In July 1865, after two months at sea, 153 Welsh men, women and children who had fled Britain to escape cultural and religious oppression disembarked from their tea-clipper, the Mimosa, and took the first steps into what they believed was to be their Promised Land. Here they planned to emulate the Old Testament example of bringing forth gardens from the wilderness, but though the land around the Golfo Nuevo had the appearance of Israel, its parched harshness cannot have been of much comfort to those who had left the green valleys of Wales. Fired by Robert Fitz Roy’s descriptions of the Lower Chubut Valley, they explored south and, two months later, relocated – a piecemeal process during which some groups had, in the words of one of the leading settlers, Abraham Matthews, to live off “what they could hunt, foxes and birds of prey, creatures not permitted under Mosaic Law, but acceptable in the circumstances”.

The immigrants were mostly miners or small merchants from southeast Wales and had little farming experience. Doubts and insecurities spread, with some settlers petitioning the British to rescue them, but when all avenues of credit seemed closed, vital assistance came from the Argentine government by way of provisions and substantial monthly subsidies. And despite initial mistrust of the Tehuelche, the Welsh learned survival and hunting skills from their native neighbours, which proved invaluable when the settlers’ sheep died and the first three harvests failed. By the early 1870s, 44 settlers had abandoned the attempt, and sixteen had died, but optimists pointed to the fact that ten new settlers had since arrived, and 21 Welsh-Argentines had been born into the community. They decided to stick it out.

With increasing awareness of irrigation techniques, the pioneers began to coax their first proper yields from the Lower Chubut Valley, and recruitment trips to Wales and the US brought a much-needed influx of new settlers in 1874, the year in which Gaiman was founded. Yet the best indicator of the settlement’s progress was the international recognition received when samples of barley and wheat grown in Dolavon returned from major international expositions in Paris (1889) and the US (1892) with gold medals in their respective categories. The village’s flour mill, built in the 1880s, still works today.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Argentina features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

On the trail of Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia

On the trail of Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia

Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia has served as a bible for those travelling through South America since its publication 40 years ago. Four decades on, Stephen Kee…

08 Nov 2017 • Stephen Keeling insert_drive_file Article
Reaching new heights: what does it take to be a mountain guide?

Reaching new heights: what does it take to be a mountain guide?

For anyone who loves the outdoors, being a mountain guide might seem like the world’s coolest job – in both senses of the word. To find out what it’s rea…

08 Aug 2017 • Ros Walford local_activity Special feature
24 breaks for bookworms

24 breaks for bookworms

1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas In 1971, fuelled by a cornucopia of drugs, Hunter S. Thompson set off for Las Vegas on his “savage journey to the heart of …

02 Mar 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook