Welsh Migration to Argentina

In the nineteenth century to the twentieth century Welsh people migrated to Argentina and a colony was established, this colony was known as Y Wlfadfa Gymreig. They were particularly concentrated outside of the Buenos Ares region of Argentina in more remote areas south of the country in the Chubut Province in Patagonia. Naturally this area of Argentina was particularly sparse in terms of population as the land consisted of mainly desert and plains.

The idea of a Welsh colony developed in the early 1860s. In 1865 a passenger ship set sail from Liverpool, England carrying the Welsh colonists and they settled in the Chubut Valley area in Patagonia. Although the colony small in number contained many professions. These professions were; miners, bricklayers, labourers, maids, servants and tradesmen. Yet there was not enough farmers and knowledge to farm a land in an ecosystem that was partly arid.

After some early difficulties with food shortages and relations with the native population, the Welsh colonists soon overcame these difficulties and relations developed with the native Tehuelche tribe and the tribe in turn helped the Welsh colonists with food shortages. However the Welsh colony was also able to overcome difficulties themselves. They had successfully established an irrigation system off of the Chubut River in order to create fertile lands for wheat to grow. Success for the colony came further after a railway was constructed in 1886 and this two brought more Welsh immigrants to the Chubut Province as they helped to build the railway. As a result of the railway settlement expanded and new towns were created.

Later in the 1880s the Welsh colonists had proved they could cultivate the land they originally settled on. Many of them wanted to explore the remainder of Patagonia further, particularly the area that contained a part of the Andes Mountains. Permission was granted by the governor of Chubut and they soon found more fertile land for settlement, creating further towns.

However, the Welsh Migration to Argentina was not entirely permanent like many other migrations like the United States of America. There were a number of factors for this, firstly there were natural causes that prompted many the Welsh colonists to set sail back to Liverpool, with some finally settling in other countries like Canada. Severe flooding occurred at the two major settler towns, Rawson and Gaiman. Although not all the towns were flooded Rawson was completely submerged in water. Other factors layed primarily with the government of Argentina itself, particularly when they wanted the Welsh male colonists to undergo conscription when they were of age and military drills were to take place on a Sunday. Many resented this at it went against their religious beliefs and caused some disagreement between the Welsh colonists and the Argentine government. Lastly, another reason that highlighted the failing of this settlement was many emigrants arrived too late and as a result of this, they were unable to purchase land. Although it should not entirely be dismissed that all the Welsh Colonists left, as some of the population that lives in Patagonia are of Welsh descent and 10% of them speak a variant of the Welsh language, Patagonian Welsh.

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