Exploring Wales’s connection with Latin America

Welsh Black

Welsh Heritage, by Raul Speek

For the last 10 years, Raul has been exploring Wales’s fascinating heritage. He’s been especially intrigued by Welsh women’s traditional dress – and with the country’s surprising connection to Patagonia in South America.

Raul says: “I was born in Cuba, Latin America, and my mother was of Pre-Columbian heritage. She was descended from the aboriginal American Indian culture that dates from before Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492.

“Many people might think Latin America has little connection with my adoptive country of Wales. But more than 155 years ago, a group of people from Wales emigrated to Argentinian Patagonia, in South America. This history isn’t widely known.”

Patagonia

Patagonia (photo by Juan Pablo Mascanfroni, Unsplash)

A “little Wales beyond Wales”

The idea for a Welsh settlement in Argentina came from the nonconformist minister, Michael D Jones, who wanted to establish a “little Wales beyond Wales”.

So, in 1865, a group of around 150 Welsh people travelled 8,000 miles across the Atlantic to set up a remote community in the Chubut Valley, Patagonia.

Arriving in midwinter, the settlers didn’t experience an easy start in their new home thanks to flash floods and a difficulty in finding fresh water.

Despite the challenges, they set up a colony – known as Y Wladfa – and today Patagonia is home to many Welsh speakers, while this area of South America continues to maintain a close connection with Wales.

Welsh ladies

Raul Speek Welsh Lady At Tea

Welsh Lady at Tea, by Raul Speek

As part of Raul’s exploration of Welsh heritage, he’s found inspiration in old photographs of the country’s women in their national dress. He feels they should be recognised as being significant to Wales’s culture.

Raul has been working on a series of paintings of Welsh women in traditional costume. These pieces will feature in a forthcoming exhibition, called ‘Welsh Black’, which the Pembrokeshire-based artist is preparing.

Raul With Welsh Heritage Inspired Work

Raul Speek with some of his artwork inspired by Welsh heritage (photography by Heather Bennett)

Raul says: “My neighbour has shown me images of Welsh women in their national dress, which often includes a lot of black clothing. This is very different from my clothes. I’m from the Caribbean, so I wear a lot of bright colours.

“And what a lot of people may not know is that J R R Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was also inspired by Welsh culture.”

Raul Speek Welsh Village

Welsh Village, by Raul Speek

Posters now on sale at Raul Speek Gallery in Solva

Sunflowers Poster

Peace and Sunflowers poster, by Raul Speek

Fishermen’s Wives Poster

Welsh Heritage: Fishermen’s Wives poster, by Raul Speek

Visitors to Raul Speek Gallery at the Old Chapel in Main Street, Solva, can now choose from a range of posters featuring Raul’s artwork.

The posters include ‘Peace and Sunflowers’ and ‘Welsh Heritage: Fishermen’s Wives’, and you can pick up yours from the art gallery shop in Solva (but not online).

The handmade ‘heart’ cards at Raul Speek Gallery, Solva

The handmade ‘heart’ cards at Raul Speek Gallery, Solva

Heart cards

Another new addition to the shop at Raul Speek Gallery, in Solva, are these beautiful, handmade ‘heart’ cards, featuring Raul’s artwork (not available online).

Visit Raul Speek Gallery this summer

Our gallery, shop and café in Solva, Pembrokeshire, are open from Friday to Monday, between 11am and 4.30pm. Plus, we occasionally open on Thursdays.

Pop in if you’re in the area, especially if you’re visiting our beautiful coastal community during your summer break.

You can also find out more about our gallery and browse our online shop by visiting our website: https://raulspeek.co.uk/

For further information, call us on 01437 721907.