Museo Pajcha in Salta

This item appears on page 16 of the March 2012 issue.

Salta, in the far northwest of Argentina, has several interesting small museums. For my wife, Tamara, and me, the pick of the litter was Museo de Arte Étnico Americano (Fundación Pajcha, 20 de Febrero 831, Salta, Argentina; phone +54 387 422 9417 [website in Spanish]).

Museo Pajcha is located about eight blocks north and two blocks west of the Cathedral and the Plaza 9 de Julio. It recently moved to new quarters across the street from its original location at 838 20 de Febrero, but many tourist maps still show it at the previous location.

This museum displays regional art assembled over a lifetime by anthropologist Dr. Liliana Madrid de Zito Fontana. To inform young people about their past, the museum has an active outreach program to local schools.

We made no prior arrangements for our visit on Dec. 2, 2011, but we had the good luck to be led through the museum by the founder’s delightful colleague Dr. Diego Outes Coll.

The collection includes a small but choice group of ceramics from the ancient cultures of Peru and Ecuador as well as fine metalwork from the Mapuche Federation of Chile. The Mapuche people infiltrated central Argentina under Spanish pressure in the 18th century. There are also amazingly preserved fabrics from all periods.

The Salta region, with an old, town-based culture that was overrun by the Inca Empire in the 15th century and by the Spaniards in the 16th, produced distinctive religious art that is well represented in the museum. Throughout the collection, carefully chosen contemporary folk art is displayed alongside historic pieces reflecting similar ideas.

The objects are well displayed and informatively labeled, mostly in Spanish. An English-speaking curator is often available, as are English handouts describing displays and explaining the history. Admission costs ARS20 (about $5) (open 10-1 & 4-8, Mon.-Sat.).

A pajcha, by the way, is a display case that looks something like a cupcake tin.

Bellingham, WA