"Croeso" to Welsh Patagonia
by Aled Rees and Paul Goddard
Who knows what was going through the minds of 153 Welsh emigrants made up of men, women and children as they left Liverpool onboard the vessel known as the Mimosa.
The date was May 28th 1865, the destination Argentina in South America with the prospect of a new life in a new world. This “team” given to them by Michael D. Jones (a preacher from Bala) must have turned into a nightmare as they approached the barren coast of Patagonia.
The unwelcoming scene that greeted them coupled with the difficult journey they had endured across the Atlantic Ocean must have been hard to take in. It was their “New Wales” , their “promised land” that was to take them away from the hardships that they had faced back home in Wales during this period.
The Mimosa, a former tea-clipper ship was converted for her new job. The 153 passengers were crammed on-board with little comfort for the two month journey into the unknown. The Atlantic Ocean claimed its first victims as storms and ill-health, contributed to the deaths of five people.
On the positive side there were two births which must have brought some hope to the brave and adventurous souls on board. The passengers came ashore in the bay now overlooked by the city of Puerto Madryn, in the area now known as Punta Cuevas.
Over the next few years more Welsh settlements emerged in the area along the Chubut river valley to the south of the original one at Puerto Madryn.
People came and people left but slowly they made friends with the local Indians and started to build their “New Wales”. The Welsh settlers spread out into the heart of Patagonia and found their promised land building chapels, schools and of course Tea Houses.
Just ask anyone who has visited Patagonia and they will tell you the pleasure is discovering a place where you can see familiar names above the shops and homes, hear the Welsh language spoken and feel part of Welsh history.
Could the 153 people on-board the little Mimosa have imagined that in 2008, 143 years after she sailed 7,000 miles away from their homeland you can meet someone in the street and speak the language that they so desperately wanted to preserve?
It is hard to believe that they would, but they would have been proud to see what their legacy has left.