The Irish in Latin America public exhibition at NUI Galway.

Sep 08 2017 Posted: 15:15 IST

An international touring exhibition on The Irish in Latin America, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade, is now on display at NUI Galway’s Hardiman Research Building, and open to the public.

This display describes the extensive but often overlooked Irish heritage in Latin American countries, with shared histories of colonialism, subsequent independence and revolutionary struggles. Each panel features an Irish figure who helped to shape art and cultural heritage, intellectual tradition, scientific scholarship as well as politics and foreign policy throughout Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico and the Caribbean.

There are strong Galway connections in the exhibition, the most famous being Che Guevara, hero of the Cuban revolution, who descended from the “Tribes of Galway” through his paternal grandmother. John Riley from Clifden, Co. Galway less well known in Ireland is honoured annually in Mexico for organizing the San Patricio Battalion in the Mexican-American war of 1846-47.

Irish woman Eliza Lynch, born in Charleville County Cork, is a national heroine in Paraguay. Living in Paris at a young age she met Francisco Solano-López (1826-1870), the billionaire heir to the President of Paraguay. When he became President in 1862, Eliza Lynch assumed the position of unofficial Queen of Paraguay and is immortalized in Anne Enright’s novel, The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch (2002) and in numerous films and books. They had seven children and his entire estate was left to her in 1870 making her one of the wealthiest women in Latin America.  

At the inauguration of the Cork exhibition in January of this year, President Michael D. Higgins said:  “that Irish men and women had played a profound role in the development of the modern and independent republics of the region.” The President added  that the exhibition “did not shirk from showing us the complex truth that, alongside those Irish workers who were exploited as railroad workers in Cuba, were families of Irish origin who operated large sugar plantations worked by slaves.”  

The exhibition is curated by Dr Margaret Brehony, currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Geography, NUI Galway. She is president of the Society for Irish Latin American Studies and co-editor of the journal of Irish Migration Studies in Latin America and has taught in Latin American Studies and Irish Studies at NUI Galway. Margaret has published on Irish migration to Cuba in the nineteenth century.

The Spanish translation of the exhibition opened in Mexico City in October 2016 and has since travelled to Guadalajara; Bogotá, Colombia and Montevideo, Uruguay. It was launched in Havana, Cuba by President Higgins during the first Irish State visit to Cuba in February of this year. The exhibition will tour different public venues in Ireland during 2017, including the National Ploughing Championships.

The exhibition at NUI Galway will be launched on the 13 September by Professor Nuala Finnegan (UCC), a Galway native. She will be joined by experts at NUI Galway working on Ireland and Latin America, including Professor Bill Richardson speaking on the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges on Ireland.

The launch and seminar takes place at 3pm on Wednesday 13 September in the Hardiman Research Building, the Bridge Seminar Room, 1st Floor.

For further information contact: Professor Daniel Carey, Moore Institute, NUI Galway at +353 83 400 2097 or Dr Margaret Brehony, NUI Galway at +353 86 805 3587.


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