The Ultimate Saint Patrick's Day Experience ― A La Cubana

What do little leprechauns and green shamrocks have in common with a Latin girl in Miami?


Except I married me a fella of Irish descent and in our house St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.  

I’m talking official countdowns to P-day, photo shoots with the 3-year old Irish offspring in her cute little green numbers and the pressure of paying homage to the husband’s heritage.

It will be honored. It will be respected and you can bet there will be Irish Whisky or a pint of Guinness involved.

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Like many people, St. Paddy’s day used to be a day of fun shenanigans, dressing in green and attending a crowded street party when everyone was Irish for a day

Then I met my husband Brian, a green-eyed lad of Irish-Italian descent born and raised in Ft. Lauderdale, a fiercely loyal U2 fan with an obsession for Notre Dame Football.  

Irish holidays, customs and culture throughout the year started to take on more meaning.

My familia’s annual Christmastime Noche Buena [Cuban] tradition of roasted pork, black beans, rice and yuca started competing with my husband’s New Year’s Day tradition of corned beef and cabbage. An annual feast meant to bless the coming year. But the strangest thing is that it caught on with my hard to please Latin family. Not only do they show up, they look forward to it every year. They want a bit o’ the Luck of the Irish it seems.  

Then there’s our little blue-eyed Irish lass who looks every bit Irish and nothing like her disenfranchised Latin mama.  Last year we celebrated St. Paddy’s at a brunch play date complete with a big Irish spread including green waffles & pancakes. This year we made leprechaun hats at a Paddy’s craft party.

Incidentally, my brother married a girl of Irish descent, too. They also have Cuban-Irish offspring. Who knew Hispanic-rich South Florida had so many Irish-Americans?   

Yes, it’s true. I even married Brian two days after St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not sure if it was by design but it’s too weird to be a coincidence.  

Then the biggest sign of Irish pride: The year we impulsively decided to visit the motherland.

It was a balmy Sunday afternoon in Miami and Brian and I were sitting at a pub eating fish and chips and drinking Guinness. We're having casual conversation when he suddenly looks at me and says, “Hey, let's go to Ireland. I mean right now.”

No way was he serious because he’s a logical, rational and methodical man. Unlike his crazy Cubana wife, like he likes to say.  Yet an hour later I was at a bookstore buying Ireland travel books and just a few days later we were on our way to the Emerald Isle.

It was a place he had only dreamt about. I was just excited to be going on a foreign adventure.

But Ireland turned out to be more than I bargained for. There were castles and ruins and majestic seaside cliffs.  Raw, natural beauty like I had never seen. It was out of a storybook. What green glory! All around us lush green meadows and mountains. It is said that the Irish can distinguish 40 shades of green.

Here I was, a Cuban girl playing Irish. I even adopted a thick Irish brogue the first day. I thought I was a wee bit hilarious.

“Yer me only man O’Brian, me Irish fella. C'mere till a tell ya. Tell me this n tell me na more. Ya da jist scribbled a savage yoke. D'ya know what a mean like,” I belted out.

Okay, so I wasn’t that good and Brian was about to drown me in the River Shannon.

Of course Ireland wasn’t perfect. Driving was terrifying and nerve-racking.

I don't know how we made it back alive. The beauty of Ireland is that it feels that time stood still. The scary part of Ireland is that time stood still and it's best traveling by horse, not car. The roads are tiny, you are driving on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on wrong side of car. There are dead man’s curves around every bend and you are a hair away from a watery grave when maneuvering around seaside cliffs.

But did I mention how beautiful it was?
Not only were we in Ireland, we were there on St. Patrick’s Day!  What better way to celebrate the quintessential Irish holiday than a trip to the land of Saints and Scholars.

Dublin, the capital city, usually holds a five-day festival and is the location of Ireland's largest and most impressive St. Patrick's Day parade.

So we were right in the thick of things. We hit the overflowing streets of downtown Dublin with thousands of other families to watch the parade. Then Brian began a pub-crawl over the famous pubs of Dublin. I found the locals and tourists to be a friendly bunch and we met new friends in every pub we visited.

When we came back home I was a true believer.

I learned to make Shepard’s pie.

I play Irish music around the house.   

I now get "Danny Boy" and when I hear "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" it brings back memories of a group of elderly Irish women sweetly singing the words.

We even brought the smell of Ireland with us. Through the streets and towns of Ireland there is the very distinctive sweet smell of peat fires burning. We brought some peat back with us. Open up a Guinness and close your eyes. It takes you right back to Ireland.

Yes, we are a wee bit Ireland-obsessed now in our multicultural household.

I think I officially adopted Ireland.

And it adopted me.

Erin go Bragh  ["Ireland Forever"]

Feeling Irish? Here are some interesting tidbits:

*According to a study by real estate website Trulia last year, Irish-Americans are strongly concentrated in the Northeast. 10 percent or more in most of New England by comparison Miami is just 1 percent Irish.

*It’s “Paddy,” not Patty. Patty is the diminutive of Patricia and Paddy refers to Patrick.

*The shamrock is an iconic symbol of Irish heritage and culture.
It is three-leafed with St. Patrick having used it as a metaphor for the Christian Trinity, according to legend.
Occasionally shamrocks are found with four leaves. These are rare and considered to be very lucky for the finder.

*17th day of March honors St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland who is said to have brought Christianity to the Irish pagans.

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Arleen Rodriguez is completely captivated by her enchanting blue-eyed toddler of mixed heritage. She is a former TV journalist turned Realtor® and sometime freelance writer whose main gig is frazzled first-time mom.