The First Settlers Museum has a vivid and lively spirit with constant updating of exhibits. Its rooms show several activities which keep the ancient customs alive.
A visit to this museum to learn the history of a town which has sheltered tourists and residents is worth it not just on rainy days. Nestled in the inner part of the Town Hall, the First Settlers Museum
is part of the buildings found in the downtown of San Martín de los Andes
Once we entered the museum, we were welcomed by the people in charge of it. We learned that the purpose of this venue is to foster and develop historical and cultural activities and that several events are organized throughout the year to show different moments of human history.
Ethnographic material, paleontological findings, photographs or testimonies of daily life in San Martín de los Andes -when it was only a mountain village- have been some of the exhibitions on display. This place is a journey back to dreams, works and sacrifice made in times without electricity or the comfort we enjoy today.
One of the guides told us: 'This building was the venue of the Comisión de Fomento
(Development Commission) created in 1930 with the purpose of organizing the urban center founded in 1898. When the current municipal building was opened in 1962, it was moved from its original location and used as a house, a warehouse and a workers’ dining room'.
'As part of its reassessment, this house was restored and recovered in 1987 and moved to its current location to serve as a museum. The exhibitions are valuable due to their age and preservation conditions giving evidence of different events that took place in the past in this region', she continued. Since then, we better understood the beginnings of this spotless and well-preserved wooden house.
Inside the two rooms, a fascinating theme was on display: games played by the Mapuche people. Two young Mapuche denizens who belonged to the community explained to us the importance of the games in the heart and culture of elders.
Illustrations and a variety of original games, as those played nowadays, were on exhibit and enabled us to understand that most of them are a way of communication and passing values and teachings from generation to generation.
Miguel concluded: 'For our culture, games are part of our spirituality and religiosity. It’s just as simple as that, the game choiquetun shows the behavior of ostriches and our kids have learned about the sacred sense of this bird by playing this game'.
Palin, choiquetun, pulquitun-huaiquitun, elcauhun, longcotuhue are only some of the ten games they showed us. In ancient times, the game called longcotuhue was played with the purpose of selecting the chief of the community, which clearly reveals the importance assigned to these games. Nowadays the selection of the chief is different.
The showcases display musical instruments played by the Mapuche people, arrow tips and ceramic utensils found on several spots and some Valdivian pottery found out within the urban center as well. These are traces of Patagonia and the groups of Tehuelche people who lived at the sides of the mountain range.
We took some life stories with us, from both the Mapuche people and the first dwellers who organized the city. Once we left this venue, a sunny day was waiting for us outside and we could walk quietly once we had learned about the origins of this mountain town.