Known as the cultural Capital of Chile, Valparaiso is a city of two halfs. As one of UNESCOs world heritage sites, parts of the city are impeccably maintained, with others deep in poverty, with people selling small collections of second hand items at the side of the road to make a living, and a cloud of pollution hung over the city. The city is home to four universities and many street artists, musicians, and great restaurants.
“Many of the houses here are made from boat materials. It seems strange that there are boats in the sea and also boats on the land. This is why many of the houses are painted with boat paint. This is also to help with directions. People wouldn’t know whose house was whose if they weren’t painted bright colours.”
“The port is not where the original coastline was. It is 44 metres deep here. The original coast line was 300 metres back there somewhere. We have built more and more out into the sea so we can park the boats closer to the shore. The local people believe one day the sea will come and claim back the land from the people. There is some truth in this. We are constantly worried about Tsunamis.”
“Valparaiso is made from 44 very steep hills. There is a lift on each hill, that takes you from the bottom to the top, very cheaply. They are used much by the local people. Because each hill is very steep and hard to travel around each hill has it’s own identity, and the people living there have their own unique culture.”
“The electricity here is very disorganised. This can cause many problems and fires.”
“This house was burnt down from an electrical fire. But because the walls are still standing, under UNESCO rules it must be restored to it’s original form, which would be very difficult and expensive. So the owner is just waiting for it to fall down so he can rebuild it how he wants. It has survived many earthquakes and many storms.”
“The fire station here had been built, but they didn’t have enough money left to build in a water pump. So they asked an American for the money. He said he could donate it but only if they called it The American Fire Station. So the it called The American Fire Station.
The fire station is completely volunteer run, the only person that gets paid is the fire truck driver. It is a great honour to be a fire man in Chile.”
“This used to be one of the most magnificent buildings in Valpraiso. You can still see it now, although it is very decayed. The lady owner of the building is the grand daughter of the man who built it. She is around 80 years old. She still lives in a one bed flat on the first floor.”
“There are many murals on the walls here. They have been agreed to be done by the owners of the houses. This is because if they have been painted with a mural they are less likely to be tagged. But sometimes the painters will paint crude portraits. Like this one.”
“This used to be the house of a holistic doctor. When she died a painter painted this tribute to her on the wall. You can tell what kind of drugs she prescribed.”
“We have a company here in Valparaiso. They are one of the biggest employers. The company wanted to build a huge glass block on top of their office building. But UNESCO said under their rules it wasn´t allowed, as it didn´t maintain the look of that beautiful part of the city. So the company said OK, we will pack up our office and take our business elsewhere. This would be very damaging to Valparaiso. So UNESCO let them build their huge glass block. Do you like it?”
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