Santiago Graffiti: Río Mapocho

Fisherman illusion, Graffiti on Rio Mapocho, Santiago de ChileI love graffiti. No… not “that” kind… I’ve never really understood the territoriality of marking tags (a graffiti writer’s initials or a special identifying mark) over and over on all sorts of public and private property…

Certainly not when they write on houses or hit my car a few years ago:

Tagged door (2008), Tagged car (2003) Santiago de Chile

But I do love street art… those unexpected “joyitas”… artistic surprises that pop up like mushrooms in the forest. I love the unpredictability of their appearance—the double-take and “Wha? That wasn’t there yesterday!” I also love their ephemeralness (huh? Where’d it go? I know it was here…oh wait, that’s it, under that fresh coat of white paint). It’s about color and abstractness and creativity. The joy of turning a corner and discovering a new piece—and I’ve been known to yell “stop the car!” on many an occasion when I spot something new.

Santiago and Valparaíso are full of truly creative work, and I shoot it whenever I can. I had planned on doing a more in-depth post with a selection of shots from different areas, but checking through my photo files, I see too many to choose from (and far to many to publish at once), so I’ve changed my plans. I’ll be throwing up graf shots from time to time as a way of documenting them and alerting anyone interested about where to find them… a sort of graffiti tour, if you will.

I also want to mention that although Berlin has an international reputation for its graffiti, as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t hold a candle to what’s going on in Chile. Sure, there were tags everywhere—barely an untouched spot in the city—but it wasn’t art. It was primarily a collection of hastily posted “I was heres” repeated over and over again rather than thought out, well-planned pieces that actually take talent and time.

There are many areas of Santiago that are well known for their graf: Santa Isabel, Bellavista, and Quinta Normal, just to name a few… and we’ll get to them in time, but I want to start with a couple Santiago classics on the banks of the Río Mapocho. For anyone who hasn’t seen these pieces, they are viewable from the south side of the river looking northward… as in from Costanera looking toward Bellavista.

Fishermen Illusion on the River, by Nicole, Grin, Ceris, Siek & Derik (photo Nov 2008)

Fishermen Illusion, Río Mapocho, by Nicole, Grin, Ceris, Siek & Derik, Santiago de Chile (photo Nov 2008)

By the way… look closely… there’s really no bridge there!

Mapocho River Sunbather by Grin, Santiago de Chile (photo Nov 2008)

Mapocho River Tags (photo Nov 2008)

Río Mapocho Tags, Santiago de Chile (photo Nov 2008)

For more on Chile’s Street Art, see:

Street Art Chile: New Mural for Diego Portales

9 responses to “Santiago Graffiti: Río Mapocho

  1. Can’t believe I hadn’t noticed those!! probably I don’t go up Costanera often anymore. Agree with Santa Isabel… I was looking at some excellent pieces there just yesterday. Lovely way to colour up a rather dull part of the city…

  2. JJ! Nice to see you back! The rowboat piece has been around for quite a while, but I think the sunbather is newer. I’ll post soon on Santa Isabel… and I agree, I love to see that color, creativity, and talent among the old bodegas!

  3. I am not crazy about the tagging, but I also love the artistic murals. Great examples. I see this post hasn’t been quite so controversial!

  4. Yeah, I wonder why that is? I thought for sure people would debate the pros and cons and site some good and bad examples of where to find more street art!
    I like the subject enough that I’ll definitely keep trying though!

  5. The bridge one is amazing! And I’ve never noticed it…where exactly is it?

    I like this new series, some of the graffiti here is real art.

  6. Hi Emily- I really like the rowboat and bridge too! It’s across from Parque Forestal. I can’t remember the exact position, but I think it’s between the Puente PioNono and Puente Purísima, near the Teatro del Puente.

  7. Do you know the Brigada Ramona Parra’s graffiti style? Is a very important piece of chilean grafitti culture, chilean politics and social movements.

    There are lots of Ramona Parra’s graffiti in Santiago close to the Mapocho River; Santos Dumont w/ Avenida la PAz (Just in the corner close to JJ Agruirre Hospital and Santiago’s Cementerio General), there are some other in front to the Cafe of the Universidad de Chile’s Medicine Faculty.


  8. Yes, I do know about the Brigada Ramona Parra and will write about it at some point… their work was very important in the history of Chilean street art and their influence is still very present throughout the country… thanks for bringing it up and for the link!

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

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