The Significance Of Graffiti Art, Valparaiso

dictator |ˈdikˌtātər|
a ruler with total power over a country, typically one who has obtained power by force.

In 1973, Augusto Pinochet with the Chilean Armed Forces and the secret aid of the CIA, stormed into the Parliamentary Palace, La Moneda in Santiago, and overthrew President Allende. This Dictator maintained power until 1990, instigating 17 years of torture (as many as 30,000 people) and implementing economic liberalisation.

Disturbing right? But where does Valparaiso fit into this picture? And what has this got to do with graffiti?

Valparaiso, two hours northwest of Santiago, is a thriving port city. In the 19th century it was the stopover for foreign vessels and as my Lonely Planet books states, became “Chile’s financial powerhouse”. Yet it is more than just a coastal city. Painters and philosophers and poets such as Pablo Neruda, have fallen in love with its intertwining alleyways, lively hills and steep walkways boasting a beautiful seaside view.

Industrial sector bringing in the money. -Photo credits to Ivan Madrid.

So how does this all link together? During the 70s, when Pinochet was in power, graffiti became a form of protest. It was anonymous and it got the message across. Due to the large attraction for creative minds to Valparaiso, this trend continued long after Pinochet left power in 1990. Today it is acceptable, even encouraged and Valparaiso has become a primary stop-off for visitors to the country.

So what exactly should you do in Valparaiso? Simple. Just wander through the streets. We got lost through the hills of Concepcion in Valparaiso searching for the famed ‘We are not hippies we are happies’ eventually finding it tucked below a street we had walked along various times.

Today the art is merely a form of expression. Some painted works symbolise political ideals the artist wishes to express, while others are whatever the artist wants. Regardless, it’s a livening experience strolling through the beautiful streets of Valparaiso.

So what is the significance of Graffiti Art? For Valparaiso, a city immersed in a country that was once ridden with torture, the art has transformed it into a liberal and energetic seaside town.


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