Parliament in London is hosting a week-long historic photographic exhibition dedicated to the Welsh settlement in Argentina, entitled: “Y Wladfa: Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settlement in Argentina” which was officially inaugurated on Tuesday by Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, and David T.C Davies MP, chairman of the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee.
“Today there are around fifty thousand Welsh people and their descendants living in Argentina, in Patagonia and other parts of the country” the Ambassador recalled in her inauguration speech.
“They have managed to preserve their way of life, customs, language and cultural identity. The Welsh settlers did not set out to conquer, but to share; they did not seek to seize the land, but rather to cultivate it and make it prosper. They sought to preserve their values, not impose them. They found, in Argentina, a land that could live up to their dreams”, stated the Ambassador.
“The Welsh settlers in Argentina are an excellent example of the consideration, friendship and opportunities that our country offers people of British descent”, Castro declared to a packed audience at Westminster.
“I feel proud to represent a country that welcomed and gave a homeland to the Welsh and their values, a country which has always opened its doors to people of all nationalities and cultures, and which continues to do so today, when we pay tribute to those Welsh dreamers and their descendents. We have photographed them in their land, the Argentine Patagonia. We celebrate their lives and traditions”, the Argentine diplomat added speaking to an audience including Lords and MP’s, Welsh cultural figures, journalists, diplomats and members of both communities.
“We hope that this year, which marks the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settlement, will also be a year in which Argentina and the United Kingdom resume friendly and meaningful dialogue”, the Ambassador concluded.
The chairman of the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, David T.C Davies MP underlined the close links between Argentina and Wales and the strength of Welsh culture and language in Patagonia.
“Today’s service of thanksgiving and photographic exhibition mark a very special anniversary for Wales and Argentina. The Welsh settlement in Patagonia is not a relic from some bygone age, but a real, living community. When the Welsh Affairs Committee visited Patagonia in March 2014, we were impressed by the strength of the Welsh culture and language and the resilience of the people working hard to keep their traditions alive. I’m very pleased to have been able to bring these celebrations of a shared heritage to Parliament, and hope that we will have cause to celebrate many future anniversaries”.
Previous to the opening a Thanksgiving service was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary, including a children’s’ choir from the London Welsh School which sang in Spanish in honour of Argentina.
The showcase comprises 60 photographs by prestigious Argentine photographer Marcos Zimmermann (*), who travelled especially to the Welsh communities in Patagonia in order to carry out the project outlined by the Embassy and backed by the government of Chubut Province.
Sorted into various categories - Landscapes, Everyday life, Symbols and Portraits - the photographs are all included in a catalogue designed and produced by the Argentine Embassy, which was handed out to guests.
Throughout 2015, the excellent relations between Argentina and Wales are being further strengthened through a range of activities held on both sides of the Atlantic to celebrate the common heritage between the two peoples. On 28 July the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, is set to travel to the Province of Chubut alongside Alicia Castro to participate in the culmination of the 150th anniversary celebrations.
(*) Marcos Zimmermann (1950), photographer, studied film at the Experimental Center of the National Film Institute of Buenos Aires. His work can be found in the collections of Argentina’s National Fine Arts Museum, Buenos Aires Modern Art Museum, the Collections of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts and the Kyushu Sangyo Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and the French National Library.