Street Art Chile: New Mural for Diego Portales

Santiago Centro: Little Chinchinero

Santiago Centro: Little Chinchinero

I love graffiti. Street art. Legal or illegal (with or without permission), I am happy to see artistic expression in spaces that would otherwise be blank or filled with commercial advertising. Of course I’m not talking about vandalistic magic marker scribbling, but rather true works of urban art. Chile has an impressive and particularly rich culture of urban art that stretches back for decades. Forget what New Yorkers have to say about subway graffiti in the 70s or hip hop in the 80s. Chile has a long tradition that not only tolerates, but even encourages, artistic expression in public places.

For months now I have been photographing graffiti whenever and wherever I can, and will get around to writing about and showing it here in Cachando Chile, but I had a pleasant surprise today that I just had to share.

A fire in 2006 destroyed one of the city’s most emblematic buildings, Diego Portales, on Alameda, downtown, next to the Universidad Católica Metro Station. It was a dark and dreary eyesore with significant social history, although for years I thought it was a parking garage. It was even more miserable as the blackened shell that stood for years before its fate was defined. It is now under construction and will be reborn as the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Center.

Santiago Centro: Organ grinder

Santiago Centro: Organ grinder

And even though the inaugural date is still off in the future, the building is already marking its cultural destiny. Through an initiative of the Ministry of Culture, the wall that blocks the property along Alameda (Santiago’s main street) is now painted with an enormous 300m2 mural that represents Chile from north to south.

The 3-part project began with artistic workshops in 15 marginal neighborhoods. Part 2 included workshops related to the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera exhibit in the La Moneda Cultural Center, and the final step was to have the groups paint their interpretations of what Chile is to them. All the symbols are there, from llamas in the north, to the penguins in the south, and, of course, the dogs on the streets of Santiago in the middle! There are herdsmen, fishermen, chinchineros, organ grinders, fruit peddlers, dancers, poets, warriors, Mapuche women, and condors. There are mountains and oceans, deserts and ice fields, countryside and big cities. A bit of everything in one long, narrow strip–just like Chile.

Northern Chile: Andean man with zampoña

Northern Chile: Andean man with zampoña

Northern Chile: La Tirana, Diablada dancer

Northern Chile: La Tirana, Diablada dancer

Northern Chile: Observatories and fishing near La Serena

Northern Chile: Observatories and fishing near La Serena

Northern Chile: Gabriela Mistral

Northern Chile: Elqui Valley, Nobel Prize winner Gabriela Mistral

Central Chile: Chinchinero

Central Chile: Chinchinero

Central Chile

Central Chile

Central Chile: Santiago street dog and Metro

Central Chile: Santiago street dog and Metro

Central Chile: Fruit vendor

Central Chile: Santiago, Fruit vendor

Central Chile: Cueca Dancer and black clay pottery from Quinchamalí

Central Chile: Huaso dancing the cueca and black clay pottery from Quinchamalí

Southern Chile: Mapuche warrior, grapes & condor

Southern Chile: Mapuche warrior, grapes & condor

Mapuche woman and Araucaria trees

Southern Chile: Mapuche woman, Machi, and Araucaria trees

Southern Chile: Chiloe, fishing village

Southern Chiloé, fishing village

Southern Chile: Patagonia, Selknam

Southern Chile: Patagonia, Selknam, Onas, Yánamas

Southern Chile: Antarctica, penguins

Southern Chile: Antarctica, penguins

For more examples of Chilean graf:

Good Graf- Santiago-Villavicencio

Santiago Graffiti-Río Mapocho

16 responses to “Street Art Chile: New Mural for Diego Portales

  1. Agreed, agreed, agreed. All of it. That building was an eyesore, and the new mural is fantastic.

    I was walking along it one day when I saw the “waves” going up, and with just those it looked poco artistico, and I wondered what we’d be looking at for the next several years. Now that the rest of it is up, I can’t believe I ever doubted whoever was responsible for the mural. It’s a maravilla!

