Visit to Patagonia

I have recently returned from a visit to Patagonia where I was invited to take part in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Welsh settlement ‘Y Wladfa ’in Patagonia. It was an incredible opportunity to visit Argentina, to meet with the Welsh-speaking community in Chubut and to visit this unique part of Welsh heritage. As part of my visit, I took part in a number of engagements across Patagonia and also attended official events taking place in Puerto Madryn which were organised by the Chubut Government to mark the anniversary.

We currently have well-established links with the Welsh community in Patagonia and I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit a number of schools. Last year the Welsh Government gave £65,000 to the Welsh Language Project in Chubut. Thirty years ago people said Patagonia, great — but the language was going to die there. Nothing could be done to save it. And yet we see what is being done here means that the language will be transferred now to new generations. During my trip, I was delighted to visit Gaiman Kindergarten and Ysgol Yr Hendre in Trelew. I also visited Colegio Camwy.

Visiting a number of schools, I saw for myself the great work that has been done at the schools and the importance of ensuring that the Welsh Language and culture can continue to develop and grow. I really enjoyed meeting the school children and at Ysgol yr Hendre, I could not resist joining in with their rendition of Sosban Fach. It transported me back to the rugby pitch cheering on our Wales.

As part of my trip, I took part in a range of celebrations including meeting with the Governor of Chubut where we discussed the historic and cultural ties between Wales and Patagonia, I attended a special ceremony at Puerto Madryn to celebrate the ‘desembarque’ and enjoyed a Welsh brew at Seion Chapel in Gaiman, Chubut. It is really interesting to see how the Welsh culture has thrived; in particular to see the various Welsh chapels built by the pioneers themselves still standing today. Also, many of the towns in this part of Patagonia like Puerto Madryn, Trelew and Trevelin have all retained their distinct names that the Welsh inhabitants gave them.

Also, as part of my trip, I was extremely honoured to have been asked to lay a wreath at the tomb of Lewis Jones, the Welsh founder of Trelew. It’s incredible to think that after all these years, Welsh is still spoken in South America. He would have been proud.