Driving through Tijuana on my way to the border I have crossed Avenida Niños de los Heroes many times, not to be confused with Avenue of the Heroes. But, why is there an avenue memorializing children? I learned a fascinating and sad part of Mexicoʼs history.
The story has captured the hearts and minds of most Mexicans who look on it with both a mixture of pride and reverence. There is even a monument built in Mexico City to memorialize the event. Throughout Mexico today there are numerous schools, streets, and public squares named after those involved in the event.
It takes place during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848)–a war considered unjust by Abraham Lincoln and John Quincy Adams. President James Polk saw America in light of Manifest Destiny, meaning America had a “natural right” to expand its territory to the Pacific. Wanting to increase the area of the United States, Polk offered Mexico a sum of money for an area of land west of the Mississippi River, but this offer was rejected. The president then moved U.S. troops into the area north of the Rio Grande. A relatively small skirmish there resulted in the deaths of a dozen U.S men and the start of the war.
On September 13, 1847, American forces were closing in on Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. The Castle was valued as an important geographical protection against invaders. American forces outnumbered Mexican men in numbers, weapons and gunpowder. As the Americans advanced there simply were not enough Mexican soldiers left to protect it.
Seeing that defeat was imminent, the Mexican men were ordered to retreat to safety. The Castle had been a military training academy and, as a result, there were dozens of young cadets among the men. Six of these young men, ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen, refused orders and died in the protection of the castle. The young men died defending their country. There is even a report that one jumped to his death wrapped in the Mexican flag.
The outcome of this war was that the United States purchased the territory that became California, Utah,Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico for $15 million. Mexico lost one third of its territory.
In 1947 President Truman visited the memorial in Mexico City near the 100 year anniversary of the event. When asked why he was there he said, “Brave men donʼt belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it.”
Now I understand why the street is called Avenida Niños de los Heroes.