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June-July 2023 Issue: The Lede...

Patagonia's Cwm Hyfryd

How two Montana boys followed in the footsteps of Welsh settlers.

Fly Fisherman June-July 2023 Issue
Lago Martillo is a spot-and-stalk fishery with wide, shallow flats and a white limestone bottom where it's easy to spot large golden-yellow browns and red-striped rainbows prowling for damselflies and dragonflies. (Isaias Miciu Nicolaevici photo)

In 1862, Welsh nationalist Michael D. Jones met in Buenos Aires with Argentina’s Interior Minster and proposed the idea of a new “little Wales beyond Wales” where Welsh language and culture would be free from foreign domination. The Argentina government gave him 100 square miles of land in the Chubut River Valley in Eastern Patagonia, and in 1865 the first 153 Welsh settlers arrived aboard the clipper Mimosa. Few of them were farmers, and although they had been told the region was similar to lowland Wales, the land near the Atlantic ocean was actually an arid semi-desert that provided poor crops and lacked water.

In a scene that seemed to repeat itself across the Americas, the native Tehuelche people helped many of the Welsh settlers avoid starvation. In 1885, the struggling immigrants arranged an expedition to head west toward the Andes, and in November they reached a fertile gap in the mountains they named Cwm Hyfryd (Beautiful Valley). Here, there were giant trees for buildings, grassy steppes for cattle and sheep, fertile soil for crops, and an enormous amount of fresh water coming from the snow-covered peaks. They planted wheat, and the town of Trevelin (from Trefelin, Welsh for “mill town”) was established in 1891 when the first flour mill in Patagonia was built there. Today it is home to the only bilingual Welsh/Spanish school in the world, and is famous for its Welsh tea rooms, black cakes, fields of tulips . . . and for trout.

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