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God must have had \the map upside-down when he planned Trevelin. The tiny Andean town sits in the impossibly green valley of 16 October and is surrounded by the jagged snowy peaks of the Southern Andes. Elsewhere on the eastern side of the Andes, He gave Argentina stony and scrubby steppe and reserved the green bonus for Chile, obviously to make up for the fact, say the locals, that the area is inhabited by Chileans! This green and pleasant land, so comparable to their homeland, was obviously destined for the Welsh to discover. And discover it they did when, in 1885, a group of 30 riflemen under the command of Colonel Jorge Fontana, the Governor of the newly-formed province of Chubut, crested a ridge and were so taken aback by what they saw that they christened it, in Welsh of course, Cwm Hyfryd (The Beautiful Valley). And every 24 of November since, they re-enact the discovery by climbing from the town on horseback to the same spot where the valley was first espied, reciting some prayers of thanks, raising the Argentinean Flag and singing under its fluttering protection the national anthems of Argentina and Wales. And then, of course, back to the town for Welsh teas, asados, red wine and lashings of parades. This town of Williams’s, Jones’s, Roberts’s, Thomas’s and other apostrophe’d Celtic cognomens was created one year after the Rifleros first glimpsed its beauty and was settled by the same riflemen following a gift from Colonel Fontana of a league of land (6,250 acres) for each member of the original band. Its name (which means the Town of the Mill in Welsh) reflects the fact that it quickly became a major contributor to Argentina’s breadbasket and it was on the wealth provided by its rich wheat that the whole valley, which also includes the ski resort of Esquel, grew and prospered. It now exports its chestnut-sized cherries to Marks and Spencer in Britain, its tulips to Amsterdam and its Hereford cattle grow fat on the bounty of the land. The important relationship with Wales was further cemented this year by the visit of Dr John Hughes who, with Welsh blood coursing through his veins, came, unofficially, as a pilgrim and, officially, as the British Ambassador to Argentina. The mayors of Esquel and Trevelin really pushed the coracle out for him, starting with a concert from one of Wales’ leading male voice choirs, Côr Godre’r Aran, and finishing with a parade through the streets of Trevelin to honour the town and its founding fathers. Never was so much colour, machinery, horseflesh and pride on display as on this memorable day. Some sharp-eyed locals noticed that the Ambassador was nursing an injury as he limped to assist Chubut Governor Mario Das Neves in raising the celebratory flags. It transpired that he too had become a Riflero the day before when, astride a comatose and geriatric horse named Bayo, lent by Trevelin Mayor Dr Carlos Mantegna as a sympathetic gesture in view of Dr Hughes’ long years of equine inactivity, he navigated the twists and turns of the almost vertical canyon walls to reach the hallowed spot above the valley. The exigencies of the journey, the chafing of His Britannic posterior on the native saddle, the relief of reaching his destination unharmed and the emotion of seeing this most important of Welsh landmarks all, in differing degrees, conspired to bring a tear or two to his trousers and a tear or two to his eye. It was God’s special way of saying Welcome Home.


Esquel - Chubut - Patagonia - Argentina - Email: info@welshpatagonia.com