It might surprise you to know that there are around 5,000 native Welsh speakers in Argentina. In fact, in the Chubut Province in Argentinian Patagonia it is argued that many of the old Welsh traditions and customs have been better preserved than in Wales itself. Welsh-sounding place names, distinctive chapels dotted on the landscape and the chance to enjoy a Welsh tea are all a legacy of the brave and ultimately successful voyage undertaken by a group of pioneers who arrived in South America back in 1865.
A group of Welsh nationalists had long been calling for the formation of a new Welsh community that could preserve the national culture beyond the reach of the diluting English influence. Argentina was chosen as the most suitable place to settle, mainly because of a generous offer made by the Argentinian state who were keen to populate some of the previous uncolonised southern lands.
Life for the new arrivals was tough, with the promises made to them about the fertility of the land proving to be far from accurate. Despite the fact that the small band of early settlers did not include more than a handful of farmers, they managed to grow crops on the desert-like soil and even created Argentina’s first irrigation system. Little by little the community prospered and expanded, with new towns such as Trelew and Rawson being developed. Preserving the Welsh language and spiritual as well as cultural practices was of paramount importance to the founding fathers of the Welsh Patagonian community.
Visiting Patagonia today you will find pockets of Welsh speakers centred around Gaiman, Rawson, Trelew and Puerto Madryn. You will probably also notice many features in the buildings and agricultural landscape that speak more of rural Wales than they do of Argentina. For a small but determined group of locals, that’s just the way they want to keep things.
With a certain linguistic irony (or an terrible link), this part of Argentina is also a popular place for those who come to spot whales. The coast around the Peninsula Valdes offers some of the world’s best whale watching opportunities between June and December, when around 1,500 Southern Right Whales are thought to be in the area. Some of these come very close to the shore as they pass through the narrow but deep channel to enter Nuevo Golfo Bay. So close in fact, that some of our lodges offer whale-watching from the comfort of their own properties!
As well as spotting whales you can also enjoy the company of tens of thousands of Magellan penguins who make the area their home from September through to February. It is around the same time that Elephant Seals also make their way onto land along the same coastline.
The Peninsula Valdes and the nearby inland area is a wild, untamed part of South America as the early Welsh pioneers discovered. But for those modern day visitors who come in search of either history, culture or nature at its most spectacular, the area offer rich pickings wherever your interests lie.
For more about visiting Patagonia take a look at our information about holidays in Argentina.