How the Streets of Valparaíso, Chile Illuminate its Essence

High in the hills of Valparaíso, Chile, I admire everything the streets have to offer.

I am from Chicago, a city famous for its streets. Never in my life have I seen life burst from concrete like here in Valparaiso.

Not Just Graffiti, but Art

Shot by yours truly in Cerro Alegre

This is a mural I stumbled across while exploring the seemingly endless hills. It spells “sin miedo,” meaning “without fear.” This beautiful artwork serves great purpose to the local people in a time of fear for their future, their government, and their rights. The presence of these powerful words gives local people the motivation to continue their lives without fear.

Shot by yours truly on Calle Artilleria (street name)

Unlike most graffiti, these wall paintings demand passion, direction, and talent. South American street art surpasses North American city standards of graffiti. They take on a whole new aim to convey happiness and culture. I have yet to see an artist actively working on a piece, but that is something I look forward to encountering during my time here.

Shot by Noé Monárrez en Cerro Alegre

A personal favorite of mine was this large mural done of a young girl. I admire this because of it’s color usage, the draw out purple tones, and warm undertones emphasize the warmness of her skin or contentedness of her mood. There I stand mimicking her strong pose, but unlike the painting a forceful seaside wind takes my hair.

This art piece made me realize the obvious globalization that exists in this city. This mural is not of Chilean people, it is of people of African descent. People from all over the world come and share their culture, their people, and perspectives through this free medium of street art. The city has welcomed global expressions, which makes its art that much more influential.

Another beautiful example of art from other cultures. Marilyn Monroe, and the Beatles pictured in large mural. If you look closely in upper left corner you’re able to see Elvis, a stormtropper, and another icon. Influences from my home country makes it that much easier for me to find ease in a large city, and feel that I have a place here.

Shot by yours truly en Cerro Concepción

Another thing I find particularly unique to Valparaíso is the use of layering on top of other completed art to shift it’s meaning or make it anew. This colorful painting of fish and/or eels was renovated by another artist, simply by adding masking tape letters to form the phrase, “¿Qué estas haciendo para cambiar el mundo?” This phrase spoke to me loudly, “What are you doing to change the world?”


Variations in the Art

Picture by yours truly on Calle Cummings (street)

As art is in each direction you glance in the neighborhood hills of Valparaíso, the artists are exploring different mediums street art can take. Mosaic masterpieces such as this one are common to find. The stairs read “La ilusion de la vida es un momento” in English translates to “The illusion of life is a moment.” These provoking words make your walks through the streets that much more meaningful while your mind races to find meaning for them, either personal or general.

Taken by yours truly in Cerro Concepción

Climbing across this hostel are mosaic snakes. I enjoyed the utilization of the innate grass colored paint job that the building already held.

Taken by yours truly in Cerro Panteón

That car is in fact out of commission, and became somewhat of a statement piece for this street. The old car is covered in political opinions, and stands there as somewhat of a proof that the people can withstand close to anything.

Taken by yours truly in Cerro Panteón

This work of art has taken the medium of someone’s home. This intricate house seems to be based around one tree, but uses multiple different materials to complete the side paneling, doors, and walls. I am amazed, and inspired by this home. I hope to someday meet the owner and ask them the process that led them to this, for me, dream home.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

This mosh podged wall of deceased people shocked and intrigued me. All people who were killed in recent violent crimes following the political unrest this past fall in Chile. Many of the victims were not even directly involved in the demonstrations, but indirectly effected.

Taken by Eva Hart on Cerro Alegre

This staircase exemplifies another use of art, making the stairs abstractly into a piano. There stands me and another ISA student, Noé Monárrez.


Harmonious Colors

The colors here seem to complete the harmonious life the people of Valparaíso lead. Every building seems to match the next coincidentally.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

The sunlight highlights the beautiful architecture you are able to see from the streets. Locals say they never get sick of the bright colored buildings because they look different at all times of day.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

ISA student Eva Hart wears her backpack in front. After all, we are in a city ridden with city slickers.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

As you get closer to these colorful structures, you see the livelihood of the people first hand. Renovation isn’t very common in the hills, so it’s easy to see what these buildings have weathered.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Conceptión

ISA student Elliott Jacobsen poses in front a building the color of shirt, an easy task to complete in these streets. Behind him you can see overgrown plants from a resident in the hill, this along with vivid paint is a common sighting in these streets.

Taken by yours truly in Calle Artilleria (street name)

It seems to me that everyone here has a similar vision for their street. I’m nearly convinced this neighborhood, in particular, had a mandatory meeting to discuss and coordinate their color choices. Despite my beliefs, these color differences present an opportunity for local artists to make their work with the existing colors of their surroundings. Any open wall, stairway, sidewalk, or elevated edge is fair game! Graffiti is legal, and street art undoubtedly has the support of the people.

Taken by yours truly at restaurant/hotel, ‘Casa Cuatro Vientos”‘

While aimlessly scrolling through the beautiful streets, we spotted Casa Cuatro Vientos, and had to pop in. A group of us enjoyed lunch at this nearly cliff hanging hotel restaurant. It had a perfect overlook of the city and you hear street music playing in distance. At most times during the day you’re able to find either solo artists, or full 7 person bands posted outside a beautiful mural jamming for pedestrian tips. I admired all the plant life that this elevated restaurant had; on top of running a restaurant and managing a hotel the employees dedicate additional time to maintain a decent sized garden.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

The stark contrast between the white of this boat-shaped building and the sky reminded me the ocean wasn’t far away. You must walk up the slanted streets and look downward at some point you are destined to see the sparkling blue ocean water.

Taken by yours truly down a street

The view down a street directly behind the large mural that reads “sin miedo” (pictured first). I imagine if ever the artist got frustrated, he/she turned around to admire the beauty of the streets, and smell the distant ocean salt.

Taken by yours truly of the back of a strangers head

The people of the streets are worth watching, admiring, and interviewing. The way they live is slow, the way they interact is enchanting, and the way they present their actions is with passion. They are artists who dress funny, and colorfully. Some wear shoes that are nearly falling apart, but they will never take for granted the gratitude they feel to be able to call these colorful streets home.


Listen! The Walls are Screaming

Looking forward, I want to learn these streets. I want to know them, and walk without google maps, but using the iconic murals or friendly faces of a street vender to orient myself.

Taken by yours truly on Cerro Alegre

Besides the colors, well-done street art, and other forms of art- I admire the ability people have to transfer their passion to you as you walk these streets. I feel inclined to be “armed” with a paintbrush and express myself through art. The beauty you see is unmatched, but the intricate meaning behind the art is what dignifies the streets here.

Abby Ward is a student at University of Colorado -Boulder and an ISA Photo Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Valparaíso & Viña Del Mar, Chile

Author: abigailroseward

Hola de chicago otra vez, pero ahora estoy en chicago porque coronavirus. Estoy muyyy triste porque me encanta Chile y la gente. Adios por ahora. Yo quiero recordar los viejos tiempos.

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