Valparaiso is something of a past master when it comes to colour. On arrival, it is practically impossible not to succumb to the picture postcard sight of the colourful houses, before moving on to admire the more subtle quality of the murals. Near the port, in the oblique streets of Bellavista, Concepción and Artillería hills, the brightly coloured graffiti and artwork on the houses and buildings bear witness to a consummate mastery of urban art, leading the experts to rank Valparaiso as the second international capital of graffiti, after Sao Paulo, such is the quality of the ‘graff’. Clean, precise lines, XL characters, eye-catching colours and poetic themes delving into registers which range from surrealist and cartoon to Chilean history and national traditions.
Cultural messages and political protest
The talent of Valparaiso’s graffiti artists is amplified by the fact that the population shares the values and cultural messages conveyed. It is an art form that Chile exports. Inti Castro, born in 1982 and a former art student from Viña del Mar next-door to Valparaiso, begun to paint the walls of Valparaiso in 1996, before imposing his style, inspired by indigenous South American carnivals and culture, in the United States and Europe. One of his frescoes takes up the entire back wall of a building in the lower town at Paseo Gervasoni on Concepción hill.
It is no coincidence that graffiti found an outlet in Valparaiso. Developed in the late 1990s under Pinochet’s dictatorship, it is the heir of Chilean protest murals, a form of artistic expression founded on social demands and political propaganda born in the 1960s when Salvador Allende came to power. The dissent and protest may have disappeared today, but it remains a strong artistic current and represents a less well-known and less banal aspect of Valparaiso.