When we told local Chileans of our plan to visit Valparaiso along our journey through their country, we received our fair share of warnings to be cautious. Yet after our visit, we proclaimed the city to be among our favorites in all of South America.
Why? Like many port towns the world over, Valparaiso, Chile features a sort of dodgy-meets-edgy vibe. Yeah, at first impression it feels a little scruffy, down-at-the-heels, almost seedy. But its lingering aura says it’s more bohemian, artistic, fresh and emergent. And like any good city finding its way through urban revival, the two forces at work, while opposing, need each other to bring the city to the next stage of its life.
In the last decade or so, Valparaiso (affectionately known as “Valpo”) has undergone a sort of urban and artistic revival. Through it all, the city has managed to balance its grungy, port city roots with its turn-of-the-century elegance and architecture stock.
Most importantly during our visit to Valparaiso we found exceptionally friendly people. They helped turn us on to bits of a flourishing street art scene, pointing here and there, drawing us more deeply onto the city’s streets and into its hills. At each turn, like a scavenger hunt, we’d pursue our curiosity and discover something more, unearthing the essence and the heart of this city.
Street art in Valparaiso is taken seriously and is supported by both local businesses and local government. Perhaps this is why the quality and quantity of urban murals and quality artistry across Valparaiso is so high. Clearly, we weren’t the only ones impacted by what we’d seen. It is common to see pedestrians stopped in their tracks to admire a work of street art.
And as anywhere in the world, Valparariso’s graffiti – across city walls and on the sides of buildings – comes bearing political, environmental, and societal messages. And although we couldn’t comprehend the full story of each work we’d seen, we could still appreciate the creativity and skill, the emotion and energy it took to create and share.
Here are a few of our favorite street art murals from our visit to Valparaiso.