Gaiman: a bit of Wales in Argentina

IMG_6063Here’s something unusual in Patagonia close to Puerto Madryn: Gaiman is a small town with the largest Welsh community outside of the UK.

In the nineteenth century, Welsh communities in the UK were experiencing attempts to curtail the use of their language, and so they set sail for Argentina. At the time Argentina was a very welcoming country for immigrants who were keen to work on the land and create new communities.

These Welsh settlers founded Puerto Madryn along with three other towns in the area, including the town of Gaiman, which has now become a little centre of Welsh culture, here in the middle of Patagonia. The local primary school has introduced Welsh as its second language, and there is a constant demand for Welsh teachers to go and work there.

You can easily see the town in a day or even half a day. You can get a bus there from the main bus station in Puerto Madryn, or sometimes it is tagged onto the end of tours going to the penguin sanctuary.

IMG_6059On the day I went even the weather had come out as Welsh and there was an annoying drizzle the whole day.

Wales is always a place with strange connotations. So many English people will tell you horror stories about childhood holidays in Wales, normally in a caravan owned by an aunt, where it was freezing cold and rained the whole time and there was no telly and just a pack of cards to protect you from having to talk to your family.

IMG_6057One thing Gaiman is famous for is Welsh tea houses. You can go in and drink tea served in a pot with a knitted tea cosy, set out with ham sandwiches (complete with the crusts cut off) and a huge selection of cakes brought to your table.

IMG_6060The teahouse I visited was the most famous of them all, having been visited by Princess Diana shortly before her death.  La Lady Dee is well known in Argentina; whether they love her or hate her they normally have an opinion.

‘She got photographed with the cakes, but she didn’t eat them because she was anorexic’ somebody told me. ‘She’s the princess of Wales and yet she’s not Welsh, she’s English’ somebody else told me, completely baffled by the whole British Royal traditions.

IMG_6062

This spread cost around £11/US$15 per person. I misunderstood the waitress and I thought it was going to be like teahouses I visited as a child with my mother, where you pay for what you’ve eaten. Not a very hygienic practice obviously, because children tended to handle cakes that were then taken away and given to somebody else (not me obviously; my mother would have chopped off my hand if I’d picked up cake and then not eaten it).

 

4 replies »

  1. Hi Sarah
    Thank you so much for clearing up why the Welsh went all that way and took the teapot with them. I do like a nice Afternoon Tea and your mother, like mine, would have said I have paid for it so we will eat it, regardless if I wanted to or not! I wonder what Lady Di’s mum told her? Not the same I suspect. It does look rather nice there but unfortunately I have always struggled with the Welsh language …. it is all those llllls – safe travels my friend xx

  2. You certainly do provide the most interesting details of a country. I’ve heard many speak on the marvellous Patagonia but have NEVER heard about Madryn or the Welsh history. THANK YOU! You truly are Sarah the explorer!

    • Yes well I have a little purple backpack now just like Dora 🙂
      There’s a German enclave somewhere in Patagonia and probably others too. Interesting how they form

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