So today was the day I had been looking forward to the most since arriving. I had booked a car tour specifically for the local graffiti and street art. This was to enable me to cover more ground and go in to the areas that tourists normally don’t or can’t venture. It costs around 39000 Chilean pesos per person, and to be honest it is a steal.
I was met at my hotel and from there we went in the car to the port area. I had walked here a little but not extensively as it isn’t the safest neighbour hood. Al, my guide, is really very knowledgeable about the local graffiti scene, as well as it’s international origins. He is Chilean but grew up in New York City. His city smart attitude helped him become a part of the local scene that has really expanded like wildfire since 2010. He is a multiple entrepreneur, with the graffiti tours being only a part.
He talked in detail about who the main artists are locally, telling me where graffiti fits in within their lives. For example one is the main importer of a certain brand of spray paint to Latin America. Another is sponsored as an artist by Adidas. Others have moved on from Valparaiso, only returning to paint occasionally. Al explains that this is mainly due to the youngsters coming on the scene, the crew of toys he said. They have no respect, tag work they could only hope to paint someday. This type of commentary mirrored the talk I had had with Staffordshire graffiti artists, who despite trying to school youngsters had found that the youngsters were not interested, wanting the glory without the hard work and practise.
Getting in to these different neighbourhoods, some really quite high in the hills, meant I got to view the city in a way I hadn’t been able to before. I managed to snap some quick pictures on my iPad. However the bulk of the pictures are on my camera. It was too risky to have both out with me. Some areas we did not leave the car. At one point we herd whistling, a signal to others to come quick, and we had to move fast. Certain neighbourhoods do not like strangers, it draws attention to the area from police and officials, drawing attention to other illegal activities.
I talked in an earlier post about broken windows. It is interesting to note here that the ‘worst’ or most crime riddled neighbourhoods were the areas in which graffiti was most sparse. In these areas graffiti was an attempt by local government to engineer community solidarity with art projects, or in memorial.
The ‘community project’ graffiti.
This was a memorial for a 23 year old local boy, he went to a party New Year’s Eve, came home and hung himself. His dad told us the story. He had been loved in that community as a bit of a loveable rogue character so the local tattoo artist did this memorial for him.
Finally we headed up ascensor polanco. This is where the 2012 street art festival was held. It is a treasure trove of street art /graffiti goodness. With famous artist from all over the world adding their stamp. This is another tired neighbourhood, I think the idea was paint street art and they will come! They being tourists with money. The problem was the lack of social investment. This is a street art gold mine, yet it is dangerous even with a guide. I could not have gone there alone. But can you blame those who are so poor they are struggling to survive, taunted by wealthy tourists with their big cameras walking up and down the streets taking pictures?! If the streets were secured, they could be profiting from the tourism, however without social investment, this is becoming a tourist no-go area. Which is such a shame, it is a beautiful place with beautiful people with so much to give.