Thursday, April 29, 2010

From Whales to Wales

After our whale and penguin watching trips, we had a hankering for a good old fashioned cup of tea, so we made a quick tour of the nearby village of Gaiman. As you may have guessed from the recent place names (Madryn, Rawson, Trelew), the Welsh settled much of this part of Argentina. Gaiman has retained much of this architectural and atmospheric heritage, and now receives a modest number of tourists who come to drink the Welsh tea and eat the fruitcake. We are unsure how much Welsh is actually still spoken here (all we heard was Spanish), but they have carefully printed all the historical signs in Spanish, Welsh and English, and the Camwy School (see photos below) still teaches Welsh.

We were surprised and fascinated to learn about this little pocket of Wales nestled in remote Patagonia, and it prompted us to do a bit of research into its history. Here is a snippet of Wikipedia's article on Y Wladfa (Welsh-Argentines):

First settlers 1865
The idea of a Welsh colony in South America was put forward by Professor Michael D. Jones, a nationalist non-conformist preacher based in Bala who had called for a new "little Wales beyond Wales". He spent some years in the United States, where he observed that Welsh immigrants assimilated very quickly compared with other peoples and often lost much of their Welsh identity. He proposed setting up a Welsh-speaking colony away from the influence of English. He recruited settlers and provided financing. Australia, New Zealand and even Palestine were considered, but Patagonia was chosen for its isolation and the Argentines' apparently generous offer of 100 square miles (260 km²) of land along the Chubut River in exchange for settling the still-unconquered land of Patagonia for Argentina.

Click here for the full article.


Fruitcake, which was unfortunately quite pricey so we didn't try any.

Camwy Secondary School

Argentina, November 12th, 2009

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