The Other Welsh Settlement in South America

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

Everyone knows know about the Welsh settlement in Patagoniain the 19th century but details have now emerged of an earlier attempt to forma Welsh colony, i.e. “Y Wladfa”, in South America, this time in Brazil.

The attempt to create a “little Wales” occurred in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in 1852, about 13 years before thePatagonian venture got underway. “Nova Cambria” (New Wales) was founded by Thomas Benbow Phillips from Tregaron who wanted to set up a community where Welsh languageand culture could flourish.

The Brazilian settlement was on a smaller scale than thesubsequent Patagonian scheme and seems to have attracted around 100 at most,mainly from northern Monmouthshire. They were insignificant compared with otherimmigrant groups such as Germans and Italians.

Unlike the later emigrants to Patagonia who were told they would be officially recognized as a separate Argentinean province if they reached a population of 20,000, the settlers to Brazil were given no special treatment. Although they could speak Welsh and worship in their chapels, they were subject to Brazilian laws.

Things started to unravel fairly quickly and by 1854 anumber of the settlers who had been miners back home found work elsewhere in southern Brazil´s fledgling coal mining industry.

After this, as Imogen Rhea Herrad says in her book “Beyondthe Pampas: In Search of Patagonia”:

“There was nothing to keep them in Nova Cambria, noheroically overcome hardship, no mad dream like the one of Y Wladfa. Once the first people had gone, more followed. The settlement unraveled until even Phillips and his family gave up and moved to the nearest town, Pelotas, to open a business there. They were still there ten years later when Michael D. Jones´s siren call lured them southto Patagonia. He wanted the seasoned pioneers to share their valuable experience with the raw settlers of Y Wlada. Phillips and his family seem not to have hesitated. They packed up and made their way south to the Chubut valley; a journey of some1900 miles, which these enterprising souls made by oxcart.”

Although Phillips´s own plan may not have amounted to much, his experience must have been of great use to the Patagonia venture so Nova Cambria cannot be said to have been a complete failure.

You can find out more about this little-known part of Welsh history at the following link:

https://www.peoplescollection.wales/collections/475593

The main sources for this article are the People´sCollection site, “Beyond the Pampas: In Search of Patagonia” by Imogen RheaHerrad, “A History of Wales” by John Davies and a BBC Wales report of October14, 2015

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-34526778.

Thanks to our Latin American correspondent John Fitzpatrickbased in Brazilfor compiling this article:

BERNARD MOFFATT

Issued by: The Celtic News

18/10/15

THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE

The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range ofpolitical, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rightsabuse, military activity and socio-economic issues

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