Days 49-53 – Valparaíso, Chile

‘Valparaíso es en montón, un racimo de casas locas’ – Pablo Neruda

From the mining city of Calama I flew to the capital, Santiago, and from there a couple of hours on a bus brought me to Valparaíso. This charming city which nestles on the pacific coast was founded in 1542 as the new colony’s port. Although still very much a working port, and the biggest in Chile, since the construction of the Panama Canal in 1914 Valparaíso was longer a necessary stopover.

I found it a city of contrast, it has the gritty edge that you might expect, down by the docks prostitutes and drunk sailors wonder the streets, a Tom Waits soundtrack would fit well here. And yet it also has a romantic charm with cobbled streets, colourful old buildings (built with corrugated metal), ascensores (essentially cable cars which shuttle residents up the steep hills around town).

I loved the place, for street photography it was great, I happily wondered the streets at dawn, midday and dusk, and each time found something to point my camera at. The town of San Pedro de Atacama was very touristy so it wasn’t until I got to Valparaíso that I felt like I was really in Chile, in a living, breathing city. I could happily have stayed longer than the four nights I stayed, I asked about property prices but they sounded as expensive as London.

The lines that follow are a poem called ‘Ode to Valparaíso’ by the poet and politician Pablo Neruda, who was the most famous resident of Valparaíso…

‘What nonsense
You are

 

What a crazy
Insane Port.

Your mounded head
Disheveled

You never finish combing your hair
Life has always surprised you

Death woke you
In your undershirt and long underwear

Fringed with color

Naked
With a name tattooed on the stomach

And with a cap

The earthquake grabbed you

You ran

Mad

Broke your fingernails

It moved
The waters and the stones
Sidewalks

And seas

The night,

You would sleep

In the ground

Tired
From your sailing

And the furious earth

Lifted its waves

More stormy
Than a tempest
The dust
Covered you

The eyes
The flames
Burned your shoes

The solid
Houses of bankers
Trembled

Like wounded whales

While above
The houses of the poor

Leapt
Into nothingness
Like captive birds

Testing their wings
Collapse

Quickly
Valparaiso,
Sailor,
You forget
the tears
and you return
to hanging your dwellings
to paint doors
green

Windows
Yellow,
Everything

You transform into a boat
Your are
The patched bow
Of a small
Courageous
Ship

The crowns nest
With foam
Your rope lines that sing

And the light of the ocean
That shakes the masts

And flags
In your indestructible swaying

Dark star
You are

From far away
In the height of the coast

Shining
And soon
You surrender

Your hidden fire
The rocking
Of your deaf alleys

The naturalness
Of your movement

The clarity
Of your seamanship
Here ends this ode

Valparaiso
So small
Like a cloth

Helpless

Hanging
Ragged in a Window

Swaying
In the Wind
of the ocean

Impregnated
With all the pain
Of your ground

Receiving
The dew
Of the sea, the kiss

Of the wild angry sea
That with all of its power

Beat the rocks

It could not

Knock you down

Because on your southern chest
Is tattooed

The struggle
The hope

The solidarity
And the joy
As anchors
Resisting

The waves of the earth.’

View from Ascensor Reina Victoria at dusk, Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View from Ascensor Reina Victoria at dusk, Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View from Ascensor Reina Victoria at dawn, Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View from Ascensor Reina Victoria at dawn, Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Cordillera, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Cordillera, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Cordillera, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Plaza Sotomayor, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Port at dawn, Bahía de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Port at dawn, Bahía de Valparaíso, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Calle Prat, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Calle Prat, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dawn from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dawn from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dawn from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dawn from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dawn from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dusk from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dusk from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dusk from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

View of city and ports at dusk from Paseo 21 de Mayo, Cerro Playa Ancha, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Carcel, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Carcel, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

Cerro Carcel, Valparaíso, Central Coast, Chile

2 thoughts on “Days 49-53 – Valparaíso, Chile

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s