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Published: April 4th 2015
One of many street murals that decorate the streets and buildings of Valpo.
Valparaiso or Valpo as it is affectionatly called is one of Chile's principal ports and naval bases. Its port has played a key role in many naval explorations and most recently, during the California Gold rush, creating substantial wealth for the early settlers of the area. Unfortunately with the completion of the Panama canal the fortunes of Valpo started to erode.
Now Valpo is a lively and vibrant city, we were both insipred by its ramshackled beauty and its mishmash patchwork of brightly coloured houses built over 45 hills. During the boom area city planners either didn't exist or they were ignored as roadways run randomly everywhere - a grid system it is definately not. We felt that this just enhanced its appeal, spending many hours strolling through the labyrinth of alleyways catching glimpses of the city's former glory. During one such outing we were delighted to stumble across a Welsh pub that would be showing the upcoming Ireland Six nation game, even if we had to share the venue with a rather excitable Welsh fellow.
Part of the city's appeal to us was the promotion of city murals and street art. In exploring South America so far I
One of the more famous artists in Valpo, though I have now forgotten his name, he includes a hummingbird in each of his works as a signature. Although difficult to tell by this picture the detail is impressive especially given it was painted using spray paint.
have definitely been surprised by the amount of graffitti on various buildings, especially when compared to North America. Valpo is encourging these would be young artists to channel their creative engeries to producing street art, instead of the more common "tag" that we are undoubtly more used to seeing. The results are impressive, in fact many home owners now commission murals for their outside public facing walls creating diverse and colourful neighbourhoods.
A part of Valpo is UNESCO (the World Heritage organisation) protected which is both good and bad we are told. Obviously, it is important to try to preserve the fantastic architecture from its grander days, however conversely, the strict codes and standards of UNESCO make refurbishment or restoration of the buildings cost prohibitive thus leaving them to continue to decay.
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