[Atacama IV] December 3, 2011: Al Museo

My first unscheduled San Pedro day. I had a low-key morning, recuperating from the endless touring yesterday and the thousands of complaining sore muscles from the horse riding. After grabbing a lunch of fish and rice, I headed to the Gustavo Le Paige Museum.

Statue of Padre Gustavo Le Paige, in the museum's front garden.

Museum interior.

The museo is a beautiful eight-pronged building, with each inward point bearing an exhibit about an important material (stone, metal, wood, etc.) for the local indigenous people, los atacameños. Each wing explained something different about the lives of the Atacameños, such as their history, daily life, animal domestication, and changes upon the arrival of the Spaniards. The exhibits were all in Spanish (with supplementary English guides, which I ignored), but I understood enough.

One of the inward-point exhibits.
Decorated bone, with its pattern drawn in full on the side.
The sign said this was a "Recipiente ornitomorfo / Ornithomorphic container." I support the widespread adoption of the word "ornithomorphic."

My favorite exhibits were the ethnobotanical dioramas, describing how things like chañar and algarrobo were used. It was also just fascinating to wander around and look at all the tiny objects, from spatulas to hallucinogen containers. There was a wider variety of artifacts than one would normally expect, due to the dryness of the area: in addition to pottery and arrowheads, there were many relics made out of plant fiber or animal material (which easily disintegrate in damper locations).

Needles made out of cactus spines!
Gold stuff.

In the center of the building, they had reconstructed an archaeological dig, with a placard describing how archaeologists proceed to excavate a site (hint: it’s a bit slower than in Indiana Jones).


They also had a recreation of Padre Gustavo Le Paige’s study and bedroom, which was another of my favorite parts. It made him seem less like a distant priestly figure and more like an amiable fella who collected rocks, books, and art.

A very agreeable office, as these things go.

I had been idly looking for one San Pedro souvenir for me: a book about Atacama desert plants. I found one in the museo bookstore but did not purchase it. Nonetheless, here’s a nifty plate from it.

Gentiana concinna, what ho!

(More museum pics on Flickr. Lots of little details.)

After the museo, I headed back to the hostel and finally took advantage of one of the lovely hammocks in the garden, settling in with my book. This hammock was strung up beside some giant pink mallow flowers, in the shade of a flowering pomegranate tree. Staggeringly relaxing. I must get some photos of the garden before I leave; it’s the kind of garden I would gladly have as my own.

5 thoughts on “[Atacama IV] December 3, 2011: Al Museo

    1. Oh wow. What timing! En Valparaíso también, antes de mi viaje a San Pedro, teníamos unos terremotos de 4.7 y 5.4. Este no es un pais tranquilo.

  1. Oh NO! You MUST get that book. For the rest of your born days (and some of your unborn ones) you’ll wish you had. Oh, woe. Oh, pity. Oh, sorrow and wailing.

    1. It’s too late, I did not get that book. But I wouldn’t have been happy if I had, because it was over $50 and not even hardcover. If I ever decide I NEED it, I think I can buy it online: http://www.universitaria.cl/ficha.php?id=9561123320&op=2 Or I can search for other Atacama desert plant-y books and buy those instead. This one was devoted to Viajeros as well as Botánicos, so it wasn’t 24/7 plant-y; there must be an all-Botánicos one out there somewhere.

      The tierra is muy moto en Santiago y Valparaíso también. That’s okay. It’s not too much worse than Califor-nai-eh.

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