Author Archives: szabos0810

El Museo de Cacha…lets see what we’ve got!

Mural for Winter on outside of Museum

El Museo de Cacha is located in the center of Pucara Tambo, it is the first thing a visitor sees when entering the site after going through the huge puerto del sol, but may people bypass it because the door does not face the entrance to the site, instead is faces the ceremonial square on its other side. The building itself is interesting because it is a circle, which is supposed to represent the mountains that ring Riobamba and around the outside has four murals depicting the four seasons, that are my favorite pieces in the museum. Overall the museum depicts the traditional dress of the Cacha Indians, in two display cases and on two mannequins and shows pictures of the different festivals that are celebrated in Cacha each year. There are no text panels, so you have to have a guide take you through the displays, since it has been raining every day for the last two weeks, I have become very familiar with every piece in the museum, but I would say that the average visitor you likely be drawn to the traditional outfits and not much else.

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From talking to the  guides and other people who work at El Museo, along with my own observations I found out that the people of Cacha do not come to the museum and after seeing the contents it makes sense because the museum basically details the way that they currently live their lives. The traditional dress in the museum could have been taken off of any woman walking around the mountains, with varying colors. The only time I have seen the men wearing the entire traditional outfit was during the ceremony when I first arrived, but they do wear ponchos regularly, but have jeans on underneath instead of the all white. The photos that cover the walls detailing the festivals have been taken within the last four years and they take place down the road at the parroquia each year.

Basically what I am saying is that the only people who will currently find this museum interesting are tourists and members of the community who have been gone from the area for generations because the people who currently live in Cacha live what is in the museum. I am not trying to discount the museum, in fact with all the people from the community who are leaving, they have a 75% migration rate, this museum could become very important in the future, when more people come to visit, rather than live in the area.

Posted by Sarah Szabo — MA Candidate in CLACS/Museum Studies at NYU

Who owns El Museo de Cacha?

Jorge and Mercedes Duchicela (and me)

I was lucky enough to meet the people who own my site…and it is not the community of Cacha, surprise! Well technically the Federación de Pueblo Cacha de la Nación Puruwa Cacha (FECAIPAC) own the land but the Duchicela Family has a 10 year lease on Pucara Tambo that started in 2007. Jorge Duchicela MD is a doctor who started the non-profit international medical program Cachamsi that offers medical students the opportunity to come to Riobamba and learn medical spanish and work in clinics in the surrounding area, his sister Mercedes also works for Cachamsi. Since 2007 they have put $100,000 into the renovation and updating of the Pucara Tambo site, which includes the museum. They were very pleased that I was interested in the museum and have given me free rein to do and write what I want about the museum and Pucara Tambo and also offered the resources of Cachamsi in Riobamba to me, which is where I am doing this post from right now.

Short side bar/history lesson: The History of the Duchicela Family as told me by Jorge Duchicela. The Duchicela Family has a long history in Cacha and have been the ruling family for centuries. The Inca Huayna Capac expanded his empire north and fought the King of Quito for 20 years or so and when he

Casa Duchicela

finally defeated him he was given a Cacha princess to be his wife (one of many), this princess was a Duchicela and the offspring from this union was Atahualpa who was the last Sapa Inca. He fought his half-brother Huáscar for the title after their father’s death and after his victory, on his way south to Cusco, he met Pizarro and the Spanish and the rest as we say is history. The oldest son of the Duchicela family is considered King of Cacha and he owns the “Casa Duchicela” which is located in the parroquia de Cacha south of Pucara Tambo and is the nicest house I have seen in Cacha. Their older brother was also the man who performed the Chicha Ceremony at the festival and I was told he does this every year.

So, the Duchicela Family obviously has strong ties to Cacha but none of them live here any longer, with most of them having moved to the States to go to college (Mercedes Duchicela actually went to my alma mater Lawrence University!) and now live in Texas.


They wanted to give back to Cacha but they refused to invest so much money in Pucara Tambo without having any control over the site and how it is used, which is why they got the lease from the FECAIPAC. I was told that in 2007 when they took over the site it was very much in disrepair and had all but been abandoned. Pucara Tambo was originally built by the FECAIPAC in the 90’s but with the leadership of the organization turning over every 2 years, the organization lost interest in the site, took away their funding and never completed the original plans for the site.

So how does all of this relate to my research, well what I thought was a community museum run by the FECAIPAC is actually owned by Cachamsi and the Duchicela Family. They fund the site with the profits from Cachamsi and funding they solicit from the Ecuadorian and US governments and have total control over what is presented in the museum and how the objects are interpreted. In the 3 weeks I have been here I haven’t seen a single person in the museum (other than during the festival), which is kept locked unless I ask for it to be unlocked. There could be many reasons for this, one of which is that there is no sign that says Museo, so if you didn’t already know nothing would indicate it is a museum at all. Just today I was actually asked to take a visitor who didn’t speak Spanish through the museum…so I guess I am the english speaking guide here in Pucara Tambo.

More on the museum next week!

Posted by Sarah Szabo — MA Candidate in CLACS/Museum Studies at NYU

Pucara Tambo

Sign on the road to Cacha

I took a taxi up to Cacha the day after the festival on the most beautiful road I have seen so far in Ecuador! It is newly laid and makes the twisting ride up the mountain much more enjoyable than it would be on a dirt road. The billboard to the left is placed along this road and is also new, with a fantastic picture of the Pucara Tambo site, which is where I am staying for the duration of my time in Cacha. I have taken this week to settle in and get to know the people who work at the site. There are two women and two men who are there every day and they cook my meals and answer all my questions.

Cabins in Pucara Tambo

I was pleasantly  surprised by the accommodations, they have five cabins, with two rooms each, that are a mix of single person rooms and rooms with bunk beds and each room has its own shower with hot water… ya! It gets pretty cold at night, but they have wonderful blankets that keep you nice and warm. Pucara Tambo is located up a mountain from Riobamba, so you get a fantastic view of the city and the other mountains surrounding the city, including Chimborazo, which is the tallest one in Ecuador. Continue reading

Festival in Cacha

Center of the ceremonial circle.

After spending a week in Quito, Ecuador I made my way to Riobamba, which is the town closest to my site in Cacha.

This morning I took a taxi down to Cacha because my contact told me they were having their annual festival and I wouldn´t want to miss it and she was right!
The ceremony was held in the square right in front of El Museo de Cacha in the Pucara Tambo tourism project where I will be staying when I move there tomorrow. There were seven white circles chalked on the ground with people standing barefoot on each one and a group of people in the middle of the circle surrounding the fire that made up the center.

A ceremonial position

The people in the center were two drummers, two horn blowers, a man and a woman holding candles, a woman holding a flag and a man in white who was directing the ceremony.

The man had the people take positions, which they would have to hold for a certain amount of time. The first is show in the first picture where they are squatting while holding their hands like they are praying and the second is shown above where they have one foot off the ground and their hands out their sides. They were then asked to jump up and down and chant what the man in white said.


Then they turned so that they were standing in two circles following one another and they danced around and around to the music provided by the drummers and horns and finally danced themselves out of the square. Then the chicha ceremony started with each person coming up to the man holding the jug of chicha and taking a gourd full, then holding the glass up to the sky while they said something and then drinking their portion. After this we were all served a huge plate of food, mostly made up of potatoes and corn, with a little salad and chicken on top.

I got to take a look a the museum really quickly before it closed and talked to some of the people working there and am looking forward to getting  back to Cacha tomorrow to take my time going through it.

Posted by Sarah Szabo – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU