The Welsh Colony

The only natural community of Welsh speakers outside of Wales is a small colony in Patagonia (in the Chubut province of Argentina, South America).  Y Wladfa, the Welsh Colony in Patagonia, was established in 1865, when 153 patriots emigrated there to set up a Welsh state under the blessing of the Argentine government, anxious to control a vast unpopulated area in which it was in dispute with the government of Chile.  It remains the only example of non-violent colonisation of the American continent.

Disillusioned with the state of Welsh religion and society in the 19th century, Michael D Jones of Bala was the force behind the repatriation. Highly critical of the Tory landowners who, in his opinion, treated the Welsh people like serfs, he saw little use in emigrating to the USA or Australia to start afresh as the Welsh language would only be diluted. He therefore searched for a place where Welsh people could follow their own culture without the influence of others, and was given favourable reviews of the Chubut Valley in Patagonia, a sparsely populated region of Argentina.

So, in 1865 the Mimosa set sail from Liverpool with 153 on board, bound for Patagonia and some years of great hardship. For though there were four ministers amongst the pilgrims, there were only two farmers with the necessary experience to farm the land and therefore sustain the colony. Despite these hardships, the colony did flourish and kept its Welsh character until the end of World War II, and Welsh is still spoken in the region today.

Michael Jones did not visit Patagonia himself, but stayed in Wales to raise money for those abroad and to educate a new generation in the merits of Welsh patriotism, including David Lloyd George.

Today, the community in Chubut province estimates about 1,500 of its people still speak Welsh, as well as Spanish.  In 2015, the Wales-Argentina Society will be celebrating 150 years os Y Wladfa.