Welsh reunion at Casablanca, Chubut in 1921.
Nestled in the Chubut River Valley between harsh, barren Patagonian plateaus lies the 114-year-old Welsh community of Gaiman.
The community was founded in August 1874 when 84 settlers arrived from Wales and tile United States to press onwards with the colonization plant launched nine years earlier when Lewis Jones led the first wave of 153 colonists who set out from Liverpool aboard the sailing ship Mimosa.
Seeking to free themselves of English domination, with its despotic land-lease system and tyrannical yoke that restricted their culture and religion, four waves of immigrant families numbering nearly 3,000 colonists - the last in 1911, braved the Patagonian hardships. There, buoyed by their communal traditions, they wrote an indelible chapter in the staking of the Argentine nation.
The parched lands grudgingly yielded meagre crops sown among the desert stone. Yet the immigrants persevered, steeled by willpower and faith.
Then, seeing the floodwaters of November 1867 reach as high as the wheat, Rachel Jones, wife of Aaron Jenkins - both from Mountain Ash - suggested digging irrigation canals. This signalled the beginning of agricultural plenty along the banks of the Chubut, Chupat (meaning transparent) was the Tehuelche Indian name of the river, describing its Andean source. The Welsh colonists called it Camwy (sinuous) for the winding course it followed leading to its mouth.
Gaiman, unlike other Welsh settlements in the province of Chubut - Trelew (Lewis Town), Trevelin (Town of the Mill), Bryn Gwyn (White Hill), Dolavon (River Meadows) -- maintained its Indian name, meaning Rock Point or Needle Rock.
Seventeen kilometres inland from Rawson, Gaiman was the first municipality in the Patagonia. Minutes from the meetings of its first elected Town Council, which assumed office on August 14, 1885, are recorded in Welsh and Spanish.
Today Gaiman's nearly 5,000 inhabitants - 2,700 in the town and 2,300 in the outlying farms - remain steeped in Welsh tradition alongside descendants of Italian. Spanish and Arab immigrants. Their names read like a Welsh telephone book: Jones, Thomas, Williams, Griffiths, Roberts.
They grow alfalfa, potatoes and a few vegetables, breed cattle in the valley
and sheep an the plateaus, man the machines at the local seaweed plant, commute (or migrate) to industrial jobs in Trelew or to public administration and service jobs in the capital Rawson.
Upon arriving, visitors quickly realize they have stepped into a unique land of an unforgettable people.
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