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And speaking of Poles in Mexico

27 January 2018

Mexico and Poland: Centuries of Cultural Relations (Culture.PL, 13 April 2015)


The 19th century brought Polish soldiers to Mexico. After the unsuccessful November Uprising against Russia, many Polish political émigrés had to start their lives from scratch abroad in 1831.

For 123 years – from 1795 to 1918 – Poland was divided into three different territories that belonged to the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Hapsburg Monarchy of Austria.

Between 1846 and 1848, around fifty Polish soldiers located in the United States joined the U.S. army to fight against Mexico, which ended up losing that war and thus half of its territory.

An editorial in Dziennik Narodowy, a newspaper-in-exile, stated that this war was unfair and that the Polish people did not agree to be part of it:

It is the invasion of the strong against the weak.

Twenty years later, from 1863 to 1865, Polish soldiers returned to Mexico, serving during the Austrian-French intervention, a failed attempt by Napoleon III to conquer Mexico.

We can find out more about the circumstances of those years thanks to the memories of two veterans of the war: Konrad Niklewicz and Stanisław Wodzicki.

Although some of the Polish soldiers were forced to fight against the Mexicans, most of them were convinced that they were doing the right thing: they were anticipating Napoleon’s assistance in creating an independent Poland.

Only a few Poles realized that the situation that Mexico was enduring was in fact very similar to Poland’s. Some Polish soldiers were fighting against Mexico and others against Napoleon III; they were sent down to Mexico after the American Civil War to help defeat France.

Some of them identified with the Mexican republicans. Unhappy with the fact that only Germans were able to obtain higher ranks in the army,  they switched sides and fought against the European interventionists. Others did the opposite and others committed suicide. Napoleon III resigned and Maximilian I of Mexico was executed in 1867.

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