On the 13th of September each year Mexico remembers six courageous young military cadets who fought to the death in the name of Mexican independence.
The Mexican-American War was well under way, and on the 13th of September 1847 this included the Battle of Chapultepec where the Mexicans fought to defend Chapultepec Castle (the only Royal castle in the American continent, but following Mexico’s independence from Spain, a military school) from the invading U.S. forces. Despite General Bravo of the Mexican Army ordering retreat, six young soldiers – Los Niños Héroes – refused to fall back and died fighting. They were Juan de la Barrera, Juan Escutia, Francisco Márquez, Agustín Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca and Vicente Suárez, the youngest of whom was just thirteen years of age and the eldest nineteen.
The bravery and patriotic heroism of these young boys is celebrated on the annual anniversary of their tragic deaths. They are also honoured by the naming of numerous streets, squares and schools throughout Mexico, the Niños Héroes metro station in Mexico City, and the Altar a la Patria monument in Chapultepec Park. They were featured on the five thousand peso banknote for many years.
At the time of the U.S. invasion Mexico was on the brink of civil war, left weak ever since achieving independence from Spain in 1821. The Mexicans forces were also armed with far inferior weapons. Texas and much of their northern territory was lost, which although sparsely populated signified a humiliating defeat. For this reason, the absolute dedication, honour and heroic sacrifice of Los Niños Héroes to their beloved country is particularly poignant for Mexico and its history.