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Irish soldiers have a long history of seeking service in foreign lands.
Known collectively and colloquially as the Wild Geese, they constitute a distinct subset of the Irish emigrant and diasporic communities.
Irish soldiers have fought in all continental European wars, sometimes as mercenaries for hire, and other times as true believers in the service of Catholic monarchs against Protestant foes.
In fact, Irish soldiers have had a significant presence throughout the histories of Spain and Latin America.
The historian Grinne Henry has conducted an excellent case study of approximately 10,000 Irish troops who served in Spanish Flanders at the time of the great Armada.
(3) This episode is significant, and it underscores the longstanding connection between Irish soldiers abroad and the development of national identity at home, the persistence of a militant strain of Counter-Reformation Catholicism in their world view, and the close connection between Ireland and the Spanish-speaking world.
Another Irishman, William Lamport of County Wexford, was a solitary, quixotic figure who fought in the continental wars and then travelled to Mexico in 1659 where he tried to set himself up as an independent king.
In the latter decades of the eighteenth century, Alejandro OReilly was a military commander who dominated Cuba, Florida and Louisiana while it was under Spanish control, and Ambrosio OHiggins held a similar command post in Chile and Peru.