Argentina // Patagonia //

Chubut Province: the Welsh heartland

If you’re coming to Chubut Province looking for Argentina’s answer to Snowdonia, think again. Not only is there not a mountain in sight, but also the Welsh, like the Tehuelche before them, have been absorbed almost seamlessly into Argentina’s diverse cultural identity. Under the surface, though, there remain vestiges of their pioneering culture and a real pride in both the historical legacy – evident in the number of fine Welsh chapels dotted across the farmlands of the Lower Chubut Valley – and the current cultural connection that goes well beyond the touristy trappings.

Halting Welsh is still spoken by some of the third- or fourth-generation residents in the main towns of Trelew and Gaiman, even if it isn’t the language of common usage, and whereas it once seemed doomed to die out, the tongue now appears to be enjoying a limited renaissance. In municipal schools today, young students have the option to study the language of their forebears: a team of Welsh teachers works in Chubut, and cultural exchanges with Mam Cymru are thriving – two or three pupils are sent annually from Chubut to Welsh universities and numerous delegations from different associations ply across the Atlantic. It’s not all one way either: scholars have come from Wales to study the manuscripts left by pioneers and seek inspiration from what they pronounce to be the purity of the language that was preserved in Patagonia.

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