Visiting the Casa de los Marfetán, Villa Soriano, Uruguay: dating in part from the 17th century
Now a regional historical museum
The Casa de los Marfetán, in Uruguay's Villa Soriano in the Soriano department, is said to be the oldest existing building in the village, now a museum.
What makes the building so significant is that Villa Soriano (formerly Santo Domingo de Soriano)(1) is the oldest surviving European settlement, and the Casa de los Marfetán is accepted as the oldest — at least, in parts — surviving building in the village. The building is characterized by its long, low, elongated shape; over the external doorway and windows are flattened arches.
The structure was refaced a few decades ago and subsequently became a regional historical museum (2). The museum holds local artifacts such as canon balls, ceramics, coins and banknotes.
The building, situated at the corner of Libertador Lavalleja and Ituzaingó, also serves as a library and a child care facility.
Although Uruguay's historic town of Colonia del Sacramento has many examples of Colonial-period architecture, Vila Soriano's Casa de los Marfetán is said to contain elements which are older by several decades, dating in their origins from the second half of the 17th century.
Records seem to show that European settlement itself in the Villa Soriano dates from about 1624; and it is known that Jesuit missions were active in the upper reaches of the Uruguay River in the early decades of the 17th century.
This building was long associated with the Marfetán family; hence the name. The Marfetán family, originally from Marseilles, France (3), was related by marriage to Juan Bautista de Mendoza, the owner of the property who in the 18th century built on the existing traces of the house. In 1966 Colonel Carlos A. Marfetán undertook a thorough rebuilding of the family property.
November 11, 2015
(1) When I learned years ago that Santo Domingo de Soriano had been renamed Villa Soriano, I had the mistaken impression that this was a new name which had been given to the village; in fact, it was already know as Villa Soriano during part of the Colonial period, and has thus reverted to its former name.
(2) See also (in Spanish): http://villaservicios.blogspot.ca/2008/03/casa-de-los-marfetn-museo-regional-y.html ; http://www.sorianoturismo.com/que-ver-en-villa-soriano/
(3) France has been the origin of not a few very influential people and ideas in Uruguay; a few examples of this will suffice: the French Third Republic served as a model for late 19th and early 20th century institutional developments in Uruguay; the immensely popular singer Carlos Gardel (Charles Gardes) who applied for Uruguayan citizenship in 1920, was from Toulouse, France; the influential Bordaberry family, which has supplied 3 generations of prominent politicians, is originally from the French Basque country; the poet Jules Supervieile was born, and spent much of his youth, in Uruguay.
(4) See also (in Spanish): http://www.lanave.com.uy/santodomingosoriano/marfetan.html
Also worth seeing
In Villa Soriano itself, other noteworthy features include the old Chapel of Santo Domingo.
How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo's Carrasco International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de Carrasco) Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto. Villa Soriano lies 45 kilometres from the departmental capital Mercedes, itself 278 kilometres from Montevideo. By road, the village lies on Ruta 96. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco airport. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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