Monday, March 12, 2012

The Graffiti City

This is our third night in Valparaiso, Chile, and we are relaxing in a peaceful B&B on a hill over looking the center of town.  Valparaiso consists of forty two hills on which are located vast neighborhoods of poverty and color.  The center of town is located on a small section of flat land looking out over the ocean and port.  Today we explored Valpo.

We set out from our lodgings, after a short lesson of math, to explore Valparaiso.  We first decided to walk down our hill to the city center down on the flats.  We were looking for a renowned local restaurant serving a traditional dish of mostly french fries.  This may seem gross to some of you, but what they serve is actually a Valpo specialty dish with eggs, hot sauce, and beef served over a huge plate of greasy fries.  Once we had walked down through our well known neighborhood, we discovered the true heart of Valpo.  On every wall, and every alley, there was graffiti.  Not just vandalism, some of this was art.  Painted on the sides of buildings, alleys, and doorways were some well thought out paintings interspersed with standard graffiti.

Soon we turned into an alley, fully covered with art, and entered into a small door at the very end of the alley.  Inside, were tables covered with plastic table clothes on which people had inscribed song lyrics, names, websites, hearts, love notes and quotes.  The walls and even the chairs were covered with writings and pictures.  As they only serve their one traditional dish,  they did not need to ask for our order but asked simply “ how many people?”  Soon, the dish came out.  It tasted amazing!  Every bite of meat, and eggs, and even fries tasted spectacular and was perfectly cooked.  Sadly, we leave tomorrow, and we will not have another opportunity to come back.

After we had left the restaurant, we decided to experience one of Valparaiso’s cherished traditions, el ascensor.  Since Valparaiso has so many hills they developed an uphill transportation system.  The ascensors are cable cars pulled about one hundred meters up the steep hills using an advanced pulley system.  They do not travel a long ways and do not travel all the way to the very top of Valparaiso’s immensely grand hills.  When we entered the ascensor at the base building, I was a little intimidated by the size and steepness of the hill.  However, it was not as bad or as scary as I had expected.  It moved slowly and offered a great view over Valparaiso. 

After riding Ascensor Concepcion, we walked up several steps and came to a graveyard.  When we arrived, it was already closed but a generous caretaker looked through the green metal gates and kindly let us in.  The graveyard offered an amazing view of the city and held an air of sadness.  It bothered me to see that some of the heads of the statues had been hewn of.  The caretaker told us that vandals steal the heads for their high value.  After saying goodbye to the caretaker, our walk continued with a firm plan. 

The hill that we were currently exploring was separated from our B&B by a big gully.  it is possible to walk high above the gully and travel from one hill to the next.  We set off in a strong wind back to our B&B, choosing the high road.  This area of town, we discovered, had more graffiti and more poverty than any other section of town we had yet explored.  Broken windows covered old, small, and rusty houses.  Scraps of metal were used for doorways and for covering holes in certain run down shacks.  Soon though, we were back on the Cerro Bellavista, the hill neighborhood which we call our temporary home.

I came home with a head ache and a some what weary soul. We had explored Valparaiso in its fullest. I have never seen as much graffiti in any other town before on this world trip!  I can’t wait for dinner, and some good rest.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!


  1. What an interesting place you are in. Your great aunt Jane was in Valparaiso with Monica a few years ago and they both loved the place.
    We are all three in Page, AZ about to take a short raft adventure. the weather is great and we are looking forward to a great day.

  2. Thank you Rohan for this great adventure through the streets of Valpo. See, I already talk like a local. I had never seen pictures nor read descriptions of this amazing place and now it's top on my list.

    Your writing is a pleasure to read. It's got style, lots of description, insight, emotion, and most important of all, authenticity.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. What an adventurous day! Very cool pictures.