes it clear that while illuminating the Bible has outlived its usefulness, it is a lasting contribution to culture that is still worth doing. You can visit the St. John’s Bible here: http://www.saintjohnsbible.org/
Book of Kells. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells
Lincencum, J. B. (2000, August 27). Lincecum’s Book of Kells Page. Austincollege.edu. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from artemis.austincollege.edu/acad/english/jlincecum