History of the Welsh Colony in Patagonia

Y Wladfa, the Welsh Colony in Patagonia, was established in 1865, when over 150 people from various parts of Wales sailed on the Mimosa to settle in the Chubut Valley, in Southern Argentina. Over the following fifty years, hundreds of Welsh people emigrated there, establishing towns such as Porth Madryn in the New Bay; Rawson, Gaiman, Trelew and Dolavon in the valley; and Trevelin in Cwm Hyfryd. Many of their descendants also live in Esquel, at the foot of the Andes; in Comodoro Rivadavia (the largest town in the province); in Colonia Sarmiento - and many other provinces throughout Argentina. They created thriving Welsh communities, in which the Welsh language was prominent; in cooperation with the Argentine Government, and in peaceful co-existence with the native population - the only example of non-violent colonisation in the history of the American continent.

Today, the population of Trelew, the largest town in Dyffryn Camwy, is more than 120,000, and that of the province of Chubut around 600,000. Only a small proportion of these are of purely Welsh origin, but it is estimated that at least a third of the population have some Welsh blood in their veins - and there remains a strong sense of having Welsh roots in the area. A Welsh-Spanish bilingual school was established recently in Trelew and there are Welsh nursery schools also in Gaiman and Esquel; and Eisteddfod y Wladfa, which is held every October, and the youth Eisteddfod every September, are stronger than ever. Also many smaller eisteddfodau are held in Dyffryn Camwy, Porth Madryn and the Andes.

The Government of Wales, with the support of the British Council, Cardiff University and Cymdeithas Cymru-Ariannin (the Wales-Argentine Society), sponsor the Welsh Language Project in Chubut, sending teachers to teach Welsh and to train the local tutors. Many young people from Y Wladfa visit Wales every year, and a delegation of Urdd Gobaith Cymru members visits Y Wladfa every autumn.

In 1965, during the centenary celebrations of the colonization, 73 Welsh 'pilgrims', including many national figures, visited Y Wladfa to commemorate the amazing history of the pioneers. There were three weeks of celebrations throughout Chubut Province and in Buenos Aires. A contingent of young people from Y Wladfa were invited to visit Wales for the three summer months, and were shown various aspects of cultural and industrial life in the land of their fathers. This reconnection with the people of Y Wladfa was instrumental in promoting more interest in both countries in the history and development of the settlement - and inspired the descendants of the 'Gwladfawyr' to take an interest in their roots. Since then, there has been a close link between Wales and Y Wladfa. Nowadays, there are tours - formal and informal - annually (at least!). Also, cultural links have been established, with choirs, parties, soloists etc. from one country visiting the other.

In 2015, Y Wladfa will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. Plans are underway to ensure that these celebrations are as successful as those of 1965.

The Society has published a Companion to the Welsh settlement in Patagonia

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