The Costa Del Devonport? The surprising links between the west country and Spain!
I would never in a million years thought that all those huge ferries I used to watch from the Hoe, inching their way carefully out of Millbay docks for the journey to Spain, that one day I would be buying a one-way ticket myself!
After living in Plymouth for most of my life, attending school, my working life, my business in Plymouth (www.neverpaintagain.co.uk) , meeting my wonderful wife Amanda, raising 2 kids etc, I fancied a change of scene.
We left our home in the Hartley are of the city in August 2009 and headed for our place in the sun, in my trusty left hand drive BMW, which was soon after to be ruined in floodwaters in Spain but that’s another story!
Since arriving here and taking up my post as a travel writer, which is nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds (!), I have found many links between Spain and “back home”, many of which were surprising to say the least.
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The Battle of Cornwall
Did you know that the Spanish actually invaded Cornwall in 1595?
It is noted in history as the “Battle of Cornwall” and 4 Spanish ships, called la Capitana, la Patrona, Peregrina and Bazana (captained by an English traitor working for the Spanish navy, called Richard Burley), landed at Mounts bay, and his army burnt down Penzance, Newlyn and mousehole in the face of very weak resistance from the Cornish it has to be said.
Legend has it that some of the Spanish men stayed behind and fathered children, so it’s highly likely that some descendants of those men still reside in the county, in fact tales abound of Shipwrecked Spanish sailors who decided to stay in Cornwall rather than return home.
Sir Francis Drake of course is famous for beating the Spanish Armada, the invasion fleet from Spain, but of course only after he finished his game of bowls! Some would say that laid-back attitude to important matters in hand still prevails in the city to this day!
Two pasties to take away, por Favor.
The Cornish tin mining industry was a major employer right up until the late 19th century, in fact the county produced half of the worlds tin, butas the price plummeted, the mines were closed, and many workers, faced with a life of poverty and unemployment, ventured abroad.
Many of these people went to South America to work in silver mines and the pasty of course went with them too! The food is still very popular in south America, and in Spain, and is known as an Empanada, however the steak filling is often substituted by tuna fish (gross!) and with some south American versions, it is even known to contain chili, and edible cactus!
Some Cornishmen also went to Northern Spain to work in the coal mines. Spain had large quantities of the black stuff, but lacked the technology and skill to extract it, which is where our boys came in.
Even to this day, there are people living in Spain and South America, but with Cornish surnames. The town of Linares in southern Spain still has derelict Cornish engine houses littering the landscape, rather similar to a sort of “Redruth in the sun!”
Saffron and other Cornish delicacies also made their way to latin countries, and saffron is one of the principal ingredients for the Spanish national dish of Paella.
We recently found out that someone I vaguely knew on Facebook in Mexico (I speak Spanish), with the same surname as my wife (Speare), ended up there due to the fact that his great great granddad came from Cornwall to work in mines in Mexico and he has the honor of being the ONLY person in his country with that surname!
The connections between Devon and Cornwall, and Spain are strong and long may they continue to reach far deeper than just the Santander ferry.
About the author
Guy Alexander Bell
Guy is an author, writer, blogger, raconteur, teacher and DIY fanatic, and holds a Politics bachelor of science with honours from the University of Plymouth, where he also has a home. Guy also spends far too much time at his second home in Valencia, Spain. He has written extensively for various magazines, books, journals and blogs and is available for freelance writing work. He has 3 cats (!)