You may have heard about Argentina’s heavy waves of Italian and Spanish immigration, but did you know that there were other European immigrants who made the journey across the Atlantic, too? Though many different countries are represented in the Argentine immigration makeup, one of the most interesting cases is that of the Welsh settlers who arrived to Patagonia 150 years ago this month.
On July 28, 1865, 150 Welsh passengers arrived to the Atlantic coast of Argentina in search of a new home where they could raise their children according to their traditional values. Unlike most other European immigrants to Argentina who arrived to Buenos Aires, these Welsh settlers arrived to an uninhabited portion of Patagonia located 1,400 km south of Buenos Aires. Shortly thereafter, they founded the city of Puerto Madryn. Immediately noteworthy not only as the first group of Welsh in Patagonia, but also as the first European settlement in Patagonia, the colony quickly began to thrive, making use of the wide-open Patagonian lands.
Today, Puerto Madryn, along with the surrounding area, is still very much associated with its Welsh roots. Having been isolated from the majority of Argentina’s population, and much of its history, for many years, the Welsh settlers were able to keep their cultural traditions alive through each successive generation. And though today all the descendents of these settlers may have integrated into Argentine culture in respect to speaking Spanish, many residents of Puerto Madryn have sought to keep the Welsh language alive in their community by continuing to offer Welsh language education in local schools.
Apart from the Welsh language, Puerto Madryn is scattered with other aspects related to its heritage. Along with a number of Welsh tea houses that serve authentic Welsh tea and typical snacks from across the Atlantic, the town also contains a museum dedicated to the history of the Welsh in Patagonia. In addition, visitors often take the opportunity to visit a nearby estancia, many of which are still owned by the descendents of the original settlers.
While Puerto Madryn is largely associated with its Welsh founding, another unique feature that sets the area apart is its wildlife. Home to a large colony of Magellanic penguins and hosting a number of orca whales each year during mating season, Puerto Madryn is an intriguing destination for wildlife-lovers around the world. Visitors can take a boat to see the whales up close in the Valdes Peninsula and can walk among the penguins, observing their natural habitat, in the Punta Tombo penguin colony.
Its rich history as a Welsh settlement combined with its unique wildlife on display, Puerto Madryn is a destination like no other in Argentina. For those interested in exploring more of the history and wildlife of Puerto Madryn and the Patagonian Atlantic coast, Say Hueque Argentina Adventures is now offering the ‘Impressive Wildlife & Cultural Heritage of Patagonian Pioneers’ tour, a 7 day/6 night trip that takes passengers to all the main highlights of the area.
For more information about this tour or to find out about other tours that visit Puerto Madryn, contact Say Hueque!
Written by Will Collier