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13 November 2014
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Old Mexican mine

Mining in Mexico - an old mine building.

The Cornish in Mexico

Nearly 200 years ago a group of Cornish miners set sail from Falmouth on the south coast of Cornwall to seek their fortunes in the new world. Inside Out follows a modern day journey in search of their legacy and tells the tale of that epic adventure

Dave Evans is one of a group of 30 Cornish men and women who decided to travel to Mexico to try and re-trace the path of their ancestors who set off from Cornwall to start a new life in Mexico. 

He and his fellow travellers are members of the Cornish Mexican Cultural Society who are making the journey for both personal and official reasons. 

Dave Evans

Journey of discovery - Dave Evans.

Dave's father was born in Mexico and he is hoping to find other relatives there who may be able to tell him more about his great uncle William.

William died in mysterious circumstances. 

Councillor June Charman, the Mayor of Camborne, is also making the journey to reinforce the community links between Camborne and Mexico.

They are accompanied and helped in their search by historian Richard Williams.

Miners' journey

In 1825 a band of 60 Cornishmen left Falmouth with 1500 tons of mining machinery.

They were leaving a Cornwall enjoying a booming mining industry and planned to travel to Real del Monte, deep in the Mexican interior, to use their skills and technology to rescue its ailing silver mining industry. 

Pechuka Mine in Mexico

Pechuka Mine in Mexico.

These prime Mexican mines had suffered years of neglect because of the war of independence which had been raging through Mexico.

It was to be a difficult journey for many reasons.

Following the long sea voyage they tried to put into port in Mexico, only to find that it was held by the Spanish.

They were forced to land the machinery on the beach at Mocambo and then haul it through jungle and swamp to their first depot at Santa Fe.

This was just the first of many setbacks - recorded faithfully by John Buchanan, an engineer in the party who kept a diary of the journey. 

Hardships and triumphs

It is largely because of the diary that we are able to follow their hardships and triumphs today. 

During this haul through the jungle, the 'sickly season' started and both the Cornishmen and their Mexican helpers fell victim to the ravages of Yellow Fever.

Map of journey

Road to adventure - miners in Mexico.

Thirty Cornish and 100 Mexicans died of the fever, forcing the survivors to abandon their equipment and head inland up into the mountains to Xalapa to try and escape the mosquitoes until the end of the rainy season. 

It was three months before they were able to return to continue transporting the machinery and progress was painfully slow because they had to build their own road as they went. 

It took them 14 months to travel just 250 miles - no wonder Mexicans call it 'The Great Trek'. 

On May 1st 1826, they finally entered Real del Monte, the highest town in Mexico at 10,000 feet above sea level.

As engineer John Buchanan reported in his diary: "After great labour and many accidents we conquered this great ascent and our convoy proceeded on our last stage to deposit its valuable cargo in Real del Monte".

The Legacy

The Cornish community flourished and stayed for the best part of a century - until the Mexican revolution in 1910. 

They have never been forgotten according to Cornish descendant Ricardo Ludlow.

Cornish pasty Mexican style!

Cornish pasty - Mexican style!

And they have left other legacies than just mining technology... 

They bake as many pasties here as in the whole of Cornwall, albeit spiced up for the Mexican palette, and it is said that the first game of Mexican soccer was played in the yard of the Dolores Mine!

Our modern-day group are travelling in the comfort of a coach and are feted along the way in towns like Vera Cruz where they attend a demonstration of traditional Mexican dancing.

But while the main party attend civic functions to welcome them, Dave Evans has gone on ahead to try and get a head start on the search for remaining members of his family. 

Tracing family ties

He finally strikes gold in Pachuca's mining archives where he finds employment details of both his grand and great grandfathers. 

Then a chance meeting with the hotel accountant, Julio Rivero, leads Dave to news of another relative - his great cousin Betty, who taught English to Julio.

Unfortunately 'Miss Betty', as the former teacher was known, has now died - but Julio thinks he can help Dave find his grandfather's and father's house.

Cornish miners football team in Mexico

Cornish miners football team in Mexico.

The search is inconclusive but before they leave, Julio's mother proudly shows Dave the proof of her Cornish ancestry - her family name was Hosking! 

Dave presents her with the official Cornish Mexican Cultural Society badge as a thank you for her family's help in tracing his roots.

Seven hundred Cornish men and women are buried in the cemetery overlooking Real del Monte and the local community hold a moving memorial ceremony in honour of their Cornish visitors - with 'Abide With Me' sung in Spanish.

Hunting among the graves, Dave finds many more than he expected, including those of his cousin Betty, and his Uncle William's - who's death at this point, however, still remains a mystery.

Back home

But once home, Dave receives an e-mail from a Patrica Gomez Evans.

She has news about Dave's uncle William so he rings her to find out what she knows.  It turns out that Patricia is William's grand daughter but she has some upsetting news. 

It appears that William committed suicide by shooting himself. 

Dave explains that this could be a result of shell shock William suffered from fighting in World War I.

He is already planning another trip to Mexico to meet Patricia to find out more about his Cornish Mexican family.

This is just the start of another journey of discovery to discover the links between Cornwall and Mexico...

last updated: 10/10/2008 at 11:40
created: 30/09/2008

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