Reflection on the Scottish and Welsh Diaspora

Diasporic Communities have moved around the globe for centuries. The most pertinent examples would be the migration of a Scottish and a Welsh community to the region of Chubut in Patagonia. In search of a new life, the 150 Welsh people who set sail from Liverpool in 1865 on the Mimosa. The overriding reason for this migration was to preserve and not dilute the Welsh language, however despite all odds the Welsh community in Patagonia thrived and continue to grow to this day.

Both communities of Welsh and Scottish individuals of whom historically left the UK to create a better life for themselves and are scattered across the globe, having integrated successfully into new communities whilst continuing to maintain their cultural association with their home land, Scotland or Wales.

A famous historical event in both Welsh and Scottish History is the time when two communities, one from Caithness and one from North Wales, migrated to Patagonia with the intention of creating a better life for themselves. There must have been some resistance to these Scottish and Welsh “incomers” from the native Tehuelche Indians; however they did attempt to help the Welsh settle into the inhospitable Patagonian land.

When the 150 Welsh Immigrants set sail on the Mimosa for Patagonia in 1865, the intention of the Victorian Minister, Michael D Jones was to preserve the Welsh language through the isolation of the region Chubut, their intended destination. However this suggests a paradox in that preserving the Welsh language could potentially destroy the language and culture of the Chubut Indigenous community.

In fact, the Welsh language has only survived in this region because of the assimilation with the local language and customs that Michael D Jones detested so much.

Some 150+ years later, there is an ongoing effort to preserve of the Welsh language in Patagonia with the Welsh Language Project run by the British Council sending three Language Development Officers to Patagonia with the aim of developing and protecting the welsh language in the Chubut region. The number of people in this area learning Welsh is on the increase and in fact 1270 were taught Welsh in Patagonia during 2016, as described in the 2016 Annual Welsh Language Report for the Chubut region.

Today in Chubut it is suggested that 50,000 individuals can claim Welsh Ancestry and 5000 speak Welsh in a community of 550,000 people. So indeed, the original colony of 150, Y Wada have preserved existing Welsh traditions and started some Patagonia Welsh traditions too. The Eisteddfod del Chubut has been running since 1965 and a contingency of Welsh Patagonians also continue travel the 8000 miles to Wales for the Welsh National Eisteddfod.

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