Richard I is going to mass at the Cathedral and I’ve got some worship of Art and History on my agenda. I’m not a fan of the ‘Top 10 things to see in Salta ‘ or 7 things you need to know about Salta’, so I haven’t counted the ‘things’ on my list. This is another day of discovery, starting with the Museo de Alta Montana, right next door to the empanada café. It’s been recommended by all the guide books and I’m sceptical – not sure if I want to look at murdered children. The story is of three sacrifices to the Gods, children of high class families of the Inca period. They were found buried on top of a mountain at high altitude and low temperature. Chosen for their perfect features, they would have been stupefied with an intoxicating beverage before being buried alive. Each had a cache of treasures – miniature doll-like figures wrapped in brightly coloured fabrics and feather headdresses.
The details of the still-vibrant patterns and plaiting are so fine that magnifying glasses are positioned strategically for us to look and wonder. The story of their discovery is told and there is some controversy that these mummified bodies should have been moved from their sacred resting places. Sacrifice of children was apparently a great honour for a family in a culture so different from ours. The museum is brilliantly laid out, revealing a narrative which only at the end displays one of the children. She’s a teenage girl – the oldest of the three – and at some point in her sojourn on top of the mountain, she has been struck by lightening, leaving a burn mark across her face.
Working my way around the central plaza the free Museo Artes Contemporaneo is next. It’s actually a one room exhibition space currently showing ceramics by various artists. There’s invention and subdued taste here but nothing startling, vibrant or colourful. The Museo Casa Aria Rengel is also free.
Housed in a villa a block away from the Plaza, it also hosts temporary exhibitions.’ Confluencias’ (joinings) combine sketches, photographs and Paintings in a random collection of different subjects trying to get along together. Nothing stands out. Upstairs there’s a striking exhibition of African art where a line up of dramatic masks catches my eye. The building is charmingly Spanish with balustraded upper galleries overlooking courtyards.
The Museo Histórico del Norte looks like an interesting old building. It was the first ‘Cabildo’ (Town Hall) and is a great example of the colonial period. Simple arches make up the façade facing the square while inside, dusty and badly kept artifacts of colonial history molder.
Furniture and portraits of long-dead governors in dimly lit rooms are up-staged by the simple white arched loggias and interior courtyard. It’s not hard to find our guys sitting in one of the cafés around the Plaza and as its empanada/lunch time there’s an automatic homing in of like minds to that place. There are conflicting reports of opening times for the Museum of Ethnic art (on several people’s lists) but it is closed and I wander north alone, to look at the impressive facade of the Palicio Legislativo.
The Museo de Bellas Artes is nearby. It wasn’t on my list but it’s free entry and is filled with vibrant tapestry/carpet/wall hangings reminding me of Miro’s knitted work in Barcelona. I’m the only one in the place and the single attendant has to follow me around to check that no harm comes to the work. Worth the walk for this show.
Outside, on the way back to the Plaza, there’s a dramatic street mural brightening up a dull wall.
Robbie and Dr Mike have been appointed restaurant hunters – tonight it’s Italian. Malbec has been the wine of choice for the group, but Stephen and I are Cabernet Sauvignon fans, so as an appeasement to our little protest, a bottle is ordered. It’s very good.