Bruce Good, Seabourn’s director of public relations, is currently sailing on a 14-day Patagonian Passage voyage aboard Seabourn Sojourn. He’ll be blogging throughout his cruise and sharing his experiences as he explores the beauty of South America. Here is his first post; stay tuned for more updates!
My entry to Chile began with a flight that was changed from simply long to slightly cruel by mechanical delays. It also pruned my adventure by half a day, leaving a Sunday afternoon and Monday morning to explore Valparaiso. I did so under the expert care and guidance of Doctora Juanita Fernandez-Alamos, a practicing pediatrician and passionate advocate for the cultural life of her cities.
After a rudimentary once-over of Santiago (the city deserves much better from visitors) we turned for the coast and navigated two tunnels and two fertile valleys green with orchards and vineyards to the beach resort town of Viña del Mar. On this spring Sunday, families were basking and relaxing along the strand, the children braving the chilly surf in the warm sun. After a delicious luncheon overlooking the sea, we followed the curve of the bay to the sprawling city of Valparaiso occupying an amphitheater of steep hills over the shore.
Juanita gave me an excellent introduction, including a visit to the home of the Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda, which she knew intimately from her childhood, when her parents were friends of the poet. I won’t go into the details of the city, which are many and interesting. Rather I want to tell you why I was smitten by the place. It is not so much a city as it is an assemblage. It is a great communal work of art that is seemingly ever underway. As I walked around the arts district on Monday morning, it revealed itself, or rather its citizens, as endlessly ingenious, expressive and slightly anarchic, romantic and impetuous, as well as immensely skilled. The architecture is a jumble of periods and styles that has been piled and stacked and inserted and gerry-rigged into a massive collection of found objects. The walls of the steep canyons are lined with structures fitted like a Chinese puzzle amongst each other. And everywhere, on walls and steps and sidewalks and doorways, there are works of art. From a tiny image fitted on a curbstone to a massive mural on a wall, there are expressive, emotive visual messages everywhere. Without doubt there are academic arts endeavors In Valparaiso, schools of music and literature and the plastic arts. But the streets are a heady ferment of expression that is as delicious and complex as the finest Chilean wine.
When pilgrims came to the bay, having survived the arduous rounding of the Horn in sailing ships, they found a Mediterranean climate, sweetened by six fresh streams and bounded by fertile ground, and many quite naturally determined never to set foot again on the deck of a ship. They named it Paradise Valley, and they stayed. It’s easy to understand why. Here are some examples of the street art, both painting and architectural.