In honour of another anniversary of the
Arrival of Welsh people to Patagonia, Argentina- 1865-2020
Written by Susana Roberts
Suddenly the air of this day has become warm while the wind presses the windows to abstract my glance and deep feelings crossing a great distance, to Wales, the land of brave people, those, who emigrated to the south of this country in its feat to find a land to live in Peace. A hundred and fifty years have passed and memory gets stronger in addition to admire these immigrants. A person like me was an internal immigrant in this country who understood the detachment as a renewed commitment to find a job that dignifies full of welfare called family, work, and fertility in all its dimensions, far from parents place. Place plenty of feelings, when they left the Port of Liverpool in May 1865 in the sailboat “Mimosa”.
They did not know what kind of land they would find, not a desert and arid land as it was, they had told them that Patagonian Indians were feared, the wildest of the land and they were able to eat people. After such a long journey across the sea, about six months, from the north to the south declining, cold, wind, tides … Today my thoughts return to shelter them in deep feelings that surround and suspended me in an intense tenderness full of thanks to their capacity of endure the inhospitable territory; southern place that after years of hardness become into a prosperous land beyond the 42nd parallel.
A concept that attracted my younger years to come here, my place, my early immigration, my love, my respect and admiration for everyone who had been worked in this south ground, for long years, a forgotten part of Argentine territory. They, the Welsh, came to a land where the only protection was the wind and some caverns on the rocks as home, less supplies, no places of hygiene, scarce food, and thirsty searching for fresh drinking water, it was a whole Odyssey whose stories takes my gaze toward the valley from their songs and cymae language coexist and is attached to my feelings, the first pangs of those first settlers, the first fort where men, women and children in their first met with natives, account the story:
“The first time the Indians went down to the valley coincided with two marriages that took place in the old fort, we had put our best clothes, when a man on horseback came galloping saying” “People, Indians are coming, ” I dare say that fear took over all hearts and there were many sighs and prayers to Lord. Shortly after he was given hand one by one to the natives, they were invited with white bread and barabrith (kind of fruit bread), but they had no idea what it was, and they waited for the welsh to eat first the bread, then they try it, they wanted to know what it is and they were told that’s “Bara” (bread), and bara was the first word that natives learned from Welsh people. Since then, Indians came and asked for more Bara, these natives were Francisco’s tribe and eventually became friends. Hence, the Indian and the Immigrant began using barter and friendship, both were in need, both were short of many things.
From the earliest times the arrival of Mimosa sailboat was celebrated with parties where Indians participated in foot races and other entertainment, also they brought gifts for a friend and they expected in return a gift of greater value. The historical narrative said that they could live peacefully so many years, that was vital because they felt defenceless, they were few of Welsh against thousands of natives who lived in the large extension of the plateau towards the mountains, north, south, east-west, some were very warlike, given to pillage, plus who’s living to the northeast. Continues the story saying, “It amazes me how little we had, they and us, both poor at that time.”
After this, Mr John Murray Thomas opened a trading house, he left the south, spent a time in Buenos Aires working for some British merchants , when he came back he gave so much encouragement to the colony, in many aspects , he was respected, was friendly, and he was considered a protector guide. To this place reached new people from Wales and elsewhere, the settlers would have their small businesses with little experience and they decided to join to form a Mercantile cooperative. Many dreams were fulfilled, and many names left footprints forever with their works: Berwyn, Parry, Jenkins, Owen, Evans, Jones, Matthews, Roberts, Williams, and many others who remain pinned to the history of this land forever, their seeds, their children and their children’s children continue to fill with love the memories from a neat culture of understanding and work.
I think all their struggles, joys and sorrows, ups and downs are present and dominate the wind teatime, it remain forever in the roots of the valley as example for their children and people like me who have come here in early ages and deeply appreciate the colonization in all aspects, still is alive to honor them with this force of the first “friendship” that the need gave them , between the cult and the ignorant , the fear and hunger, souls without differences, one thing united them: the spirit of survival to highlight that and these years, I told me once and again , here , in this place , for something horizons in Patagonia are very specials, they are so large, sunrises are different, inhabit so special loneliness and afternoons in the Valley are sticked to the river at its norias, its museums and stories that make to live the memory of hundred and fifty years and more each year, following to understand the roots in the pure connection to the land and the ability to face the life with a smile with love and recognition inside the every human achievement.
During late May, in Liverpool, UK, they celebrated the 150th anniversary of the departure of the Mimosa sailboat with a series of events. Between 29th and 31st May took place in the city, the Mimosa Festival, organized by the Association of the Welsh heritage of Merseyside. The festival included the presentation of a children’s choir of Trelew, lectures in English and Welsh on the history of the colony and concerts for children, among other cultural activities. On 28th May, a memorial was opened in the port city on the western edge of the River Mersey commemorating the departure of Mimosa. The monument is in Welsh and English, with the text:
“This plaque records the Liverpool Mimosa sailboat departure on May 28th, 1865, with 162 Welsh (remembering also the three that came before them). They arrived to Port Madryn, Patagonia, on July 28th, 1865 where they established a Welsh-speaking colony that survives to this day. Discovered on May 30th, 2015 by Mrs. Elan Jones. “
Photo: LEWIS JONES, FOUNDER OF TRELEW NEXT TO INDIAN TEHUELCHES, (This information corresponds to the file Manuscript of WALES-BANGOR CITY.)
Trelew-Patagonia Argentina, August 17th-2015