In 1826 the West Briton carried a report from Redruth: a miner recently back from overseas had ‘astonished the natives by appearing in the streets in the dress usually worn by the Mexican miners.’
The migration links between Cornwall and Mexico in the 1800s have been less often covered than the much more numerous flows to the States, Australia and South Africa. However, Mike Kiernan has now added to it by publishing a new and comprehensive account of the Cornish colony in the Pachuca and Real del Monte districts of Mexico.
Quotations of various lengths give an unadorned picture of the conditions met by early colonists together with the occasionally excruciating colonial attitudes they carried with them. The essential mining background from the 1820s, when investment began to flow into Mexico, is set out in Chapters 1 and 3 of Mike’s book.
Chapter 2 provides the background to the religious life of the Cornish in Mexico, with an account of the first Protestant place of worship there: probably built by the Cornish in 1865. Three later chapters provide full details of memorials, headstones and plaques of Cornish people buried in three cemeteries, two in Mexico City and the third, and largest, at Real del Monte.
The cultural and religious interests of the Cornish colony are covered in Chapter 4, which includes an account of the role of the Cornish in introducing football in the 1890s (interestingly not rugby but soccer). Chapter 5 relates some fascinating instances of disputes, kidnapping, murder and mayhem culled from newspaper accounts.
Chapter 6 is a pen picture of some notable Cornish emigrants to Mexico while two appendices list workers at Real del Monte Mine in 1859 and 1874. The first of these describes their eye colour and the state of their beards and the second the monthly wages they received.
Chapter 10 discusses some ways the Mexican connection affected Cornwall and contains some novel data on remittances sent back to Cornwall, including a list of these in 1859 with the amounts and the names of payer and payee. Further detailed descriptions of memorials in Cornish churchyards to those with Mexican connections can also be found in this chapter.
Anyone with a family connection to Mexico should find something of interest in this exhaustively researched book. Incidentally, a name index makes the search for particular surnames an easy one.
The book costs £17 plus postage (around £3 in the UK). Further details on how to buy it can be got from the author – Mike Kiernan, who can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org