Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Graffiti Done Right in Valparaiso

Earlier this week, one of my Matador colleagues wrote a piece for the Traveler's Notebook entitled Florence Defaced by Graffiti, Declared Ugly and Depressing. It's a harsh, though humorous, indictment of the Italian city's ubiquitous displays of juvenile graffiti. The lead-in photo of the tag "Kid Crap" says it all.

In the post, Tom laments how people are capable of producing such garbage graffiti, when the potential of the medium is so much loftier. After spending a day in Valparaiso, Chile, I'm in total agreement.

Valpo, as the nickname- and slang-obsessed Chileans refer to it, is a coast city set on a series of cerros (hills) that roll down to the sea. It's famous for its acensores (elevated funiculars that ferry people up and down the steepest slopes), its artistic heritage (poet Pablo Neruda had a house here), and its graffiti.

In fact, exploring the streets, steps, and narrow pedestrian passageways of Cerro Bellavista or Cerro Alegre is like walking through an open-air museum. Every free space is covered with graffiti. But there are no Kid Craps here. Standards are high, and the imaginative and edgy images give entire neighborhoods a sense of purposeful expression. Here, see for yourself:


Sleeping among the watermelons

Flowers have been planted on this ex-street.

People perspectives and naughty dogs

This cat wasn't painted, but it almost could have been.

Eagle and flora

Andean flute girl

Yours truly, wishing I looked as cool as my friend on the wall


Kathy Amen said...

What fantastic street art! I have never been as down on graffiti, per se, as a lot of older folks are--if it's done with style. But your examples put the best stuff I've seen on Texas freight cars to shame!

Sabina said...

Whoa! This is not graffiti, it's art! Beautfiful photos of the street masterpieces, Hal.

julie said...

Hal- Beautiful! I didn't see any of these in Valpo, so it's fantastic to see them here.

hal said...

Thanks for the comments, all! It's quite an enchanting city (a few areas, anyway).

Dani said...


JJ said...

Beautiful, inspiring.