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South Africans in Patagonia

The Boers arrived in the early 20th century and settled in the steppe. The descendants of these South Africans in Patagonia still speak in Afrikaans.

As we are

Perhaps it will surprise the reader that, in the meantime, Tehuelche, Mapuche, Spanish, Galenso and Italian, there were also South Africans in Patagonia... The Patagonian idiosyncrasy is such that today they pass through the province Chubutense, Boers on horseback. Some descendants, older ones, even find themselves speaking in words that have not been used in Africa for years .

Boer means “peasant” or “paisan” in the Dutch language. The name is used to refer to the descendants of Dutch people who colonized the extreme south of Africa in the 17th century, who spoke Afrikaans, a Germanic language derived from the Middle Dutch.

In the last third of the 19th century, the Boers had several clashes with the British Empire and British settlers. They were eventually defeated in 1902 and many of them decided not to accept the British Government but instead to settle in other parts of the world. That is why, between 1902 and 1908, more than 600 Boer settlers arrived in Argentina, most of them from Transvaal and the Free State of Orange. The national Government granted them land and settled in Chubut province. They formed Colonia Escalante, settled in Manantiales Behr, Pampa Salamanca, Puerto Visser, Cañadón Baumann, among many other places, and traced paths to Commodore Rivadavia.

They were engaged in agriculture and livestock, grew and prospered. The first generations of South Africans in Patagonia lived relatively isolated lives, and managed to maintain their language and cultural practices . His descendants grew up talking Boer. In 1950, however, contact with the nearby communities in Comodoro Rivadavia and Sarmiento increased, and the communities were assimilated to the south we know today .

Maintaining the culture

Today only a handful of Boers settled in Patagonia can still communicate in Afrikaans: an Afrikaans maintained over time, who learned of their parents and grandparents, but which is no longer spoken in South Africa today. This phenomenon motivated a study at the University of Michigan.

Coetzee, a South African and linguist at the University of Michigan, commented that when he contacted members of the Patagonian community, did not initially recognize the spelling they used. Since the first Welsh settlers emigrated from South Africa before the language had an official script and spelling and, for that reason, their language was essentially oral. The case was so special that it resulted in a research group between linguists experts in Afrikaans and Spanish .

South African filmmaker Richard Gregory joined Coetzee's first research trip and filmed a documentary entitled

Publication Date: 01/06/2020

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