You can’t visit Valparaiso without exploring its not so beautiful parts. The continual juxtaposition between old and new, pretty and ugly, peeling paint and brilliant works of art, give Valparaiso a fascinating contradictory twist and feel. Of course, it can be difficult to ignore some of the unpleasantries of a big port city such as the rundown, falling apart streets, the garbage, the sticky smells, the dog poop and the residual grime. But this is what makes Valparaiso all the more interesting.
One such place where you will truly see some of Valparaiso’s startling contrasts is in El Plan (the commercial district) and the port where the history of Valparaiso began centuries ago. Today, it remains the central hub of activity with congestion, traffic, noise, dirt and all the things you’d expect to find in a major seaport. This area is remarkably different than the lovely Cerro Alegre and Concepción just a ten to twenty minute walk away. Yet it is a must-see part of town in order to get a full understanding of Valparaiso.
As we headed down to El Plan after lunch in Cerro Alegre, we followed Monte Alegre once again to Paseo Yugoslavo where we could have taken our first ascensor (funicular) but the Ascensor El Peral was closed for repairs. Instead, we descended a long series of concrete stairs down to Plaza Sotomayor, the most important historical square in the city which features several impressive buildings as well as the Monumento a Los Héroes de Iquique that dates back to 1886.
Once we passed through the square, we entered the heart and soul of El Plan which was filled with businesspeople, small shops, shady looking characters, rundown buildings, and a darker shade of graffiti which somewhat matched the seedy feel of this place. We were told to hide all valuables and be aware of pick-pocketers. I had heard a few stories about petty theft so I heeded the warning from our hotel and kept my camera tucked hidden inside my jacket. We followed Serrano Bustamante to the Plaza Wheelwright seated below Paseo 21 de Mayo on the hills above.
I shot a few of these pictures along the way with my handy iPhone and included them to give you a feel for the area. The bright sunny colors of the street art in the more prosperous hills of Valparaiso seem to have disappeared and instead the art is slightly sinister feeling and dark. I found the art moody and reflective of some of the struggles of this area that has fallen a little off the economic wayside.