The Cornish in Latin America

Aztec serpent motif

Home > Research and Projects > Glossary of Cornish and Latin American Mining Terms

Significant numbers of Cornish miners arrived from 1824-5 to work in Latin American mines that lay derelict, abandoned and flooded due to the Wars of Emancipation raging across the continent. Backed by large amounts of British capital some mines were rehabilitated and once more became successful enterprises. In several mining regions of Latin America, such as Fresnillo and Pachuca-Real del Monte in Mexico, the signs of a Cornish industrial landscape complete with masonry engine houses with integral chimneys, betray the involvement of the Cornish in bringing the industrial revolution to those shores. 

But far less tangible evidence for their intimate connection with the Latin American mining industry exists on countless mine maps and plans, the workings often described in typically Cornish terms. For not only did the Cornish bring with them new working practices such as the tribute system, but a vast new mining terminology, some of it derived from the Cornish language. This was added and blended to a rich Ibero-American technical vocabulary resulting in a global mining language. Some of the most common terms and phrases are given; Ibero-American terms are in italics.

CajaProvincial treasury.
CalcineThe roasting of ore to remove impurities, particularly arsenic.
CalcinerThe furnace used to for the calcine process.
CalicheCalcium carbonate (CaCO3), or raw nitrate of soda.
CanonesHorizontal levels or galleries within a mine driven in search of the vein.
CanteraA quarry.
Capel or CarrackStone comprised of quartz, schorl and horneblende, usually occurring on both walls of a lode, and usually accompanying tin.
CapstanA machine consisting of an axle and several long arms, by which pumps and other equipment is lowered or raised from a shaft by manual force.
Captain or AgentA superintendent in charge of the running of a mine. There were also subordinate captains who attended exclusively to underground or surface operations.
Carga300 Spanish pounds.
CarillerosOre carriers.
Casa de monedoThe mint.
Casa grandeMine account house; manager's residence; main office.
CataA mine of no great depth, a pit made in quest of the vein, a mine denounced for trial.
CatearTo search for new mines.
CaxoA measure of ore containing many quintals, but varying in bulk at different places; at Potosi 5000 pounds.
CaxonerosLanders at the mouth of the shaft.
CebarTo feed; to add quicksilver to a mass of silver ores under amalgamation.
ChapasIron blocks on which the stamps fall.
ClayingLining the hole (in which gunpowder is to be placed) with clay, to prevent the powder becoming damp.
CobbingThe intermediate stage of the hand reduction of ore when the valuable parts are chipped away from the gangue prior to bucking.
CoffinOld workings open at the surface
CohetajoBlackpowder wrapped in leaves, with a small reed protruding for a fuse, used to ignite explosives.
CoheteroThe explosives expert dealing with cohetajo.
ColeroAssistant of the underground captain in charge of the peonada, or account of daily labour.
Contra minaA work of communication between two mines; also an adit
Contra tiroAuxiliary pit contiguous to a main pit or shaft, to serve as a footway, or for ventilation.
CosteaningA series of pits sunk in the vicinity of a suspected lode to ascertain its position.
Count houseMine account house; mine captain's residence or main office.
Cross courseA lode or vein that intersects or crosses a lode at various angles, and generally throws the lode out of its regular course.
Cross cutA level driven at right angles to the direction of the lode.
CruceroA cross cut.
CuerpoThe lode.
CountryThe strata or rock through which the vein or lode traverses
CrusherA pulverising machine for reducing the ores; worked either by steam or water.
CuņaA hard-edged iron wedge weighing up to 2 pounds that is hammered with a pica.
CylinderThe circular case of iron in which the piston receives the steam to give the engine motion.

Back to Top