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Today, Churubusco is just a quiet residential suburb of Mexico City, but in 1847 it was the stronghold of the San Patricios, a motley battalion of soldiers — even including some runaway American slaves — who deserted the United States Army to join with Mexico for a cause they knew was suicidal but nonetheless believed was profoundly just. Many newly arrived Europeans — including Irish, Spaniards, Germans, Italians, and Poles — fought for the U.S. during that war. Promised citizenship and a parcel of land for their service, they found themselves involved in a war fomented by the U.S. to take California from Mexico.
In The Battle of Churubusco, Andrea Ferraris uses a bold charcoal technique to tell the story of the San Patricios through the eyes of Gaetano Rizzo, a 22-year-old Sicilian immigrant to America who joins the U.S. Army in pursuit of the American dream. But once he sees the cruelty he is being ordered to inflict upon the people of Mexico — no different from what he had escaped from in his home country — he has a crisis of conscience. Is the American dream worth staining himself with all that blood?
The character of Gaetano Rizzo is based on the real-life Garretson Roberts (as his name was Anglicized at Ellis Island), a U.S. soldier born in Sicily and hanged in Churubusco June 13, 1847 for desertion.