Irish Latin Americans

Latin Americans are a large part of the population and culture of South Florida. According to the 2010 US Census, 41.3% of South Florida residents identified themselves as “Hispanic”:

2010 US Census








 Broward County



25.1 %  

 Miami-Dade County 



65.0 % 

 Monroe County



20.6 % 

 Palm Beach County



19.0 % 




41.3 % 

Many South Florida residents of Latin American ancestry share an additional and unexpected ancestry with Irish-Americans. Beginning in the early 1700’s, many thousands of Irish immigrants settled throughout Latin America. In Argentina alone, over 50,000 Irish immigrants settled there. Today, millions of Latin Americans share common Irish ancestors with Irish-Americans.

Many of the Irish immigrants to Latin America became famous:

  • Thomas St. George Armstrong (1797-1875), born at Garrycastle, County Offaly, became a leading banker and railroad builder in Argentina.
  • William Brown (1777-1857), born at Foxford, County Mayo, became the founder of the Argentine Navy and Governor of Buenos Aires.
  • Peter Campbell (1780-c.1832), born in Ireland, became the founder of the Uruguayan Navy.
  • James Towers English (1782-1819), born near Dublin, was a member of Simon Bolivar’s personal staff and was the Commander of the British Legion in the South American wars of independence.
  • Edelmiro Julián Farrell (1887-1980), grandson of Matthew Farrell of County Longford and Mónica Ibañez of Argentina, became a general in the Argentine Army and President of the Argentine Republic (1944-1946).
  • William Lamport (1610-1659), known in Mexico by his Spanish alias “Don Guillén Lombardo de Guzmán”, born at Wexford Town, County Wexford, was the author of the first declaration of independence for Mexico and was the self-proclaimed “King of New Spain”. Recently, some speculation has emerged that William’s life could be the source of the “Zorro” myth.
  • Eliza Lynch (1835-1886), popularly known in Paraguay as “La Lynch”, born in County Cork, Ireland, was the mother of Paraguay leader General Francisco Solano López’s many illegitimate children and became the unofficial and notorious “First Lady” of Paraguay. She also became the world’s largest female landowner. By 1865, she owned several huge ranches and at least twenty-six urban properties, over 800,000 acres of state lands and forests, 12,000,000 acres in eastern Paraguay and another 9,000,000 acres in the contested area north of the River Apa.
  • Cecilia McPartland (b. 1882), born at Lisnadaragh, Ireland, was the mother of Cuban War of Independence hero, Julio Antonio Mella. Mella gained notoriety because of his actions against the Machado government in Cuba. And at the young age of 26, he was gunned down on the streets of Mexico City where he had gone into exile to gain support for Cuban independence
  • Tomás Antonio O’Horan (1776-1848), son of John O’Horan of Aughane, County Cork and María Gertrudis de Argüello y Monte of Campeche, became a noted public official in Mexico and Guatemala. In 1823-1824, Tomás A. O’Horan was a member of the triumvirate that governed the United Provinces of Central America. In 1835, he served in the Mexican Senate, representing Yucatán, and later as magistrate in Mérida.
  • Ambrose O’Higgins (c. 1721-1801), born at Ballinary, County Sligo, became the 18th Century Irish immigrant who attained the highest position in the Spanish America’s. He was Governor and Captain-General of Chile and then Viceroy of Peru. He was granted the Spanish titles of Baron of Ballinary and Marquis of Osorno by the King of Spain. His son, Bernardo O’Higgins, born in Chile, became the leading figure in the Chilean war of independence and is remembered as the emancipator of Chile.
  • James Rooke (1770-1819), born at Dublin, became Commander of the British Legion and hero of the battle of Pantano de Vargas during Simon Bolivar’s South American wars of independence. There is a bronze statue of Colonel Rooke at Boyacá Bridge, Colombia and another at the monastery where he died In the nearby city of Paipa, there is a Parque Jaime Rooke, and at the main entrance to the Colombian capital, a sober but moving marble tablet reads: Colombia, a los Próceres y a la Legión Británica.
  • Thomas Charles James Wright (1799-1868), born at Drogheda, County Louth, was an officer in Simón Bolívar’s army and became the founder of the Ecuadorian Naval School. After Ecuador achieved independence in 1830, Wright became one of the new republic’s leading citizens. He married María de los Angeles Victoria Rico (niece of Vicente Rocafuerte, President of Ecuador in 1835-1839 and 1843-1845). Wright also became Commander of the Ecuadorian Navy and Governor of Guayaquil.

…and the list of famous Irish Latin Americans goes on and on.

Probably the most recognizable and famous (most people in South Florida would say “infamous”) Irish Latin American of them all was the man immortalized in the iconic image below:

Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara (1928-1967), son of Ernesto Guevara Lynch and Celia de la Serna, was a member of the prominent Lynch family of Argentina. The Latin American Lynch’s were an influential family with branches in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Among their many members were soldiers, wealthy businessmen and landowners, politicians and intellectuals, like the Chilean Rear Admiral Patricio Lynch Zaldívar (1824-1886) and distinguished Argentine writers Benito Lynch (1882-1951) and Adolfo Bioy Casares (1914-1999). Patrick Lynch of Lydican Castle, near Galway, left Ireland and immigrated to Buenos Aires in 1749. He succeeded in business and married Rosa de Galaya de la Camera, a wealthy heiress. It was from this marriage that the many Lynch’s in South America descended.

Ernesto Guevara was born on June 14, 1928 in the city of Rosario, Argentina. He was a sickly child and would suffer from acute asthma his entire life. He studied medicine and became a doctor in 1953.  After graduation, Guevara travelled to Guatemala and became acquainted with Antonio Ñico López Fernández and other revolutionaries who worked for Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. When a CIA-sponsored military coup toppled President Arbenz, Guevara relocated to Mexico in 1954. In Mexico City, Guevara was working as a reporter when he became friends with Fidel and Raul Castro and other exiled Cuban revolutionaries. In 1955, he accompanied Fidel Castro’s Granma expedition from Mexico to Cuba. Upon landing in Cuba, most of the 81 men on the yacht were caught or killed, and only 16 escaped into the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where peasants and farmers aided them until their forces grew into the revolutionary army that eventually toppled Cuban President Batista. During the Cuban revolution, Guevara served as a doctor, strategist and military commander. It was his Cuban comrades who gave him the nickname “Che”, because Guevara constantly used the Argentine expression “che” (slang for “Man” or the current “Dude”, as in “Hey, Man”). By the time he entered Havana on January 2, 1959, “Che” Guevara was internationally famous.  He was awarded Cuban citizenship, and was appointed President of the National Bank.


Between 1960 and 1965, Guevara served as Minister of Industry and directed the Cuban economy. He also travelled extensively on missions to Europe, Asia, and Latin America to increase Cuban international trade and to promote military and political alliances against the United States. He also represented Cuba before international conferences and bodies such as the United Nations. In 1965, Guevara resigned his offices and left Cuba, secretly leading an unsuccessful leftist uprising in the Congo. He then went to Bolivia to organize a multi-national leftist revolution in South America. On October 3, 1965, he arrived in Bolivia with a Uruguayan passport under the name of Adolfo Mena González. He joined local and Cuban guerrilla fighters at a remote base near the borders with Peru and Argentina. During an encounter with army troops at Quebrada del Yuro, he was seriously injured. On October 9, 1965, Ernesto “Che” Guevara was executed by CIA operatives at Higuera, together with six other rebel guerillas. His body was discovered in 1997, and his remains are now buried in Cuba.


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