St. Patrick's Day Legends - Zorro the Irish Fox
21st Century Discovery
Zorro means fox and the legendary masked man in black with a sword was truly a fox like his 18th Century counterpart in the American Revolution: the Swamp Fox, Francis Marion. Both men lived, were recorded in history, and were heroes like Robin Hood, who helped the unjustly treated members of society.
Previous to the very end of the 20th Century, many thought that Zorro was a symbolic mythological hero or a character portrayed by Antonio Banderos in the movies. However, he was a real man that might be linked to any of a several men in history.
The Irish moved to area in South America as well as to North America and other nations, primarliy during and after the Great Famine, but in small numbers previously..However, Zorro was likely an Irish Catholic transplant to England and then to Spain, served in its Irish military forces in the early 1600s, and later served in Mexico.
In January, 1999 it was reported in the Irish Independent News by Nicola Anderson that an Italian History Professor, Fabio Troncarelli of Viterbo University in Italy, had discovered that Zorro was Irish. The academic had examined the Vatican files of the Inquisition and found Zorro in their pages, but he was not called Zorro.
The professor stated that a man by the name of William Lamport, an Irishman, appeared in the Inquisition Files. He wore a red beard, carried a sword, wore a mask, and aided the downtrodden Mexicans and Indians that longed for independence. He also appeared in the I-Files as a swashbuckler, adventurer, and womanizer.
The story is the stuff of pirate movies –
Born in 1615, William was schooled by the Jesuit denomination in Dublin, Ireland and then London. Very unhappy in England, he went to sea and joined a band of pirates. This was likely because he was arrested in 1627 for distributing Catholic literature, considered an act of sedition in London, but escaped. The Vatican chronicles show that William fought the French on the side of Spain and received commendation from King Philip IV in 1634. Spanish records indicate that in 1633 at age 18, he helped form and build the O'Neill Regiment of the three Irish regiments of Spain (O’Neill, O’Donnell and Fitzgerald Regiments). He then took the Spanish version of his name: Guillén Lombardo, which appears in an 1872 historical fiction as Zorro.
In the New World
Unfortunately, William was shipped to Mexico after the unsatisfactory end to a relationship with a Spanish noblewoman; but, he was also sent there to spy for the Spanish government in order to prevent Mexican Independence. However, the Irishman with a Spanish name became acquainted with the Native Mexican Nations (Indians) in Mexico and began to study their medicine and cultures. The Inquisition finally charged him with conspiring to free Back slaves, aiding Native Americans and Mexican Indians against Spain, and planning to become king of an independent Mexico. The I-Files show that he served more than one prison sentence in Mexico and was to be burned at the stake. The final event that may not be clearly confirmed is that he strangled himself before his execution could be accomplished.
Records held in the Spanish archives of its 17th Century Irish regiments show that William fought for them and for the French as well, and against the Huguenots and the Swedish. In 1642, William was planning to marry Mexican noblewoman Antonia Turcious. At this point, the Inquisition arrested him, sentencing him to 10 years in prison. He escaped in 1650 and as was later recaptured, but had time to post anti-Inquisition literature and graffiti on the walls all over Mexico City. His "Z" was for the Spanish word for shining, likely meaning the light of truth and freedom. In 1659 the Inquisition sentenced him to death. Many additional tales of sexual dalliance and roguish adventures are unconfirmed.
Word is that Irish historian Declan Downey examined the work of Troncarelli and felt skeptical. It is his contention from his own research that the Catholic Lamports lived in England until the end of the 16th Century, when the government required Irish landowners to convert to Protestantism. Dr. Downey believes the Lamports went to Spain and/or William spent most of his childhood there.
Other sources call William a child genius that was born to a seafaring family in County Wexford, Ireland. By 1636, he supposedly spoke 14 languages, making him well able to function in a number of societies. Historical and government records confirm that William Lamport authored the first Declaration of Independence in the West Indies, which contained a promise of land reform, equal opportunity, racial equality, and a democratically elected monarch in the 17th Century, over 100 years before the American Revolution.
The Path of ZORRO
Oral traditions in several countries involve characters like Robin Hood and the Swamp Fox. Those in South America, particularly in Argentina, have involved Zorro. From the oral tradition, the hero advanced into print.
The written legend of Zorro began n 1919 with Johnston McCulley in the pulp fiction magazine All Story Weekly, which later merged with Argosy. The series lasted 40 years, appearing in various such magazines. The publications were much like Black Mask, in which Erle Stanley Gardner began with crime stories that pre-dated Perry Mason.
Zorro debuted in a 5-part serial called The Curse of Capistrano and appeared to 1959 in a variety of popular pulp magazines. After the first Zorro story, McCulley added pirates and Native Americans, not likely a coincidence -- McCulley was not only a police reporter, but also a history buff. Some researchers think he found a copy of the 1872 novelization.
From the print media, Zorro advanced to the world of film, where Douglas Fairbanks first starred in the 1920 movie version of Capistrano, called The Mark of Zorro. Non-Hispanics and non-Irish actors have portrayed Zorro since that time. Alain Delon starred as the hero later in a European film and that star's name could well be Irish.
The Compelling Evidence
Zorro has been linked to several real men, reportedly Portuguese, Chilean, and Mexican highwaymen. An 1854 historical fiction about one Senor Joaquin Murrieta, a Latin Robin Hood, by John Rollin Ridge reportedly became the 1990s film The Mask of Zorro. A Native American or Native Mexican Tribe member known as Estanislao in the 1820s is also tapped as Zorro by some historians. Two dozen individuals have some characteristic(s) or history of action that might have led to the creation of the legend of Zorro, but the evidence gathered in the Vatican by Troncarelli - and in the Spanish archives by Irish researcher and author Gerard Ronan is compelling.
Over 200 years after the life of Lamport, a Mexican ex-military general, Vicente Riva Palacion, wrote a historical fiction in 1872 about a hero named Guillén Lombardo. This hero championed Native Mexicans against Spain and spread anti-Inquisition graffiti with the letter Z for Ziza, Spanish for shining, around Mexico. Author Gerard Ronan took his findings in Spain and the Vatican from among the archives of history and the Inquisition. His related book is the 2004 biography of William Lamport, titled The Irish Zorro: the extraordinary adventures of William Lamport (1615-1659).
Ronan is an Irish civil servant Dublin; and interestingly, the last Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, whose independence Lamport championed, was also Irish: Lt General Don Juan O'Donoju.
Zorro. A Prequel by Isabel Allende
- Allende, Isabel. Zorro. 2005, in Chile. (A prequel to the 1919 McCulley story.)
- Anderson, Nicola. Real Zorro unmasked as Wexford womaniser. Irish Independent News. January 30 1999. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/real-zorro-unmasked-as-wexford-womaniser-422519.html. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
- McCulley, Johnston. The Zorro stories of 1919 to 1959. (Note: the last story appeared in Short Story Magazine, April 1959, posthumously, after Walt Disney’s television Zorro was well known.
- Ronan, Gerard. The Irish Zorro: the extraordinary adventures of William Lamport (1615-1659). 2004. Brandon Publishing.
In a Zorro re-boot film that would include an Irish or Irish American actor in the title role, who do you think would make the best choice for the role?
© 2010 Patty Inglish MS