The Cornish Miners who brought Football to Mexico

Written by Samuel Turner |   

France vs Mexico in the 2010 World Cup/Celso FLORES/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Javier Hernandez and The Estadio Azteca are just some things that might come to mind when you think of Mexican football. What if I was to tell you that Cornish miners played a part in the emergence of football in Mexico?

We often fall in love with the Mexican National team during international tournaments due to their passionate fans and the teams’ common status as the underdog. One great example being, of course, this summer’s World Cup in Russia when a Mexican side managed to beat, the then World Cup holders Germany, 1-0 in their opening game. Rising through their group which included Germany, South Korea, and Sweden, recording a famous 1-0 victory against the old holders Germany in the process. They eventually went out in the last 16 losing to well fancied Brazil.

But how did this come about in the first place? Let’s take a look at their history.

In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain, after the Mexican War of Independence. The war of independence had left the country in dire need of development particularly industrialisation of their mining industry. Meanwhile, Cornwall, at the start of the nineteenth century, they had some of the largest and most profitable mines in the whole of Europe.

Tin mining in Cornwall

As time passed, the price of tin and copper was depreciating. This was due to the globalisation of trade which flooded the market with tin and copper. This meant that many highly skilled miners were left jobless as mines could no longer afford to keep their employees. Therefore, to find a job, many miners went abroad to places such as South Africa, Australia and the United States -places in desperate need of skilled miners.

It is thought that during the period of 1861 to 1901 around 250,000 people emigrated from Cornwall, many of them being miners. Some of these miners arrived in Mexico.

In 1825, a group of approximately 60 Cornishmen – mainly from the area of Cambourne and Redruth – set off from Falmouth with 1,500 tonnes of mining equipment to Mexico. Many Cornish migrants moved to Hidalgo, a region rich in silver (approximately 50km north east of the capital, Mexico City). Thus, many small Cornish communities sprung up in the Hidalgo region. Cornish migrants brought with them their culture, religion, pasties (which is another story) and many sports, including (of course) football.

At the turn of the century, an Athletic Club was formed, by the Cornish diaspora, in Pachuca – called the Pachuca Athletics Club. The primary sport of the club was football and it became the first football team in the whole of Mexico.

Football soon started to spread across the region and wider Mexico. For a while, there were only local regional leagues, but by 1907 the first National League was formed. Football had captured the hearts of the Mexican people, all thanks to the Cornish Miners who brought the beautiful game to Mexico.

Pachuca Athletic club ended up being one of the founding members of the top league of Mexican football and won it for the first time in 1917 under Alfred C. Crowle – a son of a Cornish expatriate miner from St Blazey. He would also later go on to win two further championships with Pachuca and manage Mexico’s International team to the first international trophy in 1935 at the Central American and Caribbean Games.

Pachuca Athletic club remains one of the most historic clubs in Mexico and is now, after recent success in club continental trophies (such as the Copa Sudamericana), one of the most successful teams in Mexico. Further, Mexican football’s premier division (‘Liga MX’) is seen as not only the best football league in North America but one of the best in the whole of the Americas.

The Omnilife Stadium in Zapopan, Mexico, holds around 49,850 spectators.

In the 2017-18 season, Liga MX had an average attendance of over 24,000 which makes it one of the most attended leagues in the world. The Mexican national team have participated in 17 out of 21 World Cups games and have won the CONCACAF Championship/Gold Cup the most times, with 10 titles.

And to think this all started with some Cornish expats’ miners having a kick about!