    I hope they keep it afterwards (or get you to take pictures of it!) for a display somewhere.

    I’m also a fan of expression and art on blank walls. I used to have a student who would bring me pictures of stuff he’d done, somewhat political, very clever, but I’ve lost track of him and his art.

    The photos are very vivid, great!

    Un siete.

  2. Beautiful photos–you captured the sections very well. I plan to find the mural and see it in person.

  3. Agreed. Your pictures are great. Of course I’ve seen the mural as a whole a billion times in micro riding down the Alameda, but I haven’t yet had time to see every section. Now I plan on going as soon as possible!

  4. Hi all- I actually went to take pictures of the graffiti art that surrounds the blank walls and as I started to take a closer look at the “official” wall I became really impressed at how they captured the different aspects of the country and culture… and was even more impressed when I discovered it was part of a government-sponsored youth movement! YAY! Tax lucas well spent!

  5. I love this mural, great idea to post about it! I think it’s gorgeous and love that each time I go by I notice another little detail. Plus I have to admit that being able to identify what each of the images represents makes me happy because it shows me that hey, after all this time here I really have learned something about Chilean culture!

  6. You’re right! An outsider wouldn’t get it at all, but it’s loaded with cultural symbolism that any Chilean would get right away… it’s great to feel like we’re more on the inside! Personally, I love the dog!

  7. Nice pics! I’ve walked along that mural lots of times. I’m so glad they decided to cover up that fugly building there. When I got back to Chile after Christmas, I was walking by and thought “This is new.”

  8. Yeah, it’s so nice to see an ugly thing (the Diego Portales building) turned into a bad thing (burned building) turned into an opportunity (cultural center) with cool projects for kids (huge cultural-pride-stimulating mural) thrown in for kicks!

  9. i agree – professional graffiti is really nice. Valparaiso also had beautiful Grafiti

  10. ups / cannot edit my comment anymore / it went off too early…. meant to say HAS instead of had 😉

    Your blog today went in to my feed reader – 1 out of 7 – as I want to read the blogs I subscribed too…. I love your content

  11. Hi André-
    Thanks! Always great to get positive feedback… and thanks for the great Valpo graffiti shots! (Looks like you had a great time!)

  12. Pingback: In Search of Chile’s Bicentennial Dog « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  13. SUper lindo el mural, es impresionante como juntaron toda la vida de Chile
    los personajes, la historia y la flora y fauna de Chile en un solo mural la kagaron
    yo vivo en California
    y soy muralista tambien.
    Ahora con mi grupo estamos planiando hacer uno sobre la pobreza, y yo estoy empezando hacer uno por mi cuenta sobre mi pueblo mapuche.
    Lo malo q es muy dificil encontrar libros aqui en california , asi que solo internet buscando informacion.
    Los felicito.
    Muy precioso, we used that technique a lot, cut out and we used more acrylics, and some airbrush too.
    I love your mural.
    Art does not have a definition, good graffiti had to be legal. The problem is in Chile is not that many space for artist who want express them selves.

  14. Hola! ¿Tu grupo tiene un sitio donde muestran sus obras? Me encantaría verlos! Especialmente los que tienen relación con Chile… avísame cuando termines tu mural sobre los Mapuche y, si te interesa, podemos hacer una entrevista con fotos aquí en Cachando Chile.
    Sabes, de lo que yo he visto, Chile es privilegado en cuanto al nivel de acceptancia del grafiti artístico. Fui a Berlin esperando maravillas y lo que encontré era–en su gran mayoría–tags… artísticos y bien hechos, pero pocos de las dimensiones artísticas que se ve regularmente en las calles chilenas…
    Es un tema que me interesa mucho y estaré publicando más sobre el tema aquí.
    There are a few good books about Chilean street art that are available through Amazon, such as “Street Art Chile” by Rod Palmer. Check it out!

  15. Pingback: Santiago Graffiti: Río Mapocho « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

  16. Pingback: Good Graf: Santiago Graffiti-Villavicencio « Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture

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