July 6, 2011

A Taste of Mexico: Cornish Pasties?

The succulent Cornish pasty was once the preserve of Celtic miners. The D shaped, crimped edge pastry is filled with potato, beef, swede/turnip and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper. It can be easily carried and keeps the heat sealed within for a sustaining lunchtime meal, deep within the pit shaft. These days, anyone can and does eat it. It's too delicious to pass up! And it accounts for 6% of the Cornish food economy.

Cornish Pasty

But hold on! This is supposed to be a blog about Mexico and, tasty as the Cornish pasty is, it has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for a Celtic nation in the British Isles! That's a bit far away to be of interest to us. Or so you'd think. But try telling the people of Mineral del Monte, Hidalgo, that.

Mineral del Monte is town with a population of around 12,000 people, nestled high in the mountains of central-eastern Mexico. It's a beautiful place, full of red-roof houses, built at an altitude of 8,800ft (2,700 meters), in the Sierra de Pachuca. This is a smaller mountain range with the larger Sierra Madre Oriental.

Mineral del Monte

To the locals (and the tourist board), the town is more often called Real del Monte, or simply El Real. It was designated a Pueblo Mágico (Magical Town), in 2004, because of its cultural significance. The town has a definite Olde Worlde feel to it, with narrow streets winding along, lined with historic houses. Many early 19th century buildings are kept in excellent repair. They are often now museums, showing how the town used to be in the early days.

This has always been a mining town. Amongst the attractions are guided tourist trips into mines; a former miners' hospital and cottages dating from the 1820s, restored to how they would have looked then; a mining museum; and Museo de Medicina Laboral (Museum of Workplace Medicine), showing how injuries were dealt with down the pits. There is also the Monument to Miners, an impressive statue in the main plaza.

Monument to Miners

A second glance might also reveal the British influence, amongst the native Mexican and Spanish. The parish church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) has two steeples, one in the Spanish style and one in the British. There is a British graveyard around the back, where the stones all traditionally face distant Britain. All of this might give a huge clue as to why we were waffling on about Cornish pasties at the start of this blog entry.

Between 1824-1848, a group of 350 economic migrants from Cornwall arrived in Real del Monte, lured by the silver mines, while escaping crippling conditions back home. The mining industry had been in decline in this part of Mexico, so this wasn't the easy option. Through sheer hard work and determination, the Cornish revived these mines and made them profitable again. Their endeavours, in turn, attracted Mexican miners to the area and the town became firmly established.

Their labour wasn't all that the Cornish brought with them. Mexican workers soon spotted the lunch that their British colleagues were eating. It didn't take them long to send their wives knocking on the doors of their Cornish neighbours, in order to get the recipe for the pasties. The meal is called 'paste' in Mexico, pronounced 'PAH-stays'. Today there are still over 30 paste vendors in Real del Monte, rendering it the town's most popular food.

Paste shop

The tradition Cornish pasty has ended up with some changes, in its evolution into a Real del Monte paste. Beans, sausages, pineapple, mole, apples, chillis, rice and tinga (shredded chicken) have all found themselves inside the crust. But then Mexicans have always liked to be experimental, even with already great ideas!

The descendents of the Cornish miners and their families are still there, though all now consider themselves Mexican. There's barely a word of the Cornish language to be heard, as they've all favor Spanish. But the links remain.

In 2001, the Sociedad Cultural Cornish-Mexicana (Cornish-Mexican Cultural Society) was formed to strengthen links between the two people.

Recently paste maker, Ciro Peralta Gonzalez, flew to Cornwall in order to learn the traditional recipe at the source.

Every October, the Cornish Pasty Festival takes over the town.

This year's event has benefitted from the formation of the cultural society. A party of people from Cornwall (some with ancestors among the original emigrants) will be traveling to Mexico to join in the festivities. They will be joined by Judith MacGregor, Britain's Ambassador to Mexico, and Diana Kennedy, a British celebrity cook known for creating Mexican dishes. Exciting times for little Real del Monte!

It is believed that these Cornish miners had an even bigger impact upon Mexico, than simply leaving pasties and a mining heritage in one of its towns. It appears that they also missed their sport. In 1900, in neighbouring Pachuca, some young men clubbed together to create a football team.

Pachuca FC 1905

Charles Dawe, John Dawe, James Bennetts, John Bennetts, William Blamey, Richard Sobey, William Bragg, William Thomas, Percy Bunt, Lionel Bunt, Albert Pangelly and William Pengelly were the Cornish footballing miners, who now found themselves in need of another team to play. They encouraged the formation of football teams as far away as Mexico City.

They are credited with introducing the now national sport of futbol into Mexico. Gracias Cornwall!


  1. You need to check your facts - the miners from Cornwall were not economic migrantes - there were several thousand involved over a period of 100 years +. Also you should credit sites from which you have lifted information and pictures, whilst I have no objection to my personal pictures being used I do expect people to request and post credits.

    Richard Williams

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