Sunday, May 23, 2010

Some corner of a foreign field forever England.....















Rupert Brooke's immortal words imagined his own death on the World War 1 battlefields of France, but high up in the mountains north of Mexico City there is another corner which is forever England....














This is the English cemetery established in 1851, on top of the hill overlooking Real de Monte in a beautiful pine forest, to house the graves of the Cornish tin miners who came out from England to work the tin and silver mines for a British mining company in the 19th century. The site is incredibly tranquil with the scent of pine trees wafting in the breeze, a scattering of pine cones on the ground, and both butterflies and birds enjoying the peace and quiet..
















It could indeed be any English country churchyard with its smattering of English names such as Brown, Pratt, Carter, Phillips, Dodd, Collins and Waters as well as the more distinctive Cornish names from Pengelly and Polcase to Trevethan and Trelease. Most seemed to live to a ripe old age although there were also tragic tales of accidents in the mines...

















William Sobey died in an accident in the Santa Gertrudis mine just before his 17th birthday and William Stoneman was another casualty at the age of 26. Place names from Cornwall also abound on the headstones from Camborn to Saint Agnes to Bolenowe....

















There are 750 graves in total and all face England except for one awkward character whose dying wish was to be buried NOT facing the homeland, thus the grave of Richard Bell ,the clown, is the only one to lie crossways...











Be equally awkward, if like me after a 25 minute climb uphill from Real de Monte, you find the gates locked. I knocked on every door in the vicinity until I found the lady with the keys to let me in, and make sure she shows you the plan she has on her wall of all the names and corresponding graves...




















If like me you find these tiny forgotten corners of history fascinating, then be sure to read an enchanting fictional representation of this slice of history in Anita Desai's novella "The Zig-Zag Way", and if you are wondering what the English left behind in this part of Mexico, the answer is simple - Cornish pasties and football!! Apparently the first game of football on Mexican soil took place in a field near this cemetery in the 19th Century - maybe this was also the origin of that well know terrace chant "Who ate all the pies!!" and very pertinent on the eve of the World Cup warm-up friendly Mexico v England. For more glimpses around the globe this week check out the My World Tuesday postings.... More postings on Real de Monte and Pachuca and this fascinating corner of Mexico's mining industry to follow shortly...

15 comments:

A Cuban In London said...

Even your photos convey that tranquility. What a marvellous place, though the reason for its existence is less joyful. Many thanks for giving us these snippets of Mexico. I love pine forests and I'd already forgot about them. :-)

Greetings from London.

...louciao... said...

Fascinating story and soothing pictures. Wonderful to discover this hidden corner in Mexico. Graveyards can be fascinating places and this one is a fine example. I'd say the climb and persistence of getting in there and finding your way about paid off in spades (if you get my punny ways).

Sylvia K said...

You can indeed feel the tranquility that your photos convey and they are lovely as always. And what an interesting bit of history to find there and I'm so glad you were able to capture it to share with us! Great photos as always! Hope you have a wonderful week, Catherine! Enjoy!

Sylvia

EG Wow said...

What a surprise to find a corner of England in Mexico! How interesting that so many of them died there but one did NOT want his grave to face the home land. Hmmmm.

J Bar said...

Cemeteries are always interesting.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

noel said...

aloha,

very beautiful photos, i love this old cemetary, surprising to find this english cemetary in mexico city, thanks for showing us this place.

thanks for sharing this...my world tuesday is on my plant fanatic blog

Indrani said...

You have a very unique interest, glad you blogged on this place and let us know. Great post!

Birgitta "foto CHIP" said...

This was an interesting post indeed :) and nice photos too :)

http://foto.rudenius.se/post/2010/05/25/My-World-e28093-Budapest-just-now.aspx

Cate said...

Always amazed at those who travelled before me, or migrated and why. Cornish settlers? Did anyone come up with a mexican version of cornish pasty I wonder.
Lovely post.

Catherine said...

yes cate - the towns around here are all full of cornish pasties called "pastes" a real fusion culinary tradition and tasty too - the other thing the English introduced at this time was football!!

Alice said...

thanks for sharing! i read about this in moon's guide to mexico city, but the blurb was so short that i didn't give it much notice. your post brought it alive!

Catherine said...

hey Alice - thanks for stopping by - can really recommend a trip up to Real de Monte - only an hour from DF - look forward to reading more on your blog about DF..

Pagan Sphinx said...

These are wonderful. Especially enjoyed the gravestones.

Owen said...

Hi Catherine,
Many thanks for suggesting that I come take a look at this post, which I missed in the fog of turbulent days at work...

What a beautiful story, I would love to see this place. A few years ago I went wandering around Cornwall for a week, was impressed with all the traces of mining there, visited St Agnes. Guess when the mines started playing out in Cornwall, they had to go find work somewhere. But how incredible that they travelled all the way to Mexico in such numbers, and lived out their lives there, to be buried on a hilltop. Quite a climb for you ! It must have been quite a climb for the pallbearers carrying coffins as well ?

Catherine said...

Owen - I haven't been to Cornwall since 1976 - another visit is long overdue - the cemetery here is fascinating...something else to put on your list for mexico!!