19 February 2013

The painted walls of Santiago, Chile

Strolling into the Bellavista neighborhood, you notice a few things begin to change: the architecture flattens out into a valley of low-rise apartments and small businesses, there are fewer people during waking hours, the corners are tighter, the streets narrower and the atmosphere is cozier.

Out of the Galleries, into the Streets

Bellavista’s got something else, something extra, something the other neighborhoods don’t have. Weaving your way to San Critóbal Hill, for instance, or to La Chascona, Neruda’s love nest for mistress Matilde, means meandering through the most concentrated collection of street art in the city. Santiago’s (mostly) anonymous artists keep the neighbourhood (quietly bohemian during the day, unruly after hours) saturated in colour, mythology, and politics. In no other place in the city do the walls talk so much, or the people and the space they live in complement each other so well. This place is a photographer´s dream.

Yes, Bellavista is at the top of most “To Do” lists, with all its quirks and delicious food. Yet you could be forgiven for thinking that, once you’ve crossed over the Mapocho, you’ve walked into a neighbourhood located within an art space and not the other way around.

A Tradition, Continued

Long known as the neighborhood of the writer and the artist, Bellavista has embraced the genre’s evolution and the community proudly supports its protagonists. It is, however, widely known that if an artist wants to remain ‘hung’ in this gallery they must be at the top of their game. This means that you, the viewer, get to witness skill and variety of content that is in a state of constant flux. Street art is found in nearly every urban nook west of Providencia, but this is the epicentre of the most creative, and most profane, of the city’s street art.

Get Your Camera Ready

Turn a corner onto Bombero Nuñez and you’ll see nudes clutching chicken heads between their legs, partisan stencils, grinning skulls, wildstyle tagging, portraiture and talking trees. Have a beer at a café. Go to the zoo on the hill. Take a few photos. It’s the city: car exhaust caresses the walls and the sun beats as heavily as anywhere in the Americas but make no mistake about it, you are in a living gallery.

FotoRuta, fresh over the Andes from Buenos Aires, now offers weekly tours in various barrios around Santiago, including Bellavista. For more information, visit www.foto-ruta.com.

About the author: Tim has been living in Chile for half a year, using his weekends to tour and chart the city’s underground culture. He’s written on the street art, underground house parties, and jazz clubs around town. He’ll be perusing the South American streets for an indefinite period of time.

Foto Ruta photographer EyeSpyCat