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Mexico: The Cornish Connection

Being a proud Cornish maid and a Latin America enthusiast, I have always been interested in the surprising links between Cornwall and Latin America. Although Cornwall is only a small county its influence can be seen far and wide. Below are my top five influences Cornwall brought to Mexico, in particular the towns of Real del Monte and Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo in Central Mexico. I’ll readily admit some are more notable than others!
Tamsin Butler, ex JLA staff memeber

Following Mexico’s War of Independence with Spain (1810-1821), the once prosperous silver mines of Mexico lay flooded and abandoned. At the same time, the Cornish had begun to leave the county in search of wealth in other corners of the globe and one such destination was Mexico. The Cornish had the know-how and the technology in the form of the Cornish Beam Engine to pump the water from the disused mines, and soon made the silver mines some of the most productive in the world again and an important industry within the Mexican economy. Mexico is still famous for its silver and is a great place to pick up some fantastic jewellery: in particular, the city of Taxco is very famous for its silver and is often cited as ‘the place’ to buy silverware.

Mexico is famed for its mouth-watering food, however the residents of Hidalgo State, couldn’t resist the temptation of the Cornish pasty – a staple of any Cornishman’s diet – and it didn’t take long for the Mexicans to start making them to take down the mine. In the town of Real del Monte they shun traditional Mexican cuisine in favour of the Cornish pasty or "paste" (pass-tay) as it is known locally. In Mexico however, they often boast more exotic fillings such as pineapple, sweetened rice or other typical Mexican ingredients like mole and of course, hot chillies. The pasty does bear a striking resemblance to the Latin American empanada but the main difference is that the filling in a pasty should not be cooked beforehand. The first Pasty Museum is due to open in Real del Monte this year and the town held the first International Pasty Festival a few years ago.

Football is Mexico’s most popular sport and it is the Cornish who are credited with its introduction. The first game of football in Mexico was played by Cornish miners in Pachuca in 1900 and Pachuca Athletic was the first club to be formed in the country. Since then, Mexico has hosted two world cups and the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is the largest football stadium in the world – well worth a visit to soak up the atmosphere on a match day and indulge in the Mexican wave!

Real del Monte and Pachuca are known as ‘Mexico’s little Cornwall’ and have been marketed as such by the Mexican Embassy. This is due to the distinctive architecture of the towns such as slanting corrugated iron roofs with chimneys, influenced by the Cornish community. In the capital of Hidalgo state, the Reloj Monumental (Monumental Clock) has the same mechanism as Big Ben in London and was financed by the Cornishman Francis Rule. Apparently the chime is very similar too. Wonder if this clock will still be working after the Mayan Mesoamerican Long Count calendar comes to an end on 21 December 2012?

The Cornish community brought methodism with them to Mexico, and at the start of the 20th Century land was purchased from the catholic church in Pachuca and the first methodist chapel was built in grand neo-gothic style. It graces the skyline of Pachuca to this day and it is claimed that there is no other building like it the whole of Mexico. The protestant Cornish were not permitted to be buried alongside the catholics, but some land situated on a hill above Real del Monte was decreed English and given the name ‘Panteón Inglés’. Today, around 700 graves can be found there and each headstone is said to face the UK. Methodism didn’t really catch on and catholicism is still the largest religious group in Mexico, with the second largest population of catholics after Brazil.

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