We booked a walking tour of the street art of Valpairiso with Valpo Tours, which was a great local option. Eddie and the others that run the tours are actual artists, and he could not only describe the types of art and meaning, but knew many of the artists, some he talked to during the tour. He explained that the city of Valparaiso was built very quickly, without street names, and residents wanted unique colors to identify their homes. Street artists gladly jumped in to paint their homes, with their permission. That trend continued, with home and business owners seeking artists to paint their property. Municipal approval processes were very quick and efficient for public art. I didn’t realize that during the Pinochet exile of the 1970’s and ’80’s, many of the families moved to New York and grew up in the emerging hip hop culture. When Pinochet was overthrown in 1989, many moved back, bringing the hip hop they knew into their street art and culture of the ’90’s in Chile. We saw many famous works, like the Beethoven piano and “We are Happy” by Art + Belief, and also saw school groups sliding down the cements hills around the city. I asked if Banksy has ever painted here and he showed us a tiny painting that he is believed to have painted, his only one here. Maybe someday Rino will become a street art destination, though it far behind the top two, Valparaiso and Bogota. Here, nearly every single wall is painted. It’s a far cry from the beige and covenants of Highlands Ranch.
After 2 1/2 hours of walking around the city, we made an effort to find good food for lunch. The locals and tourists seems to agree on the best empanadas being Delicias Empanadas, where they we have 80 different kinds, including the cheese, mango and pineapple that I loved. Then we found some good candy gifts at La Dulceria and art at Bahia Utophica.
After another siesta, we were back to Viña del Mar for beach time, even though the currents from Antarctica make the ocean here very cold. It doesn’t stop the surfers, but they wear wetsuits. I can’t say I was my best self on that 4 mile, 30 minute drive to the beach. The DIY international vacation includes some stressful situations and planning conflicts, but we survived. Sunset photos on the beach helped.
- Maqui berry juice, native to Chile
- Salmon with quinoa in squid ink
- Seaweed and cheese
- Fried quinoa
It’s our last night near the ocean in Valparaiso, a fun start to the trip. We learned a ton on our tour, even about the recent protests going on at the port where a worker fell 5 stories off a cruise ship he was supplying. There are now protests about safety conditions for the workers. Workers are on strike, refusing to supply the monstrous cruise ship docked in the harbor. We also didn’t realize Chile is known for earthquakes. I did a quick Google search and saw that there was a 4.7 magnitude earthquake just yesterday, only 75 miles up the coast from where we were in Zapallar. An 8.8 earthquake in 2010 killed over 500 people and caused power outages for over 90 percent of Chileans.
Tomorrow, we drive to Santiago and return the rental car finally. I won’t miss driving in Valparaiso’s narrow, winding cobblestone streets with lanes that seem like just recommendations. I was a mess parking on a steep downhill road behind a brand new truck. Trying to parallel park, I got too close and had to reverse, which was tough with a stick shift. I had my feet on the brake, gas and clutch, gunning the engine trying to avoid rolling forward a few more inches into the truck. After 5 minutes I finally got us moving backward, leaving some burned brake pad aroma in front of the restaurant.
Doing a last check of the Airbnb for tomorrow, I saw a message about free cancellations in Santiago because of the protests there. We had not heard about the police killing of a young Mapuche man and the protests in the streets there.