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Written Statement - First Minister's Visit to Patagonia

Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales

I visited Argentina from 26 – 29 July to participate in some of the of 150th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Welsh settlers in Patagonia.  Some events were hosted by the Government of Chubut and others were hosted by the local Welsh communities.  

My official programme started-off with a bi-lateral meeting with the Governor of Chubut, Martin Buzzi during which we discussed the long-standing relationship between Wales and Chubut and how the Welsh community is valued by the Government in the Province.  The meeting was followed by a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Chubut and the Welsh National Orchestra which will be performing several concerts and delivering community work-shops in Patagonia later in the year.

The Government of Chubut delivered a wonderful concert which was a perfect tribute to the establishment of the Welsh colony 150 years ago.

The influence of the Welsh could be seen everywhere I visited in Rawson, Trelew, Gaiman, Esquel and Trevelin and the early Welsh settlers have left a long-standing legacy that has enabled the Welsh communities to live on and flourish.  I visited four schools, three of which were bilingual Welsh Spanish schools, three museums and a historical farm (for which an entire town turned out in welcome). I laid a wreath at the tomb of Lewis Jones (founder of Trelew) and was treated to a Welsh Tea at Seion Chapel in Bryn Gwyn.  I also attended the re-enactment of the original landing at Puerto Madryn, concerts in Trelew and Gaiman and spent two hours with the Andean Welsh communities in Western Chubut.  It was wonderful to hear Welsh being widely spoken and to see first-hand the continuation of everyday Welsh cultural life in Argentina which in part is down to the success of the Welsh Language project funded by the Welsh Government and managed by the British Council.

I was warmly welcomed at every event and the strong links between Wales and the Welsh communities in Patagonia were firmly cemented during my visit. I concluded my official programme by hosting a reception to thank the Welsh of Chubut for their hospitality and continued commitment to keeping the Welsh culture alive for future generations.

I know that many other visits are planned over the coming months with lots of events taking place throughout the year.  Based on my experiences, I am sure that everyone will be warmly welcomed and that the planned activities will be very well received. I am delighted that there will be a long-standing legacy for the Welsh community after the celebrations have concluded.

The Welsh Communities in Patagonia had appealed to the Argentine authorities not to politicise the celebrations during this election year and, together with the British Ambassador who accompanied me throughout this visit, we were pleased that this request was respected.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns I would be happy to do so.