There’s a pride in the men and women of Pachuca. Pride in the back-breaking work down the rich mountaintop mines that once fuelled Mexico’s economic engine, but pride most of all in their vaunted place in the country’s football.
It’s an old New World story, how the round ball bounced onto the dusty mountains and valleys of Central Mexico’s sprawling state of Hidalgo. Silver and gold was discovered by the Spanish as early as the 16th century and targeted by British surveyors in the 19th. And the British put the locals to work in the mines.
Labouring for long hours, under poor and exceedingly dangerous conditions, a distraction was needed for the small amount of free time the cruel mines allowed. This is where football came in, as it did in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Montevideo and countless other locales in an American continent under the thumb of expanding and ever-hungry European empires.
Cornish miners founded Pachuca Athletic Club in 1901. It became Mexico’s first official football club, and though the first team was all emigrants, the club soon began using Mexican-born footballers as well. A league was established as early as 1907, but fell apart during the Revolution from 1910 to 1912 and the fabled uprisings of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. While Mexico was forging a future of its own, the game – a remnant of the old system of foreign exploitation – was decimated.
Pachuca was one of only three remaining teams that survived the fluctuations of the times. Champions from 1917 to 1920, the club played a significant role in rebuilding football, keeping it safe, so that it could become the all-consuming cultural force and peoples’ passion it is today. Now playing at the Estadio Hidalgo, a venue for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the renamed C.F. Pachuca are a power in Mexican and regional football. Five-time Mexican top-flight champions, Pachuca’s Los Tuzos (the Gophers) have lined up on three occasions at the FIFA Club World Cup as representatives of CONCACAF.
Football came with the Cornish and their mines, a gift from foreign shores like the iconic clock that stands sentinel downtown and the Paste, the region's official foodstuff. But the beautiful game, now, remains a bittersweet reminder of better days. These days football is a distraction not from work, but from lack of work. The soaring Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains that surround Pachuca and the mountainside villages are now exhausted, having given up untold amounts of gold, silver and ore. The mines that once built the city now only sound the somber echo of Central Mexico’s swirling winds.
“Hidalgo is a place of strong people,” said Eduardo Gimenez, 60, a Hidalgo-born taxi driver whose cab is adorned with Club Pachuca paraphernalia. “A lot of the towns here never recovered from the loss of the mining industry. But we all support our club, Los Tuzos with all our heart. I tell you this, no other team in Mexico – not Club America or Chivas – are comfortable when they come to our stadium to play.”
While the region still suffers from the loss of their mines, the howls and shouts at the Estadio Hidalgo every Sunday still speak to the force of the local people, and their immense and enduring pride. Always with a smile and a gritty resolve to back their team through thick and thin, the pride of Pachuca remains football. And all of Mexico owes them a debt.