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Patagonia Bookshelf



[…] The term Patagonia (writes Mr. Dirk Swincott in the "Field") has more a geographical significance than a political one. Properly speaking, it embraces all that portion of the continent between the Rio Negro and the Straits of Magellan east of the Andes or Cordilleras, irrespective of any national boundaries. Thus the extreme south belongs to Chile. Some people even include the island of Tierra del Fuego, but while this has many of the same characteristics, it comes under a different category to Patagonia, both ethnologically and geologically. The  Argentine Government does not officially recognise the word, but divides the country into three territories— Rio Negro, Chubut, and Santa Cruz— each being under the jurisdiction of a governor. Chile includes the southern portion of the mainland belonging to her in the territory of Magallanes.

[…] The system of settling the country by means of "colonies," much favored in certain South American Republics, has been carried into Patagonia with considerable success. The oldest of all these settlements is the Welsh colony, near the mouth of the Chubut River. It is over 30 years since the first pioneers came out from Wales, and the colony has had a chequered career during that period, floods at one time destroying the fruits of years of hard toil, when many of the settlers left for Canada. A conscientious objection to having their children taught English in the schools at home was the cause of these people emigrating to Argentina. Trelew, Rawson, and Port Madryn are the chief towns in the colony, and steamers from England call monthly at the latter place. There is also another Welsh settlement lately formed near Lake Colhue. In the north-west of Chubut, a German colony, called the "Sixteenth of October," is, we hear, doing well. Near the flourishing little port of Comodoro Rivadavia, in a wild and hilly country, is what is generally known as Boer Colony, though the Argentine Government has another and more high-sounding name for it. Here have come many farmers from South Africa since the late war — sturdy, "irreconcilables" from the Transvaal and Orange River, well-to-do pastoralists from the Cape, seeking a land free from drought and eternal political dissension; Dutchmen and  Germans who fought in the war, besides other nationalities. When the writer was last in Comodoro it had quite the appearance of some South African "dorp," with its long spans of oxen yoked to the heavy buck-wagons standing in the street; the bearded Boers riding in on their ponies, or else in smart Cape carts drawn by mules, with their womankind sitting beside them. It was a curious picture; the sea and the few swarthy Argentines seemed somehow strangely out of place. Almost every store in the port had some attendant who spoke Dutch, and it would be difficult to find another town so small where so many languages were spoken.  Spanish, Dutch, and English could be heard on all sides; while the tongue of Cymru [Wales. Ed.] was not unrepresented. The farms of the Boers lie to the north of Comodoro, not far from the shores of the Gulf of St. George, and although the land is not everywhere of the best most of the settlers seem to be doing well. Certainly they should not be very homesick in such a locality, as, viewed from the sea, the site of the colony appears exactly like certain parts of  South Africa. The only difference is, as a Boer once remarked to the writer, that, whereas in the latter place the veld is all below and the kopies all on top, here it is the reverse, the pampa country, which represents the veld, being on a higher level than the hills near the coast. As in most enterprises in new countries, the colonists had numerous dangers and hardships to undergo at first, and many returned to South Africa after a very short stay in Patagonia, giving the place a bad name. Was there ever a country in the world settled by outlanders in which there were not such faint hearts? The South African press published full accounts of all the tales these disappointed travellers brought back, hoping, we may suppose, to discourage others from emigrating from a country where, every Dutch vote was required.  The "halves" system of sheep farming already alluded to has been carried out with considerable success here; it answers to the bywoner [Afrikaans, sojourner. Ed.] method in vogue with the Dutch all over South Africa. […]

Source: "The Daily News" (Perth, WA), 9 March 1910
Clipped: 21-IX-2012
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