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Monday, 11 June, 2001, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Patagonia ties renewed
First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Wales's ancient links with Patagonia are to be renewed for the first time in more than a century.

Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan has announced that, almost 150 years after the first people from Wales settled in the south American region, he is making an historic visit.

People left Wales for Patagonia 136 years ago to find a better life and future. It was an important chapter in our history and we can learn from it today

Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan

Mr Morgan will visit Patagonia as part of a high-profile week-long visit, during which he will sign a declaration to help strengthen the status of the Welsh language.

He will lead a trade mission to Argentina and Chile and is scheduled to meet with the presidents of both countries with the aim of forging new political and trade links.

The joint declaration with the governor of the region of Chubut will give a commitment from both governments to help strengthen the revival of the Welsh language in Patagonia.

It will also be aimed at promoting more collaboration between Wales and Chubut and their respective administrations on cultural, financial, academic and social matters.

Welsh community

The first Welsh settlers arrived in Patagonia in 1865 and colonised the lands which today form part of the province of Chubut.

The document will be officially signed by Mr Morgan and Jose Luis Lizurume, the Governor of Chubut.

Mr Morgan will meet representatives of the Welsh community and Welsh language teachers funded by the assembly.

He will also visit a traditional Welsh tea house, chape, and a heritage museum.

'Unique heritage'

He will launch a new website to promote links between schools in Wales and Patagonia and give a speech on devolution in Wales at Gaiman's Coleg Camwy.

"Welsh culture and the Welsh language is still alive in Patagonia over a century after the first Welsh people arrived there and I am delighted that the devolved Governments of Wales and Chubut are working together to support and celebrate this unique heritage of 'Y Wladfa'," Mr Morgan said.

"People left Wales for Patagonia 136 years ago to find a better life and future. It was an important chapter in our history and we can learn from it today.

" I would like to think that the stronger economy and the more cohesive society we are building in Wales today as a result of having our own assembly and cabinet will provide the people of Wales with the kind of future that previous generations were searching for.

"Wales has an opportunity to build on its links with South America and this visit to Argentina and Chile aims to further raise awareness and boost the profile of Wales and its businesses in high government circles.

"It is an opportunity for me to share our new democratic culture and the strategies that the Welsh administration is developing for the economic regeneration of Wales."

During the First Minister's visit to Argentina he will hold meetings with President de la Rua, the argentine ministers for trade and economy and tourism and deliver a speech on urban and regional regeneration to government official in Buenos Aires.

In Santiago, Chile, Mr Morgan is scheduled to meet President Lagos and Chile's Interior, Foreign Affairs and Economic Ministers as well as key members of the business community and give a speech on devolution.

He will be joined by eight Welsh companies who are visiting Argentina, Chile and also Brazil on a WalesTrade International trade mission.

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