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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Wales Smithsonian Cymru

Wales and the World

At Home in Wales

Croeso (KROY-so) or "Welcome" is a word you will see and hear from the moment you arrive in Wales. The Welsh have been using this warm greeting for centuries, welcoming people from other countries and cultures, and helping them feel "at home."

The story of Wales begins with the Celts who started migrating from their central European homeland around 1000 B.C.E. When the Romans arrived around 48 C.E., the inhabitants spoke Brythonic, a Celtic language that evolved into Welsh.

During the Industrial Revolution, parts of Wales became melting pots of cultures due to the need for workers in the metalworking and coal-mining industries. The port cities of Cardiff, Swansea, and Newport attracted workers from all over the world. In Butetown, Cardiff Bay, people of many nationalities lived side by side. Longtime resident Betty Campbell explains, "We were like a family. It didn't matter that we were Christian or Muslim; we were all from the Bay and that was our badge."

Today all major world religions are present in Wales.

Wales and the World

For a country the size of Massachusetts, Wales has had an amazing influence on the world. The Welsh were among the first to settle in America; at least six signatories of the Declaration of Independence were Welsh or of recent Welsh descent.

Since then, Wales has continued to make its mark on the world—as the first industrialized nation in the nineteenth century, when Welsh coal powered the ships and industries of the world; and in 2008 as the world's first Fair Trade Nation, helping developing world producers obtain fair prices for their products.

Distinguished Welsh citizens who have shaped the world include politicians David Lloyd George, British prime minister (1916-1922), and Aneurin Bevan, founder of the world's first national health service; scientists David Edwards Hughes, inventor in the 1870s of the carbon microphone, still the prototype for microphones today, and Sir Martin Evans, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in stem cell research; 1960s fashion designer Mary Quant; SONY CEO Sir Howard Stringer, the first non-Japanese head of a Japanese corporation; and Tanni Grey Thompson, distinguished athlete and Paralympic champion.

Featured Participants

Walter Ariel Brooks, Cardiff
A Patagonian of Welsh descent residing in Wales, Brooks works at Cardiff University's School of Welsh. He teaches the language to adults and undergraduates and conducts research on Y Wladfa, the Welsh settlement in Patagonia. Since 2007, he has acted as an intermediary to promote the cultural links between Patagonia and Wales. He also belongs to the Wales-Argentina Society.

Carwyn Evans, Cardiff
Evans is a visual artist with a pared-down sculptural aesthetic. Cultural experiences and issues related to one's individual sense of place are his principal concerns. He works with both existing and specifically produced, often highly crafted objects and images. His first solo exhibition recently took place at Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown.

International Eisteddfod, Llangollen
The International Eisteddfod is a six-day festival that celebrates music, dance, and song. The first festival was held in 1947 and since then performers have descended upon the small Welsh town to compete and showcase their talent. Widely recognized as a forum for world music, the festival has hosted many internationally acclaimed performers such as Luciano Pavarotti. The festival also organizes an annual Peace Message competition, for which it received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2004.

Carlos Pinatti, Cardiff
Pinatti's work develops from firsthand experience of a place, or in response to a person or community. His projects use film and combined media, and are presented as a combination of video, installation, and sculpture. Some of his recent work explores the relationship between the Welsh community in Patagonia and the Tehuelches Indians from that same region.

Beth Thomas, Cardiff
Thomas heads the curatorial staff at St. Fagans: National History Museum, one of Wales's foremost heritage visitor attractions. St. Fagans is an open-air museum that houses more than forty historic buildings, as well as material collections of folklife and a fifty-year-old archive of recorded oral testimony. Thomas's research background is in dialect studies and oral history.

  • In 1955, nineteen-year-old Luciano Pavarotti and other singers from Modena, Italy, won the male voice choir competition at the Llangollen Eisteddfod.
  • It is thought that the Yemenis in Cardiff are the oldest Muslim community in Britain, dating from the second half of the nineteenth century.
  • The highest mountain in the world was named for Welshman Sir George Everest.
  • The steel roof structure of the White House in Washington, D.C., was made in Pontardawe, South Wales, in the late nineteenth century.
  • There is no English equivalent for the Welsh word hiraeth (HEER-ayeeth), which connotes the feeling of longing for one's home back in Wales.