2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the settlement. Numerous celebrations took place during 2015. It also created a lasting legacy for years to come.
In 1865 the Mimosa, a clipper ship, carried the first Welsh emigrants to South America. Over 150 people from various parts of Wales sailed on the ship to settle in the Chubut Valley, in Southern Argentina. They called the settlement ‘Y Wladfa’, the Colony. Over the fifty years that followed, hundreds of Welsh people emigrated there creating thriving Welsh communities in which the Welsh language was prominent.
Today the Welsh language continues to thrive. Each year three Language Development Officers from Wales develop the language in the Welsh-speaking communities in Patagonia through formal teaching and informal social activities.
There was a huge amount of enthusiasm in Wales to recognise and support the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settling in Patagonia.
The Welsh Government, British Council and the Wales Argentina Society and many other partners came together to co-ordinate the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Y Wladfa in Wales, across the UK and in Patagonia. These included:
The First Minister of Wales, the Rt Hon. Carwyn Jones, visiting Chubut to experience first hand the re-enactment of that day one hundred and fifty years ago
A number of exhibitions took place in Wales. People saw photographs, manuscripts and first-hand accounts of the first settlers.
BBC National Orchestra of Wales tour of South America, including performances by Welsh harpist Catrin Finch. A memorandum of understanding between the Chubut Government and the National Orchestra of Wales was signed;
in October, a week-long residency by the Orchestra offered local communities the opportunity to make music alongside professional musicians.
This culminated with two gala concerts performed in a specially converted wool warehouse. Ty Cerdd National Youth Choir of Wales had a very successful tour of Patagonia and also performed with the National Orchestra of Wales.
The First Minister also participated in events hosted by local communities and the Government of Chubut. The First Minister was honoured to lay a wreath at the tomb of Lewis Jones, one of the founders of Y Wladfa.
A lasting legacy
Patagonia 150 was more than a celebration – the 150 partnership left a long-standing legacy for the Welsh community after the celebrations had ended.
The Patagonia 150+ resources developed by ATEBOL, provide a vibrant and contemporary resource which will educate learners about the history, traditions and culture in Wladfa and Wales for years to come.
Predio Ferial used to be an old wool warehouse on the outskirts of Trelew but today it’s a concert hall. The wool warehouse was transformed especially for Patagonia 150 to host two gala concerts by BBC National Orchestra of Wales concerts, and will now host the town’s annual Eisteddfod. The orchestra was the driving force behind the warehouse regeneration which now leaves a lasting legacy for music and the arts in the region.
People’s Collection Wales, the bilingual website dedicated to Welsh heritage and culture, asked people to share their photographs, letters and other documents to record the history and development of the Welsh settlement and the impact on the settlers’ families and friends in Wales. The documentation collected over the past year has created an invaluable historical record.
The National Library of Wales ran digital training for the communities in Patagonia, to help them preserve their cultural heritage.