Today is the 164th anniversary of “Los Niños Heroes” a day that is remembered in Mexican History as the day 6 brave young boys fought and died for their country against the American military. This event began in the year 1846 when the president of Mexico Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, rejected the American annexation of Texas. War was declared by President James Polk with the purpose of expansion, Manifest Destiny.
During the period of the war (From March 8, 1846 to May 30, 1848), the political system in Mexico was unstable: only seven of the 19 states at that time participated in the Mexican federation in defense of national sovereignty.
This invasion of the United States had several campaigns, one was of Veracruz, Mexico. The Battle of Chapultepec belongs to the latter part of this campaign.
On September 13, 1847, U.S. forces decided to take the Castle of Chapultepec, which at that time was a military school for boys around the ages of 13-19. The original story states that 6 cadets gave their lives to save their homeland, their names were: Juan de la Barrera- 19, Juan Escutia – 20, Agustín Melgar- 17, Fernando Montes de Oca- 18, Vicente Suarez- 14 and Francisco Marquez- 13. It is said that an unknown American officer watching the faces of the dead cadets, full of surprise said something like, “But they are just children!”. This is why the name “Niños Heroes” came about.
The battle at Chapultepec began with an intense artillery bombardment, causing serious damage to the building, the infantry defended it but they could do little with the range of their guns. The defense of Chapultepec was at the command of General Nicolás Bravo, who provided the 200 cadets from the Military School and 632 soldiers from San Blas, the command of Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Santiago Xicoténcatl addition, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was at the foot of the hill with 450 men. The American Military attacked from the west and south of the Military School, where they were detained for several hours by the cadets, but later the divisions managed to scale the castle. Inside the building the fighting was hand to hand. Finally, the heroic resistance of the cadets had to succumb to the superior numbers and equipment of the American military. Originally the story was that once defeat was inevitable Juan Escutia took the Mexican flag from one of the towers of the castle, wrapped it around his body and jumped of the castle to a certain death, to prevent the flag from falling into the hands of the American Military, who then took over the building and made prisoners of General Nicolas Bravo, Mariano Monterde-director of the School, and several students.
The truth of this story did not truly come to light until recently but it turns out that Juan Escutia was not a student at Chapultepec but a Soldier from the Battalion of San Blas. He also did not throw himself of the Castle wrapped in the Mexican flag but was shoot while trying to flee from the American troops. But the truth of “Los Niños Heroes” is that they were young men that all died while trying to defend their school from the United States Military.
After being occupied, on February 2, 1848, in The Basilica of Guadalupe The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, this agreement ended the war. With the signing this treaty Mexico lost much of its territory, 2 million square kilometers, which included the present states of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. The treaty recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of Texas. Meanwhile, the U.S. government agreed to pay the claims of its citizens against Mexico, not to demand compensation for the costs of war and pay 15 million pesos for the ceased territories (which today would be about 145,000 dollars). The picture below is a map of Mexico before the Mexican American war, Mexico was reduced to half of it’s size after the war.
September 13th is a day to commemorate all the heroes who gave their lives to fight for their country during the war against the United States. In Mexico City there is a parade with the Mexican Army and The Castle of Chapultepec has a gun ceremony to remember the “Boy Heroes”. In other parts of the country this day is commemorated with civic ceremonies. I think that even though the true story of “Los Niños Heroes” was exaggerated it is still a very important part of Mexican History.