Until the birth of the Panama Canal, Valparaiso was arguably the most important port in the Pacific Southern Hemisphere. Valparaiso began not as an entirely separate city, but rather the port to Santiago. Through time, Valparaiso has created its own identity rooted in art, intellectual pursuits and the still busy port. While in Valparaiso, I was fortunate to be staying with a host family in nearby Vina Del Mar (the more polished neighbor to Valparaiso), I quickly learned that my Spanish is horrifically rusty. Midweek I came home after a long day, and tried to excuse my weak conversation at the dinner table with fatigue. I said to the family “Yo casada” which was followed by raised eyebrows and 5 very long seconds of silence. The next morning I learned from another girl in my group that my intended “I’m tired” (yo cansada) translated mistakenly to “I married” (yo casada). Sometimes all it takes is on letter differenc e to really mess up a conversation.
The street art in Valparaiso is fascinating. The city officials have a unique relationship with the street artists, who have sometimes asked permission to claim the spaces they paint. The art is laced with political statements and cultural symbols. The street art documents the historical characters that have shaped Chilean culture while incorporating the very current student movement. One part of Valparaiso is called the Open Sky Museum, where internationally renowned artists worked together to paint about 60 murals that are a part of public space. The artists often will not sign their name on the murals, making them a common good for the city. As the art appeared, Valparaiso was able to use the art to transform the previously rundown historical neighborhoods into something that was not so typically gentrified.