Sometimes you have a picture in your mind of what a place will be like, well Patagonia was one of those places for me, and it was quite different than I expected. We pulled into Puerto Madryn, Argentina at 7 am as the sun was rising. It was a warm & beautiful day.
At 8am we headed for a small Welsh Village about an hour away from Puerto Madryn, called Gaiman. Puerto Madryn was settled by 150 Welsh immigrants in 1865, who were escaping poverty in Wales and looking for a better life. This wave of immigration was followed in the early 20th century by a large settlement of Basque immigrants. This struck a cord with me as I remembered my Grandfather Louis Barrenechea’s telling me his sister Maria had immigrated to Argentina in the 1920’s. I wondered if she was one of those who settled in Puerto Madryn?
Raising sheep is one of the major products of the region, mainly done by Basque ranchers. As we drove through the countryside, I had to adjust my idea of what I thought Patagonia would be like. I was expecting, mountains, rivers and lots of trees. I know parts of Patagonia do look like that, but not this part. It was flat, arid and had no trees. It kind of reminded us of Northern Nevada.
We arrived in Gaiman, and drove through the small village stopping at a Welsh tea house for traditional tea, bread & cakes. It was great! We were serenaded by a Welsh choir singing tradition Welsh cultural songs and hymns. As a community they have worked very hard to preserve the Welsh culture and language in Patagonia. Most of these descendants of the original Welsh settlers speak Welsh, English and Spanish. They have done a pretty good job preserving their culture as It felt like a little bit of Europe carved out of Argentina.
We have more of Patagonia to see in the days ahead. I am excited to see what it will be like as I hold my expectations with an open hand.