Patagonia an Example of Welsh 'Colonialism' SETTLERS POSED THREAT TO POPULATION, SAYS DOCTOR

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

Patagonia an Example of Welsh 'Colonialism' SETTLERS POSED THREAT TO POPULATION, SAYS DOCTOR


Byline: DARREN DEVINE darren.devine@walesonline.co.uk

AN ACADEMIC researching aspects of Welsh involvement in Patagonia says the migration now has to be seen more as "cultural colonialism" than a "benign settlement" of the region.

Swansea University's Dr Jasmine Donahaye said the migration was underpinned by a contradiction - those involved were fleeing England's cultural dominance while failing to grasp they would pose the same threat to indigenous Patagonians.

The academic maintains Wales' involvement in the region has escaped the criticism levelled at British expansion in places such as India and Africa because received wisdom has always portrayed the Welsh as "colonised and disempowered".

But Dr David Ben Rees, who has written widely on Welsh history, dismissed the idea, saying the Welsh were welcomed to the region by the indigenous people with "open arms".

Dr Donahaye said: "I don't think there's any question that the Welsh settlement project in Patagonia was an act of colonialism.

"Precisely what kind of colonialism is up for discussion. Welsh people were not imposing political structures, but it was certainly cultural colonialism.

"The intentions in the period may have been to escape Government interference and the kind of cultural imperialism that was experienced in Wales and yet there was an indigenous people there [in Patagonia]."

In her preliminary research she also found Palestine appears to have been a more serious rival for the migration that eventually settled on Patagonia than previously believed.

She says discussions took place between the man championing Palestine, the Methodist minister John Mills, and Ottoman empire representatives then controlling the region. Mills also raised the possibility of Welsh immigrants working on the Hejaz railway, which was then being considered by the Ottomans as a way of connecting Constantinople to some of the most sacred sites in the Islamic world.

Creative writing lecturer Dr Donahaye, author of Whose People?, Wales, Israel Palestine, said: "It's certainly not widely known that it [Palestine as the focus of the Welsh migration instead of Patagonia] was anything more than a passing fantasy."

The academic, whose research on the migration was recently presented as a keynote lecture at a Celtic Studies conference in California, added: "John Mills went on promoting the idea after the settlement was established in Patagonia and he may have been a lone voice at that point, but there was certainly considerable interest still in his proposal. …

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