An Andean outpost of Welsh culture.

Chroesawa 'ch at Trevelin

43.25 S. Lat. / 71.5 E. Long. Pop: 6,500 elev: 2,400’

Fi m yn eistedd mewn chyfuniad gym a auditorium yn dilyn 'r blwyddiad Trevelin Eisteddfod yn gwrando ar baledau a cathlau bynciedig i mewn Cymraeg at boblogi ag chyfenwau 'n gyfryw fel Jones, Underwood, Evens, Griffiths, Tomos a Williams. 'n gynt a bnawn Borais an da blawd am Restaurant Patagonia Celta a 'n ddiweddarach de scones, jam a cacennau am Nain Maggie De d].

So sorry! I'm getting confused as to where I am!

I’m sitting in the combination gym and auditorium of the Municipal center attending the annual Trevelin Eisteddfod listening to ballads and hymns sung in Welsh by people with surnames such as Jones, Underwood, Evens, Griffiths, Thomas and Williams. Earlier that afternoon I ate an outstanding lunch at Restaurant Patagonia Celta and later, tea, scones, jam and cakes at Nain Maggie Tea House.

I have not flown off to the British Isles. I’m still in Argentina in a bilingual enclave founded in the late 19th century by Welsh immigrants. The wave of immigrants that led to Trevelin in the south-central Andes, also founded Esquel and the eastern Chebut Province towns of Trelew, Puerto Madryn, Gaiman and Dolovan.

(Meirion Ghriffiths)

I've not needed a jacket during the day time in either Los Antiquos or Trevelin, even though it's autumn in the southern latitudes at 2,400 feet elevation. Trevelin’s in the microclimates that run along the valleys of the convoluted Andes.

I can see why the Welsh choose this site. Green mountains encircle a fertile valley that cradles the village and, in its early history, supported a thriving agricultural and cattle economy. The Welsh were the original gauchos of Patagonia. The name Trevelin is Welsh for mill town. John Evens, the town's founder, established a water powered flour mill in the 1880's. A reconstruction is today the Cartref'Taid Museum. The much larger 1922 Molino Andes flour mill is the informative Museo Regional Molino Viejo. Fruit farming and raising horses still remain, but the large scale farming economy has given way to summer tourism, especially trekking and fishing in nearby Parque Nacional Los Alerces and commuting to the much larger, Welsh founded commercial city of Esquil.

Trevelin is a pretty town and very proud of its Welsh heritage. It is comfortable with an increasing number of upscale housing. Many streets remain unpaved, yet what I have observed throughout Argentina is new street construction in paving stones, which cost much more to build but last for many years!

The original settlers built log cabins with Welsh touches which evolved into brick structures with lacy wooden roof decoration. That architecture remains with modern log and brick constructions. Hostel Casaverde is a prime example.

(Hostel Casaverde)

The 30th of April is the anniversary of the town’s decision in 1902 to join Argentina, rather than Chile. Interestingly, May Day is a national holiday, and Trevelin's Welsh festival - the Eisteddfod - a three day competition involving children, teenagers, adults, entire families and choirs in categories ranging from singing traditional Welsh ballads, Welsh and Argentine folk dancing, reciting poetry in Welsh and instrumental music. Eisteddfods are a centuries-old tradition in Wales.

(new generation Welsh/Argentine - a Jones)

Meirion Ghriffiths, a 20-year-old-young man from Trelew, looks classically Mediterranean (light olive complexion, dark hair) yet he's 75% Welsh. His mother is a first generation Welsh immigrant, and his father is 4th generation, (his father's family having first settled in Brazil before moving to the Welsh community at Esquil).

Meirion’s voice proves the Welsh have a music gene. Welsh is his first language. He attended the bilingual Welsh/Spanish school in Gaiman, plays rugby and, like all Welsh, his entire family sings. (Meirion won 2nd and 3rd place in his competitions in the adult group - the most competitive with ages from 18 - 65). He was able to converse in perfect Welsh with the four other hostel guests from Wales, as well as effortlessly in Spanish and decent English.

This is the Argentina I'm seeking and discovering - an Argentine identity that preserves and celebrates its immigrant heritage.

You can locate Trevelin by viewing a map of Chubut province at: maps of Argentine provinces