“H“You were asked to name the thing you were least likely to encounter in a country like Mexico,” wrote William Bullock in the mid-nineteenth century, “one might as well have noticed a game of croquet.” But even in Montezuma, his fellow Victorians kept insisting on getting a game.
It was around the same time that he stumbled upon croquet that Bullock, an English journalist and a first class cricketer – found that his near-namesake was even more popular in the country. His book of his travels, In all of Mexico in 1864-65, it contains the first written account of cricket in Mexico, but when he wrote it on paper, the game had flourished in the country for several decades.
Mexico was, in fact, one of the first countries outside of England to embrace the game. It had reached its shores in the 1820s, along with the British who had traveled to work and profit from its silver mines in the years immediately following its independence from Spain. In the mountains of Hidalgo they quickly established no less than three cricket clubs in and around Pachuca.
In addition to their love of the sport, Cornish miners featured their most famous food. You can still buy Cornish pasties all over the country; They are a popular snack in Mexico, where they were adopted, adapted, and improved upon. So why wasn’t the same thing happening with cricket, which was introduced a good 60 years before organized football came along? What prevented Mexico from becoming a nation of trials?
It’s a question that author Craig White has been pondering during the confinement, as he finally writes that history of Mexican cricket that the world has been waiting for. “In fact, I’ve been working on it for more than 10 years,” says White, who is the secretary of the Mexican Cricket Association, “but I’ve never had time to get it right before. And so much information has been lost over the years that I have had to reconstruct much of the story from old newspaper accounts. “
As an NGO worker who began his career in the country at the British embassy, White is well aware of the international power dynamics that accompanied the sport for the 90 years before the Mexican Revolution ended its heyday. “The sport was a true celebration of the British at the time when Great Britain was the world power,” says White. “I was reading about a game that was played during the Boer War that was accompanied by a band playing patriotic songs and Union Jacks flying.”
There was no interest in spreading the game to the general population. “It was played in sports clubs that were out of reach for everyone except the wealthiest,” says White. In Mexico, cricket continued to be a sport of and for the elite: Eric Gómez, an ESPN journalist who currently writes a history of Mexican soccer, points out that most Mexicans could not afford a day off to play a game, and much less spend it. team money, but they could kick the ball with their co-workers at the end of their shift. This was one of the main reasons why soccer prospered where cricket failed.
But of course, the uniqueness of cricket was its appeal: the game became a bulwark of power and prestige, just as it had in the British colonies. Bullock was traveling through Mexico during the brief and doomed reign of Emperor Maximilian, the Austrian archduke who came to the throne with the help of a French invasion. Indeed, captured in a photograph by François Aubert, there is Maximilian all equipped for one of the Sunday reds-v-blues games of the Mexican Cricket Club, or MCC. In a couple of years, Maximilian would be immortalized in a very different way when his death in a firing squad was captured on canvas by Édouard Manet.
Even after the republic reasserted itself, cricket prospered, in large part thanks to President Porfirio Díaz, future dictator. Its economic policies made Mexico a magnet for foreign investors from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, while a young Mexican elite learned the game in British public schools to which many were sent to polish both their education and social standing. . Luis Amor, who returned from Stonyhurst College to a life as a sugar plantation owner, established the Mexico Cricket Club in 1896, with the help of his brothers Alejandro, Victor, and Pablo, all of whom had also fallen in love with the game at Stonyhurst. .
It’s a complex story, and one that deserves to be told, at least as a warning about how cricket’s elitism and classism have so often been its own undoing. But also as a reminder that sport is never separate from politics. Shortly after the Santa Rosa Athletic Club, whose cricketers called themselves “Los Rancheros,” celebrated a 65-run victory against the city of Porfirio Díaz, its president David McKellar was ambushed and assassinated. He had enraged Mexican ranchers by fencing off their land.
Bullock wrote of the Sunday cricketers he met: “They assured me that they had never allowed political events to interfere with their game, that they had carelessly pursued, more than once, in view of the fighting going on in the hills above. surrounded them. “But when the Mexican Revolution arrived, quickly followed by World War I, many British and other expatriates returned to their home countries; their departure caused the demise of the Mexican cricket league and the sport in general.
“There is a real similarity to Denmark and the Netherlands and other countries where cricket came early but remained among the elites,” says White. “It was a missed opportunity: cricket had an advantage of at least half a century in soccer and baseball and it was wasted.” The Mexican Cricket Association has had considerable success in establishing a national women’s team and hopes that the game will finally reach the Mexican population through women’s cricket. Meanwhile, White is putting the finishing touches on her story, and editors are encouraged to get in touch.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism