The old country and Patagonia
Nurturing our relationship with the Pampas for the next fifty years
An introduction to a year of celebration by Eluned Haf, Head of Wales Arts International:
2015 will mark one hundred and fifty years since the Mimosa landed in Patagonia, Argentina with its troop of farmers, teachers, miners and craftsmen leaving behind linguistic and religious oppression and in search of a better life. Despite the rough ride, and the extreme barren land they encountered on the other side, the leaders Michael D Jones and Lewis Jones did succeed in establishing Colonia Galesa in terribly hard circumstances while also pawns in a geopolitical game.
The survival of the early Welsh settlers is an incredible story and an important part of an inseparable Welsh –Argentine heritage. The fact that the Welsh language is still to be heard in Patagonia one hundred and fifty years later, is a recognition of the respect to the early settlers and their impressive journey by generations of Argentinians of Welsh decadency. The cultural relationship between Wales and Argentina is as important today and especially so because of the more recent and turbulent British-Argentine history and geo-politics.
I had the privilege of living in Patagonia and helping the teachers in Coleg Camwy in the Gaiman to teach Welsh and English, an experience that changed my life. In addition to the history of the original Welsh people and the modern Welsh-speaking Argentinians, I was fascinated by the brutal history of Argentina, the Indians and the Desaparecidos during the dictatorship, and of course more recently by the Malvinas (Falklands) war.
In 1995 I lived for a while in the home of Tegai Roberts. It saddened me greatly to hear of her death on the eve of the celebrations. She leaves a huge gap and this is a great loss.
Over breakfast I was regularly amazed by her ancestors’ stories including the founder of the colony, Michael D Jones and Lewis Jones and of course one of the most important educators from that part of the world, Luned Morgan. Over lunch next door at the home of her sister, Luned Gonzales and family, I was engrossed in discussions about the history and politics of Argentina with her late husband Gonzales, a noted historian, inspiring company and father to Fabio, who also works in the Museum in Gaiman. Although the history of the early Welsh settlers and the survival of the language in Patagonia is unique to us, it forms part of a wider international story of migration that is familiar to cultures around the world and an endless source of inspiration for artistic response.
Tegai was a kind and patient woman and despite her frail appearance she was a fountain of knowledge about La Colonia Galesa. She would broadcast weekly with her sister Luned on Radio Chubut. Her mantra was to make the Welsh heritage and culture of Patagonia accessible to Argentinians and visitors alike. She inspired amongst others a number of prominent writers and artists from Wales, who will continue no doubt to celebrate the special relationship with Patagonia for years beyond the anniversary next year.
To celebrate Patagonia 150 and as a tribute to Tegai's life work there, Wales Arts International and Arts Council of Wales are proud to support projects in Wales and Patagonia which will continue the special relationship beyond the celebrations of 2015.
Contact Elen Roberts at Wales Arts International for more information.
Visit www.patagonia150.org/ for information on events taking place in Wales and Argentina in 2015.
Visit patagonia2015.com/enindex.html for further information.