Museo del Alabado: Trascending Time

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Some people may think of pre-Hispanic Quito as an Incan Quito, but it is much more and we couldn’t invent better proof of to this fact than the Museo Casa del Alabado.

Set in an almost mythical residence, in front of which neighbors would cross themselves when walking by the inscription on the lintel – it reads “Praise the Lord” or Alabado sea el Santísimo Sacramento – Museo Casa del Alabado is in fact brimming with pre-Columbian and pre-Incan genius. Over five thousand pieces, that span an enormous 6,000-and-some-year legacy predating Colonial rule, are displayed in a most elegant, beautifully lit, and comprehensive permanent exhibit.

Anthropomorphic humanoids, 5,000-year-old Valdivian monoliths, feline-headed mortars, Chor­rera “astronauts”, sorcerers’ tables, square crosses, premonitory V-shaped engravings, spirals, waves  and axis mundi pyramids, the levels of the cosmos, hunting tools, nose rings, obsidian mirrors… a world so vast, so mind-blowing, so complex and unimagi­nable, it is baffling to think how intelligently this was all put together as you walk around.

Monolith from the Valdivian costal culture 4,000-1,500 BC.

It is the only Ecuadorian institution, to our knowledge, that carries audio guides (and good audio guides at that!). You can also ask for a real life (human) guide to take you around and explain it all, but the overall display is so thoughtfully presented, it truly speaks for itself. It thematically, chronologically and geographically takes you on a  spellbinding historic art tour from underworlds to medium worlds, from Jama Cuaques to Mantas and Huancavilcas, until you reach the final glass gallery with a beautiful vertical garden backdrop featuring not what curators deemed should follow the specific order of the exhibit, but what they deemed were the most beautiful items of their world-class collection, a “Nirvanaesque miscellanea”.

The cherry on the heritage cake is found in a blind courtyard in the back, where a wizened fig tree survived the remodeling of the residence. It still gives fruit, matured by the ages, succulent and sweet.

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