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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Wood

…..when everything was Welsh!

One of Welsh Patagonia’s most popular tours is the one that follows the route taken by explorers, Fontana’s Riflemen, who struck out from Gaiman in October of 1885. After 6 weeks on the road, they came upon their “Beautiful Valley” (“Cwm Hyfryd”) in the Andes and, as they say, the rest is history.

This all happened because in October the previous year, the Argentine Government in Buenos Aires declared that an enormous area, between the 42nd and 46th parallels, should become an official territory of the Republic. This recognition was entirely due to the Welsh settling an area that had only been occupied previously by nomadic Indians. The territory was to be named Chubut, after the river that flowed across the entire region, and its area, at 225,000 square kilometres, was more than ten times the size of Wales. Sadly, for the Welsh, as it subsequently turned out, membership of this ‘club’ brought with it rules, regulations, jobsworths, pettifoggers, bureaucrats and jacks-in-office, none of whom spoke Welsh nor had any idea of Welsh culture. One of the regulations laid down was how townships should be organised and administered and so, dutifully, the Welsh organised an election for the Municipality of Gaiman that would have authority over the whole of the Territory. Of the 175 men entitled to vote, only two weren’t Welsh, and one of those two was German! The accompanying photographs list the 85 men registered in Gaiman and the names of their houses and farms.

Soon after the election, the Welsh persuaded the recently appointed Governor of the Territory, Luis Jorge Fontana, to mount an expedition of 30 men, all equipped with Remington rifles, to explore the newly established Territory.

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