On March 17, the streets will run green as revelers flood city centers, pubs and just about everywhere else to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. It's a celebration of all things Irish that's rooted more in the Irish diaspora, especially in North America, than on the Emerald Isle itself. 

For centuries, Boston has been thought of as the epicenter and originator of St. Patrick's Day celebrations, but a new discovery reveals that the holiday was celebrated much earlier on another end of the continent, and in a language not typically associated with St. Paddy's.

Recently discovered records from Spain's archives of the American colonies yielded a single curious entry: gunpowder expenditures for shooting off cannons during a 1601 St. Patrick's Day celebration in St. Augustine, Florida. 

"It was certainly a surprise," said historian J. Michael Francis from the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg, who uncovered the document. "It did not register the first time I saw the name 'San Patricio,' the Spanish name for St. Patrick. After a few seconds it actually hit me that there was a St. Patrick's Day parade/procession in St. Augustine in 1601. Even more surprising was that the document identified St. Patrick as the patron saint of the city's maize fields."

The spanish celebration of the Irish priest pre-dates the first celebrations in Boston by more than a century. The archives also suggest that they were likely introduced to the colonies in modern day Florida by an Irish priest from Spain named Ricardo Artur .

So when you raise your Guinness amongst the verdantly clad throngs to honor good friends, good cheer and St. Patrick himself, don't forget to add Father Ricardo to the list.

Published on: Mar 17, 2018
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