t ifor rees and nicaragua part 2

T Ifor Rees was a career diplomat, who spent most of his career in Central and South America. At the end of his career he wrote several travel books about his experiences, some of the richest that have appeared in Welsh, particularly his collection of photographs. He visited Nicaragua in 1921 to re-establish the British consulate in Bluefields, recorded in his volume Sajama.

Whilst his writings are always interesting, two main things are missing from his chapter on Nicaragua (though they might have been present in his communiques and diplomatic messages). He doesn’t refer to the turbulent political situation, with Nicaragua occupied by the US Marines, just a matter of years before Sandino launched his resistance. He also makes little mention of the situation of indigenous people, only twelve years after their mother tongue teaching was completely banned, another result of the Spanish re-incorporacion. Ultimately the re-establishment of the consulate would have been driven by orders from London to strengthen British interests, particulary access to timber and minerals.

An extract on T Ifor Rees from Afar I See the Day is Coming, a history about solidarity between Wales and Nicaragua:

His trip to Nicaragua was one of official duty, though it was exotic enough to have a chapter in the memoirs of his journeys. His mission was to re-establish the Consulate in Bluefields, which at the beginning of the Twenties was lying empty. The ‘special privileges’ which the Coast enjoyed under British rule were partly maintained in the agreement to hand it over to the Nicaraguan government, and were reason enough for the Consulate to carry on until the Sixties, when it was finally closed.

As well as making an inventory of the Consulate, he wanted to appoint someone to run it, ‘British if possible’. On reaching Nicaragua he put out the word, and was pleasantly surprised when he received an inquiry from Edmund Owen Rees, ‘Cymro yn ddiau!’ His namesake was from Sir Gaerfyrddin and had spent forty years in Central America. He must have been the answer to the diplomat’s prayers, because he was the owner of a tannery in Bluefields, and still able to read and write Welsh, despite his prolonged absence. They agreed that he would write his reports in Spanish and English, but ‘trefnais ein bod yn defnyddio’r Gymraeg ymhob teligram cyfrinachol’ (I arranged we would use Welsh in every secret telegram).


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