One of the most colourful cities in the world, Valparaíso is a technicolour collection of rainbow houses scattered over the rocky coastal hills that overlook the vast Pacific Ocean. Characterised by its impressive street art, laid-back vibes and population of artists, writers, painters, poets, and philosophers, the vibrant city is a melting pot of bohemian culture and stunning vistas.
While it might seem somewhat dusty and ragtag on first glance, it’s not hard to find the vivid colours and artistic brilliance that the city has become so famous for. Poetry and art decorate almost every wall, pulling your gaze in several different directions at once. Though it is only a short two-hour journey from Santiago, Valparaíso feels a whole world away from the bustling capital. So, how did street art become such a fixture in this colourful conurbation?
History of Valparaíso
Once one of the richest cities in South America, Valparaíso was a regular stop-off point for shipping vessels en route to the USA. It wasn’t long before Spanish and French architecture began to pop up all over the city, earning it the nickname “Little San Francisco”. However, everything changed when the Panama Canal opened in 1914, enabling trade ships to take a much faster route to the States.
Following the collapse of the port, Valparaíso suffered an extremely hard economic decline which would last for many years. With all of the wealthier residents relocating elsewhere, the city needed to move in a different direction if it were to survive. Then along came the 1940s and everything changed forever.
The rise of Pablo Neruda
In 1940 a diplomat named Pablo Neruda was posted in Mexico City as Chilean Consul General. He was enamoured of the art scene there, in awe of the colour, freedom of expression, and artistic licence that was so readily embraced. He made it his mission to introduce a similar movement to Valparaíso, and on the return to his home city he invited Mexican artists to come and breathe life into the art scene.
At the time, unlike many of the famous pieces of street art of today, street art was not a celebrated medium and had to be practised in secret. Luckily the narrow, cobbled streets and winding backroads of Valparaíso provided the perfect cover for artists who would hastily paint their murals before making a swift exit. In 1973 a military dictatorship banned all forms of political art, making it even harder for artists to express themselves.
Legalisation of street art
Chile returned to a peaceful democracy in 1990, at which time the government of Valparaíso legalised street art and directly supported artists in the creation of new works. Valparaíso is the only place in Chile that allows street art to blossom in this way; everywhere else requires artists to work within strict commissions.
The street art of Valparaiso has come a long way since its legalisation. Now considered an essential part of the fabric of the city, the colourful murals and explosions of paint mean that Valparaíso is widely thought of as the artistic capital of Chile according to some guides. Not only do the streets glow with beauty during the day, they also come alive at night, with artists and musicians creating a cosmopolitan nightlife that draws crowds from all over the world.
It is possible to explore the art scene by taking guided walking tours through which you can take in the colourful works of art by street artists such as Sammy Espinoza, Cynthia Aguilera, Cuellimangui, and Inti.
If you’re planning on paying a visit to this unforgettable city, there are a few things worth remembering before you go:
Visiting Valparaíso is an experience of a lifetime, just make sure you remember to take your camera!
Down in my man cave, beyond just having the usual accessories like a big screen tv, comfy seats, a bar, and pool table, I also have my collection of guitars on my wall. Now I don’t consider myself a master of the strings by any means (I’ve been taking lessons online at https://trustyguitar.com/best-way-to-learn-guitar/), but I’ve been playing for many years and enjoy the creative outlet.
Outside of the sports memorabilia that I have adorning the walls, I also have a couple pieces featuring my musical influences like Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. That got me to thinking about what the best guitar art there is out there, and what I could add to my walls to improve my man cave even more.
Here are a few of the pieces that I have my eye on to add a little more flare to the walls.
This piece is awesome! I love the psychedelic colors, as it will really add some color to my walls that lack that kind of brightness. Jimi is one of my favorites and is hands-down one of the best guitarists of all time, if not THE best ever. There’s a saying that you could hand him an empty milk carton and some string and he could play a tune better than anything that you could ever produce. I like that it is on a large canvas and the paint has texture to it. This would really make it an eye-catcher down in my basement man cave. I imagine the colors would look pretty sweet while downstairs having a hit off my vape pen as well.
As you can tell by my choices already, I am not of this era, despite my age. I love all the old guitarists that paved the way for the generations to follow. Chuck Berry pretty much invented rock and roll. I love that seen in Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox is back in the 1950’s and plays Johnny B. Goode at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance and leaves the crowd of teenagers speechless. “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it.” My list of guitarists on my wall wouldn’t be complete without Chuck Berry.
A lot of the stuff that I learned to play guitar on, especially in the beginning, was scales and blues riffs. I was encouraged to listen to a lot of B.B. King when I first started playing as there is absolutely nobody that did it better than him. Listening to him go through the scales and improvise really trained my ear and gave me creative inspiration. While I’m more of an upbeat, faster-paced person musically, I have to give homage to one of the greats. This image is just classic B.B. King and would look great on the wall of any music enthusiast.
Who are your musical influences? Who would you call your Mount Rushmore of guitarists that you would want on the wall in your music room? Feel free to leave a comment!