Around the world, graffiti finds a natural home on the concrete walls alongside railroad tracks. In this case, the rails and the colorful artwork wend their way through the port city of Valparaiso, Chile.
Victor Jarra, ¡Presenté!
Victor Jarra, a beloved Chilean guitarist and singer, was arrested and tortured during the CIA-backed coup on September 11, 1973. General Augusto Pinochet's soldiers took care to smash Jara's fingers before murdering him in a Santiago soccer stadium. In Berkeley, Jara's life is celebrated in the powerful mural that adorns the La Pena Cultural Center. In Chile, Jara's image stands watch beneath an elevated roadway in Valpariaso, where he is joined by the images of other pillars of Chile's progressive past.
Sometimes graffiti can be official, inadvertent, and self-inflicted. In Santiago, a street sign pointing the way to 9/11 Street also draws attention to a sign that warns the area is under 24-hour police video surveillance.
Marking Neruda's Neighborhood:
During the Pinochet Coup, soldiers descended on the Santiago home of poet Pablo Neruda. Enraged to discover he was in another city, the troops set fire to his library and threw his poems and papers in the mud. The home (named "La Chascona" in honor of Neruda's lover Matilde Urrutia) has been restored and now draws thousands of visitors a day. On a nearby street, an artist has turned a wall into a tribute to the diplomat, lady's man, and Nobel prize-winning poet.
La Dictadura. ¡No Mas!
Chileans still speak cautiously when the topic is politics. The constitution imposed by Pinochet is still largely in force. Monuments built by Pinochet still dominate the capitol city but the spirit of rebellion continues to flower. One of the stops along Santiago's underground is the Salvador station. One rebellious tagger could not resist the opportunity to salute Chile's martyred president.