The port smell of oil and gas, fish and wet wood. It’s a familiar combination that evokes the dock and fish market at H&M landing near where I grew up in San Diego, California and of childhood adventures in Southeast Alaska. Chile’s main port of Valparaiso lies a short two hour bus ride from Santiago and has all of the characteristics of just that; a large, working port city. Huge shipping containers of recycling destined for China, docking cruise ships filled with Dick and Dorises from the US and the Commonwealth, fish mongers, naval warships. The list goes on. But what separates Valparaiso from the average port is its vibrant street art; the city is a virtual canvas.
Around the city, there is a myriad of murals of varying complexity, but remarkable quality. Because the street art is so good, you are bound to find one you are drawn to even more the last around the winding, cobbled streets as you wander. Valparaiso also has an interesting history, complete with the first brewery or cervezeria in Chile, and was seized by the Chilean navy during Pinochet’s 1973 coup. It is most definitely one of those places that you should plan to see but not make a plan for. Wander the streets, stop and sit at a cafe and talk to locals in between searching for art. As a free outdoor museum, it is a brilliant blend of past and present, and the city’s art will certainly contribute to its identity into the future.