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 LOS NINO HEROES - The Mexican-American War 1847

Los Niños Héroes
Mexico has known many heroes through her long and eventful history. Perhaps none have captured the imagination and stirred the hearts to the degree that Los Niños Héroes (Heroic Children) have. In 1847, six brave young men fought valiantly for their country during the Mexican-American War. Tragically, they died defending her honor.

Ranging in age from just 13 to 19 years of age, these military cadets are remembered today with reverence and national pride. A great monument erected in their honor, Los Niños Héroes Monument, stands proudly at the entrance to Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. This historical memorial is visited by thousands of Mexican citizens and foreign travelers each year.

Los Ninos Heroes, Chapultepec
Los Ninos Heroes
The Mexican-American War was in its final chapters when the Battle of Chapultepec took place. The date was September 13, 1847 and American forces were quickly advancing on Chapultepec Castle. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who was in charge of forces in Mexico City, recognized the strategic advantage that Chapultepec Hill held. Geographically, its value was enormous as it position protected Mexico City on its west side from invaders.

Unfortunately, there were not enough resources available for its defense. Rising some 200 feet above the surrounding landscape, the site was naturally fortified. However, American forces greatly outnumbered their Mexican counterparts, both in manpower and gunpowder. Many prominent Americans, including Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams considered the war unjust and questioned the rationale for the invasion.

In the years preceding the war, Chapultepec Castle had been utilized as Mexico's military training academy. As a result, when the war broke out, there were dozens of teenage cadets in attendance. General Nicolas Bravo commanded the forces stationed at Chapultepec Hill and when it became apparent that the American forces were triumphing, he ordered his men, including the cadets, to retreat to safety.

Six young men, however, refused to relinquish their posts and bravely met the superior forces of the Americans. Their names were Juan de la Barrera, Juan Escutia, Francisco Marquez, Agustin Melgar, Fernando Montes de Oca and Vicente Suarez. They died that September day, defending their country. Their sacrifice has been forever etched into Mexico's history.

Monumento a los Ninos Heroes, Monument Mexico City
Monument to Los Ninos Heroes in Chapultepec Park - postcard from 1940's
The names of the six military cadets live on in Mexico today. Streets have been named after them, as have schools and public squares. Their faces have appeared on Mexican currency and even Mexico City's public transportation (Metro Ninos Heroes) has been named in their honor.

One of the cadets, Juan Escutia, is believed to have wrapped himself in the Mexican flag before jumping to his death. A great mural of this scene can be seen today at Chapultepec Castle. One thing is certain, all these young men died defending their country's honor. The great monument of Los Ninos Heroes is a tribute to their memory and sacrifice.

President Harry S. Truman visited the Los Ninos Heroes monument in 1947, just months prior to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec. A moment of reverential silence was observed by the President as a sign of respect for the young cadets. When Truman was asked by reporters why he stopped to see the monument, his reply was "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it".

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