Lidice and International Commemorations – San Jeronimo

The Editor-in-Chief of the Mexican magazine El Popular, Alejandro Carillo, launched a broadly based campaign in conjunction with Clifton Fadiman’s Lidice Lives Committee, to find a community to help perpetuate the name of Lidice. The project idea soon gained a weight of support from other Mexican papers. In the event, they chose a tranquil village named San Jerónimo-Aculco to be re-christened San Jerónimo-Lidice.

This old town of San Jerónimo, eleven miles outside Mexico City centre, at that time was best known for its fruits and flowers, and was home to 1,200 mostly textile workers, descendants of the ancient Aztecs and Mayos. Sincere, hardworking, and tightknit, the community of San Jerónimo presented a noble choice of resident for Mexico’s Lidice, a kind offering to support the empathetic reaction to the narrative created thus far by Fadiman and his team.

The Mexican Minister of the Interior, Miguel Aleman (centre, dark suit) was present at the re-christening ceremony arranged by the Writers’ War Board’s Lidice Committee on the 30th of August 1942. On his left is Senor Javier Rojo Gomez, Mayor of the new Lidice. The Vice President of the USA, Henry Wallace sent a message in which he said, “ San Jerónimo is raising the flag of human freedom by changing her name to Lidice.”

Thus, on August the 30th, 1942, the farm village of San Jerónimo changed its name to Lidice. Once again, a nationwide broadcast was made, this time on the NBC network. Interior Minister Miguel Aleman, member of the Mexican Cabinet, and chief speaker at the event, declared:

“The flames which burned Lidice lifted it from quietness to become a symbol of that for which the democracies are fighting under oath, never to lay down their arms until the merciless haughtiness of obscene power is brought down.”

Deputy Rojo Gomez performed the official change of the village’s name. He had this to say:

“In keeping with the executive powers bestowed upon me by Mexican laws, I hereby declare that the community of San Jerónimo-Aculco is called, as of today, San Jerónimo-Lidice, which means in the Czech language the House of the People.”

Hortensia Roja, a resident of the town, addressed the rally. She called out in friendship to the Lidice women across the ocean:

“Women from remote Lidice, widows from concentration camps who know not where their children are, our home is your home, too. We shall never forget you.”

Those words resonated amongst the women of Czechoslovakia and especially those of Lidice. Mutual contacts were set up as soon as the war ended. The Lidice of Czechoslovakia sent gifts to the children of the Lidice of Mexico, together with a complete library. The correspondence and cooperation between the two communities continues to this day.

Edna Gómez, who has led the Lidice Choir in San Jerónimo for 36 years, says symbols of this solidarity appeared in the heart of the neighbourhood decades apart. In 1975, for example, the mayor commissioned a sculpture for the Lídice plaza, the site of an annual commemoration. In 2002, on the 60th anniversary of the tragedy, a mural called Fields of Light and Death (Campos de Luz y Muerte) was unveiled. Its creator, Ariosto Otero, says it reflects a mixture of the Mexican and Czechoslovak cultures:

“Lidice is a memory that will never fade. Even with the passage of time, the suffering of a people struck down not because of a pandemic but because of human brutality still remains.”

US Vice President Henry Wallace impressed the assembled crowd by addressing them in both English and Spanish, saying that “as symbols of the unbreakable spirit of the common man, Lidice in Mexico and Lidice in the United States are immortal. ”Once again, there was full photographic, newsreel, and newspaper coverage. The amount of attention given to the ceremony in the Mexican and South American press was, in the Writers’ War Board‘s opinion, “astonishing.”

Above: the famous Mexican band of Lerdo De Tejeda play the Mexican national anthem at the opening ceremony.

For more information about the Lidice Lives committee, the Writers’ War Board and how the name of Lidice came to be commemorated around the world, read The Path to Lidice – the definitive account of the Lidice Shall Live campaign, and its legacy.
Available now, online from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and in ebook formats – free with Amazon Unlimited.

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