Visit of First Minister of Wales:
Welsh Settlement in Patagonia: 150th Anniversary Celebrations -
The First Minister of Wales, the Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones AM, visited the Argentine Province of Chubut on 26 to 30 July to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Welsh settlement in Patagonia. His visit included trips to several towns established by the early Welsh settlers, such as Trelew, Gaiman and Trevelyn, but the main event was staged in Puerto Madryn with a re-enactment of the arrival of the ‘Mimosa’ from Liverpool on 28 July 1865.
The First Minister was escorted by the Argentine Governor of Chubut Province, Sr. Martin Buzzi, and accompanied throughout by the British Ambassador to Argentina, Dr John Freeman. The Argentine President, Cristina de Kirchner, did not attend as she was reportedly unwell but she was represented by her Chef de Cabinet, Sr. Anibal Fernandez. As a consequence, the visit did not have as high a profile as originally envisaged. There was little press coverage in the Argentine national papers although the visit did feature in the provincial press.
Initial intimations that the Argentine Government might try to make political capital out of the visit to Argentina to press their sovereignty claim to the Falkland Islands did not materialise, although the Argentine Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, did express the hope that ‘this year, which marks the 150th anniversary of Welsh settlement [in Argentina] will also be a year in which [Argentina] and the United Kingdom resume friendly and meaningful dialogue’ about the Falkland Islands. The Argentine use of the word ‘dialogue’ in this context means discussion of the transfer of sovereignty over the Falkland Islands to Argentina.
The main purpose of the First Minister’s visit was to strengthen the cultural links between Wales and the Welsh community in Argentina. The Welsh Government has, for example, supported Welsh language training in Chubut since 1997 and Carwyn Jones undertook to see whether project funding for this might be increased with the help of the British Council. Children from one of the two bilingual schools in Chubut, Ysgol yr Hendre, attended the International Eisteddfod in Wales and press reports suggest that there will be a return visit by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Welsh Youth Choir.
The First Minister was well aware of the potential political sensitivities of his visit and hoped to reassure Islanders in a FIRS radio interview that he would not transgress into matters of foreign policy, which is not a matter devolved to the Welsh Government.