Real del Monte
Back in the summer of 2008, a usually reserved mining town in the South West of Hidalgo State experienced a surge of visitors, the like of which it had never known. Real de Monte's narrow flagstone streets and quaint, church dominated plaza were transformed into a series of self-contained street parties, each gradually spilling over into the next as the day progressed. The citizens of Real de Monte were celebrating a first for Mexico – the twin-ship of a Mexican town with Redruth, nestled on the sunny Cornwall coast of England. Signing of the Friendship Agreement between both towns commemorated a link between Real de Monte and Cornwall that dates back to 1820, when mining maestro Francis Rule introduced a revolutionized way of mining to Pachuca, Real de Monte and the wider municipal areas. He became known as El Rey de la Plata (The Silver King) for his efforts in transforming the way of mining in Mexico forever.
Modern day Real de Monte isn't exactly a home from home for the Cornish, however there are a few familiar sights. From the mining tower now on display at Acosta Museum, to the multitude of “Pastes” vendors selling delicious savory pies almost identical to those of Cornwall - it's a culture shock few Brit visitors expect. Real de Monte's silver mining past remains very much core to its touristic allure, with various mines and museums dedicated solely to the 'mining revolution'.
Constructed within a formerly working mineshaft, Acosta Mine Site Museum was designed not just to preserve the myriad of machinery and tools of the day, but also to replicate the experience of venturing deep into the earth. Visitors are expected to don hard hats, boots and fluorescent jackets for the journey, which begins with a lift ride into the 400-meter deep pit. The museum itself is surprisingly modern, with industrial spaces dedicated to various aspects of mining history. From the great steam mechanisms once used to power cranes, to domestic furniture once owned by Francis Rule, the collection paints an intimate picture of 19th Century Real de Monte. A pseudo bookshop and souvenir stall offer the chance to pick up history books and hard hats, as mementos of your visit.
Colonial Real de Monte is far from overshadowed by its mining past. Constructed in the 16th Century, Nuestra Señora de la Rosario Parish Church overlooks the Plaza Principal and unlike the nearby Santa Veracruz Chapel, is distinctly baroque in character. Perhaps its most notable assets are the two opposing towers – one a blended, two-tier terracotta bell tower in keeping with the main design; the other a weathered grey brick addition, featuring ornate cupolas and a quintessentially English 'look'. The second tower was added in the early 19th Century, a generous attempt by the Parish to recognize its new Cornish community. To find the best examples of oil work from the 17th Century, head to Santa Veracruz Chapel at Plaza South. With a gilded altar; marble reliefs and oil paintings combined, Santa Veracruz is considered one of the finest 17th Century interiors of the Hidalgo highlands!