In the 1800's Cornish tin and copper miners left Cornwall in their thousands to work in the Mexican silver mines, California gold mines and in mines as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. With them they took the pasty - a legacy that lives on to-day. In the silver mining areas of Pachuca and Rio Del Monte, northern Mexico, thousands of 'pastes' are sold each week, more than are sold in Cornwall. There is a special pastes museum and even an annual pastes festival
"The paste typico is as close as one can get to a Cornish pasty minus the turnip but with the hot kick of chilli peppers, plus a variety of other types with fillings such as mole (a fiery chocolate paste), refried beans, rice, pudding or pineapple" Schwartz (2011), Mexico’s Little Cornwall.
This film documents the journey taken by the filmmaker, a modern -day 'Cousin Jack' in his search for the perfect pasty. Born in Redruth in 1949, one of the major tin-mining areas in Cornwall, our Cousin Jack will follow the trail of the Cornish miners and their families one hundred years after the gold rush of 1849, from the silver mines of Mexico to the gold mines of California.
The story opens in Redruth at the annual September Pasty Festival. Ainsley Cocks, Research and Information Officer for the Cornish World heritage Site Office, tells us the backstory of how and why Cornish tin miners left Falmouth in the 1820’s for the silver mines of northern Mexico. Here they were renowned for their hardrock mining skills, enjoyed the local fermented corn drink 'pulche', built Methodist Chapels and, in addition to the humble pasty, also introduced soccer.
From the east coast near Veracruz, the filmmaker follows the zig zag route used to transport heavy mining equipment and mine engines up into the silver mining areas of the Sierra, before heading to the goldmines of California. Close by the Empire Mine in Grass valley, he will visit Cousin Jack’s pasty shop to sample a Californian pasty and see how this compares to the traditional Cornish pasty and the Mexican pastes served up at the annual Rio Del Monte pastes festival.
After the California goldrush some Cornish miners returned home and there are reports of men in sombreros and ponchos in Redruth and Cambourne high streets. Others sailed west across the pacific to the goldfields of New Zealand and Australia...
Some of the Cornish miners history is covered in 'Prospects', a historical documentary made by the filmmaker in 1979 for the California Humanities Council. Useful archive footage is also available from 'The Corniah in Mexico’' produced and directed by Mick Catmull for the BBC SW strand 'Inside out' in 2008.
Mexico's 'Little Cornwall' Sharron P Schwartz, Cornish-Mexican Cultural Society 2011.
The Search for Silver, Cornish miners in Mexico, 1824-1947, AC Todd, Cornish Hillside Publications.
'Railway in the Sky' a travel documentary in the Sierra Madres, Northern Mexico.
'The Cornish Miner in America'. AC Todd, Cornish Hillside Publications.
'The Zig Zag Way' Trebiggan theatre production 2016, adapted by Pauline Sheppard from the novel by Anita Desai
'Prospects, goldmining history of Siskiyou County', northern California 1849-1979, documentary film for California Humanities Council 1979. Producer/Director Phil Shingler.
Kim Cooper, Principal Library Officer, Cornish Studies Library, Redruth.
Ainsley Cocks, Research & Information Officer for Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Office.
Mick Catmull, Director A 38 Films, Plymouth.
Sarah Lloyd-Durrant, Assistant Collections & Exhibitions Officer.
Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, Cornwall.