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Decline of the Welsh language in Patagonia

Walter Brooks


In this month's edition of Y Traethodydd (The Essayist) Walter Brooks, who works as a Research Assistant and Language Tutor at the School, contributed an article which claims that the Government in Patagonia used schools in order to 'Argentinianise' children from Welsh backgrounds, and change them into patriotic Argentinians, as they viewed the Welsh language as a threat to the unification of Argentina.

In his paper, Polisïau Addysg, Iaith a Hunaniaeth yn y Wladfa (1900-1946) (Educational Policies, Language and Identity in Patagonia) he argues that each subject in primary schools was taught in order to boost the feeling of nationalism:

"It is even possible to make nationalistic statements even when teaching subjects such as Hygiene for instance", according to an official announcement by the National Educational Council in 1908.

And in the Camwy Valley, Welsh teachers in Trelew and Gaiman were replaced by Argentinian teachers, in order to ensure that "Spanish would be the only language of communication in Argentinian culture, and that it would be the only valid form", according to Walter Brooks.

He added that other laws were also created in order to 'neutralise' those who would potentially disagree with the system. Men were forced to undertake military service in order to steep themselves in the new symbolism of the country, and the Army and Navy's influence was heavy on the schools in Patagonia.

As a result a number of Welsh youngsters stopped speaking Welsh amongst themselves and with other children within their generation - even in places such as the chapel or Sunday school.

Related links

Read the full story on BBC Cymru'r Byd (Welsh language)