La Casona del Molino (the mill house) is the nook where all friends, guitars and bombos of Salta meet to enjoy a true peña, the expression of our costumes.
The gate at 1 Luis Burela Street was closed, but some noise was heard inside. As soon as we opened it, the spirit of the house enveloped us.
It was early and there were some tables taken here and there. The photographs, especially of poets from Salta, such as Manuel Castilla, the pictures on the walls, the wooden bar, the Salta peña, and the encounters crowded with guitars and folklore till dawn -all this was breathed in each room.
Maximiliano “Amarillo” Witte, who has been in charge of the house for the past 2 and a half years, and Sebastián, best-known as “el Flaco” welcomed us. They confessed that they had stayed up late playing guitar with Juan Falú and Gerardo Núñez the previous night. That is the spirit of La Casona.
It was built late in 1671 by some José Antonio Giménez Arias. By then, there would be a general store where the mill used to work. By 1762, it became a crafts market, tannery and chicha and spices sales stand, best-known as "chicherías".
In the late XVIII century, an Italian called Enrico Mosca rented the mills and part of these lands. As he saw how prosperous the business was, he called his brothers, among them, Domingo, who inhabited La Casona and made it work mainly as a cart post.
During the independence struggle, it was the scenario of the victory of Zapala, Güemes’ military man, and it acted as a supply point for the patriotic troops.
As we were listening to the story and tasting some hearty empanadas de charqui, the first tunes were heard and the house revived, as every night, its traditional magic.Avelino
Soon afterwards, the guitars were accompanied by a bombo and a cajón peruano. The song book would go round the tables with the profound Argentinian folklore songs we all sang without worrying about our tune. Those are the lyrics that Avelino has been collecting carefully in a notebook.
Avelino is a “gringo” who adopted this land and its culture with his soul. In 1996, after a brief pass by Atacama, he arrived in the Argentinian North. At that moment, he was not thinking about leaving his backpack until one night he passed by La Casona. After a family trip to his native England, he said good-bye to his pub and shipped his books and his piano, determined to settle in Salta
In love with folklore, passionate for the chacarera and the tango, he slowly began to stay in the casona. Today, he lives in a room in the noble house and he no longer plays the piano because bureaucracy and the Customs Office has made him lose the container with his treasures and “the one in the casona is firewood", he sentences.
One can find him going from table to table, greeting friends, always with his hat on and smoking dark cigarettes, asking for the musicians to play his favorite song in the peña: La Viuda de Manuel Castilla y Cuchi Leguizamón.
Escorted by Avelino and other Salta people, we enjoyed an authentic peña totally improvised. We left at about 3 in the morning, with the feeling of having shared a folkloric celebration with friends.