The Mexican Cornish pasty
From England’s Celtic coastline to the mountains of Mexico, we trace the story of how the pasty became the paste.
The Mexican town of Real del Monte, in the state of Hidalgo, perches high up on a mountain, 10,000 feet above sea level. Just over 100 km from the capital, it’s one of the highest towns in the country. For nearly five centuries this small town has been an important destination for enterprising Europeans who sought their fortunes after the Spanish discovered gold and silver there in the 1520s.
While the Spanish were the first Europeans to discover the precious metal mines of Hidalgo, they certainly weren’t the last. In the early 19th century a number of factors encouraged the movement of Cornish miners to Real del Monte. And with them came their famous pasty.
The Mexican War of Independence (1810-21), fought between Spain and Mexico (then called New Spain), resulted in victory for Mexico but also left it with a broken infrastructure and, importantly for our story, flooded mines. Around the same time, across the Atlantic the famous tin and copper mines of Cornwall began falling into decline as foreign products out-competed them. This left many skilled miners and engineers out of work.
The Mexican government, keen to reopen the unused Hidalgo mines, sold them to a group of London investors known as the ‘Company of Gentlemen Adventurers in the Mines of Real del Monte’. And the Company seized the opportunity to recruit the out-of-work Cornish miners.
In 1825, 60 workers departed from Falmouth, Cornwall, setting off across the Atlantic towards Mexico, taking 1,500 tonnes of mining equipment with them. Yellow fever killed nearly half of them along the way leaving the survivors to complete a year long, 400 km trek through forests and over mountains.
Once settled in Real del Monte, a distinctly Cornish mining community emerged which brought with it a number of influences, including Methodism, football (the first team in the country) and, most importantly, the pasty. Drop into any of the town’s red-tiled bakeries today and you can tuck into a Cornish-inspired pasty, which are known locally as pastes (or pastes de Pachuca).
While these pastry treats have their roots solidly in Britain’s famous Cornish pasty, pastes have evolved to celebrate local flavours and ingredients. Variations include red mole, green mole, pineapple, tinga (meat with stewed chipotle chillies in tomato sauce) and refried beans. All of which can be washed down with pulque (or pulche), a drink made from fermented agave sap.
So loved are these local delicacies that the town was home to the world’s only pasty museum - the Museo del Paste - until St Austell in Cornwall opened their own in 2017. Real del Monte was also visited by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2014, who made their own pastes during their visit. And since 2009, the town has held an International Pasty Festival, which impressed Cornish visitors so much they set up their own in Redruth, Cornwall.
A small town in the mountains of Mexico isn’t the first place you’d think of when you picture a Cornish pasty. Yet Real del Monte has inspired the Cornish to celebrate their creation in ways they’d never even considered.