Valparaíso, locally known as Valpo is truly an artist’s paradise. Home to Pablo Neruda, Nobel Laureate Poet, Valpo’s city-center is located in a valley with a massive commercial fishing port on one side and tall, thin houses built on top of vast hills tower over the other side. The city center does not seem like anything special, but when you climb up the ‘cerros’ you will find yourself in a different world of eclectic bohemia.
Street art is highly valued in Valpo, so much so that it is inevitable. If you paint your house, you can expect it to be re-covered in street art within the week. The same goes for restaurants, stores and anything else that has walls. For that reason, a strict code has been implemented in the city. There are two main types of graffiti: 1. Street art, very impressive, true art. 2. Tags, basically a glorified signature, just like you find all over bridges and trains in the US. The rule is that where there is street art, you are not allowed to leave tags. As street art is a very impressive art form, most people prefer to allow street artists paint their buildings instead of allowing them to get covered in tags. And that’s why Valpo is covered in street art! Here are some cool examples:
During my 3 days in Valpo, I went on a walking tour of the city and did A LOT of walking on my own as well. My second day, I walked to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s “weekend house” where he had parties and family gatherings. The house was beautiful, and thinking about all of the amazing poems written there left a big impression on me. I have never been as moved by poetry as I was by some of what I read while there. Among everything that I read, one stanza stuck out to me in particular, in English it translates to something like “Leave me alone with the day, I ask permission to be reborn.” I thought that was a pretty beautiful way to sum up my trip.
Besides a whole lot of eating, which merits its own post soon to come, the last thing that I did in Valpo was a short tour of the harbor. Really not that exciting, but it was less than $3 and the Chilean family that accompanied me seemed to have a good time teasing the gringo on the boat. Here are a few pictures of the fishing boats and the huge naval presence to which Valpo is home.