“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes a horseman known as Zorro.
This bold renegade carves a Z with his blade. A Z that stands for Zorro.
Zorro the fox so cunning and free. Zorro, who makes the sign of the Z…
Baby boomers and their parents remember these words which introduced the 1957-1959 TV series featuring Guy Williams as the dashing caped swordsman Zorro, who aided the oppressed and bedeviled greedy despots in early California.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Zorro, the Mexican Robin Hood was Irish!
Now here is a St. Patrick’s Day gift for our Irish friends. Research by Italian paleography professor Fabio Troncarelli has possibly unmasked the real 17th century Mexican hero in Vatican inquisition records. Troncarelli maintains Zorro was Guillen Lombardi, not a fable, nor a Mexican, nor a Spaniard. Zorro, the cunning fox, was an Irishmen, schooled by the Jesuits in Dublin.
Wexford County’s William Lamport
He was William Lamport, the son of a wealthy Catholic family in Wexford County, Ireland. “…the key information is buried in the records of the trials of suspected heretics and subversives conducted by the Inquisition,” Troncarelli said after 25 years of research in Rome, Dublin, Madrid and Mexico City archives. “They were meticulous. The name of Lamport kept coming up in the testimony of suspected rebels.”
Lamport accepted Spain’s offer of citizenship when he was forced to leave Ireland following his open opposition to England's oppressive rule of Ireland. He first took up with a band of pirates, attacking English merchants.
William Lamport becomes Guillen Lombardo
Still in his twenties, William Hispanicized his name to Guillen Lombardo and enlisted in one of the Spanish Army’s Irish regiments where he was commended for bravery and inducted into the Spanish Royal Service.
After his seduction of a Spanish noblewoman, William was sent to Mexico in scandal. There he took up the plight of the oppressed indigenous Mexicans, learning from them traditional healing skills and astrology. Between social and official engagements, he was a spy for the chief minister of King Phillip IV.
Spying in Mexico; Trouble with the Inquisition
His association with Mexicans put him again under the unwelcome scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition which led to charges of “conspiring against Spain to liberate the Indians and the black slaves and to set himself up as king of an independent Mexico.”
William escaped from jail in Mexico while the Inquisition continued to gather information against him--for ten years. He left his hiding spots at night to scrawl anti-Spanish graffiti on Mexico City walls. Many of his notices included the letter Z which was a starting point for unraveling of the true story of Zorro more than two hundred years later.
The First Book: Memories of an Imposter-- 1872
Mexican General Vicente Palacio Riva was a Freemason and avid student of the Inquisition. During retirement he wrote several historical romances in the style of the Three Musketeers, in his 1872 Memories of an Imposter, which outlined the life of William Lamport. The book’s hero was Guillen Lombardo who led a double life as a nobleman Diego de la Vega. Palacio Riva mentioned the “Z” in William’s graffiti, as he recognized it as a Masonic symbol of vital life.
Set in California: The Curse of Capristrano—1919
Johnston McCulley wrote the story of Guillen Lombardo in his 1919 The Curse of Capistrano, but McCulley, as Troncarelli says, “Plundered without compliments” information from Palacio Riva’s book and from the 1908 book by Mexican historian Don Luis González Obregón.
To create a tale that looked new, McCulley set his story in California and gave the swashbuckler a mask to shield his identity. His story inspired Douglas Fairbanks’ 1920 silent film, The Mark of Zorro.
Zorro’s Sad End
Eventually William was discovered in bed with the wife of the Viceroy of Mexico. He served seven years in prison before being released to the Inquisition to be burned at the stake. “He cheated the Inquisition one last time,” Professor Troncarelli reported. “Before the flames were lit, he managed to strangle himself with the rope used to bind him to the stake.”
And the legend continues:
And that my friends, is the story of one of St. Paddy’s lads from the old Sod. Books, movies and TV shows continue to be made featuring the life of this likeable scallywag. In recent years, you saw Anthony Banderas in The Mask of Zorro Have you read the story of Zorro as presented by one of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende?Her novel, Zorro, is actually a prequel to that 90-year-old story, The Curse of Capistrano. You’ll find it in the Lake Chapala Society’s Mexico Collection.
Want More About the Irish in Mexico?
The Irish Mexican Connection -- Yesterday we wrote about famous Irish Mexicans and the Irish who settled the fishing villages of San Patricio, Melaque, and Villa Obregon (O’Brien) on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
The San Patricio Battalion – Come back tomorrow for a look at Mexico’s Irish soldiers who joined he fray against the US invasion of Mexico.