Midway between Esquel and El Bolsón, on what was one of Argentina’s largest estancias, the Museo Leleque (RN 40 Km 1440, museoleleque [at] ciudad [dot] com [dot] ar, www.latrochita.com.ar/museo.htm, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed.–Mon. July–Apr., US$1)
covers Patagonia from prehistory to the present. Funded by fashion icon Carlo Benetton, who purchased the Argentine Southern Land Company and several other Patagonian properties, it houses the collections of Ukrainian immigrant Pablo S. Korschenewski, who left Buenos Aires half a century ago to explore the Patagonian countryside on foot and by horseback.
In the process, Korschenewski amassed over 14,000 artifacts, including arrowheads, bone drills, ceremonial axes, grinding stones, and pottery shards. Striking a chord with Benetton, he persuaded the Italian to turn Leleque’s historic buildings, once a general store, hotel, and school, into a contemporary museum that now gets 8,500 visitors, mostly Argentines, every year.
Not just archaeological, the exhibits stress contact and post-contact history of the region’s first peoples, regional and oral histories, photographs, and documents. One prize is a receipt signed by Butch Cassidy, who lived in nearby Cholila from 1901 to 1905 under the alias Santiago Ryan.
Administered by the Fundación Ameghino, the Museo Leleque is 90 kilometers north of Esquel. The museum has a souvenir shop and a confitería for snacks and coffee.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition