THE IRISH IN SOUTH AMERICA
By MARION MULHALL.
I.—FROM THE SPANISH CONQUEST TO THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.
South America, although comparatively little known until recent times to the outside world, contains much to interest the missionary, the scientist, the historian, the traveler, and the financier. The twentieth century will probably see hundreds following in the footsteps of their predecessors. In the meantime, the brilliant achievements of numerous Irish men and women in that part of the world are falling into oblivion, and call for a friendly hand to collect the fragments of historical lore connected with their exploits.
This paper will cover three periods:—
(1). From the Spanish Conquest to the War of Independence: here the principal actors were maritime explorers, buccaneers, and mercantile adventurers;
(2). The War of Independence from 1810 to 1826: in this period Irishmen performed feats of valor worthy to rank with those in Greek or Roman history.
(3). Since the Independence; a period of commercial and industrial development, in which Irishmen have played a foremost part.
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It has been said that George Barlow, the companion of Sebastian Cabot, was an Irishman. Cabot was the first Britisher to sail up the Rio de la Plata, and gave it its name just thirty-five years after the discovery of America. Barlow was in the service of the king of Spain, and in that country met Cabot, who had been appointed Pilot Major to his Majesty in the year 1518. In 1577 we read of the famous Admiral Drake’s expedition to the River Plate, which he reached on April 14, 1578. Evidently it was a successful one in the opinion of Queen Elizabeth, for on Drake’s return to Plymouth, September 26, 1580, she came aboard his ship and knighted him. There seem to have been three Irishmen on this expedition, Fenton, Merrick, and Ward. Fenton, who was in command of two vessels, was attacked by a Spanish squadron between Brazil and the River Plate, and the battle continued by moonlight until one of the Spaniards was sunk. The Spanish historian adds that Fenton might have sunk another of the enemy’s ships, but refrained because there were several women on board.
Lozana in his History mentions a revolution in Paraguay in 1555, which was headed by an Irishman named Nicholas Colman. This revolution was quickly suppressed by the Spanish viceroy, Yrala, but Colman led a second revolution in 1570, when Captain Rigueline was governor of Guayra. The mutineers named Colman for their chief, put their treasures into canoes, and floated down the Parana until their boats were capsized by some rapids, probably the falls of Apipe in Misiones. The viceroy, on hearing of the revolt, sent troops to bring back the fugitives, and the latter were treated with unusual clemency. Lozana describes Colman as a daring, turbulent buccaneer. For fifteen years he seems to have played an important part in Guayra; his subsequent fate is unknown.