Valparaiso’s graffiti and street art – it’s creative, fun and worth a look

The graffiti art of Valparaiso, Chile
The graffiti art of Valparaiso

Recently, I took a day trip to Valparaiso, located on the Pacific coast about an hour and a half drive from Santiago, the capital of Chile. As an important seaport, it was a major stopover for cargo ships sailing between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans through the Straits of Magellan. The city was dealt a staggering blow when the Panama Canal opened in 1914. I thought it would be a great place to visit on a recent trip to Santiago.

A portrait on a building in Valparaiso, Chile seems to pop right out at you

This portrait just seems to pop right out at you – probably my favorite of the ones that I saw

You never quite know what to expect when you visit a new location. I’m kind of a photography nut and love to get photos of landscapes, building architecture, etc. I don’t take many photos of people probably because you either have to be discreet about it, obtain their permission or even pay them for taking their photo. When I was walking through the city of Valparaiso, or Valpo as it’s known locally, there was one thing that caught my eye throughout – the incredible artwork that blanketed the side of buildings, stores, walls, just about anywhere that had a surface that could be painted. This became my focus for the city walk that I was on. I wanted to see it, understand it a little and photograph it.

The graffiti art of Valparaiso, Chile

The graffiti art of Valparaiso

I found it interesting that the graffiti art started in the 1960s and 1970s as a form of protest during the political unrest when the country was under the socialist President Salvador Allende and later the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet. It reminded me of my summer trip to Portugal when I learned about the Fado music and how in the 1970s it was used as a form of protest for the fascist government in control of Portugal at the time.

In Valparaiso, when the country moved to democratic reforms, the art remained, with the approval of the city, but more from a creative expression. In 2003, the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaiso became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In addition to the graffiti art, the buildings, themselves, are very colorful using colors across the spectrum to create a Crayola box effect.

I just got a glimpse of the artwork on my day trip. I would love to return and spend more time to view it extensively and meet some of the artists.

Two tours that I’ll consider on my next visit to Valparaiso are:

  • Valpo Street Art Tours (valpostreetart.com) – this is a free walking tour (you only pay through the form of a tip at the end what the tour was worth to you) dedicated to seeing the creative murals throughout the city and even meeting some of the artists
  • Tours 4 Tips (tours4tips.com) – this is also a free walking tour (you pay a tip at the end of the tour what you think the tour was worth to you) and includes the street art and other interesting sites of interest in the city; helpful suggestions are provided regarding bars, restaurants and activities.

Here are some of the photos that I took during my street walk of Valparaiso. I hope it inspires you to learn more just as it did to me.