Peru/Chile Day 22 of 65

Miércoles, 09/27/2017…

Went on a great walking tour this morning with a company called Tours 4 Tips where you pay what you want at the end. The guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable and it was a good walk through the older residential neighborhoods of Valparaiso. Our guide Javier told us about the “golden age” of Valparaiso from its start as an important port town on the west coast of the Americas before the Panama Canal was built. The gold boom in California in the 19th century fueled incredible wealth here, Javier told us, and along with wealth came industry and population growth. As the working class grew, so did the neighborhoods in the hills where the homesteaders and settled. It was a land grab the way he described it!

Then we hopped on the ‘O’ bus up to the hills and walked through the neighborhoods to the old jail where Javier told us about the political history of Chile in the late 20th century and the socialist/anarchist movement and eventual election of the socialist Salvador Allende to the presidency in 1970. There is too much speculation and political bias from online sources for me to try and summarize the events in the following years and I’m still learning about Chile’s political history, but in 1973 the economy began to tank (CIA intervention and Richard Nixon’s quote: “make the economy scream”) and shortly following President Allende’s final speech on September 11, 1973 he was found dead in the presidential palace that was surrounded and bombed by Chilean armed forces. The head of the army, Augusto Pinochet, seized power of the new military government that lasted until 1990 when Chile transitioned back to democracy. Allende’s last speech is quite moving and Javier grew up in Chile in the aftermath of all of this political turmoil and became quite emotional when talking about it.

Javier at the old jail turned cultural center.

Tours4Tips and Wanderers Game

On a somewhat related but much lighter note, we learned about the muralist movement in Chile. Graffiti has always been illegal in Chile but that never stopped gang members and artists from marking up their streets, Javier said. So the murals were a good way for shopkeepers and homeowners to keep people from tagging their walls by inviting the same artists to paint their walls. The mutual respect between graffiti artists kept them from tagging over the beautiful murals and the tradition continued in this already colorful city. There is a famous couple (and group of artists) called Un Kolor Distinto (a different color) that paints large murals about Chilean social and political life and themes often include images of men and women with faces merging together to show their strength together rather than as individuals. The second meaning Javier said is that the Chilean people are stronger when unified instead of fighting over political differences that had torn the country apart in the latter 20th century.

Back at the hostel I met Sofia who just moved into our mostly-empty dorm room and is from Buenos Aires. She is traveling for three months and then headed home to save some money before traveling again. She has been to Peru and Bolivia already and has been in Valparaiso for a few weeks already but only at this hostel for a week or so. We talked about school (she went to art school and studied printmaking and jewelry and other crafts) and work and she said in Argentina and Buenos Aires it’s becoming very hard to find jobs except in restaurants and hospitality in the touristy neighborhoods. She said a lot of people she knows are leaving the country to try to find work. Her family and friends still live back in her city but what she misses the most is her two beautiful dogs and two cats. She showed me pictures and cooed and I suddenly missed my little black cat. He likely doesn’t care that I haven’t been around, but we’ll see when I get back…

After talking to Sofia for a few minutes I went back into the streets of Valparaiso to find tickets to the quarterfinal match of the Chilean Cup tournament. Valparaiso’s beloved futbol team the Wanderers are playing Iberia for a chance to move on in the tournament. It was random that I even found out about the game and I wanted to see some live sports here and since nobody gives a damn about baseball in South America except for Venezuelans apparently, I had to find a futbol game to watch. This was a lucky coincidence.

The ticket in the A section, the gallery in the middle of the field (not in either end of the stadium where the superfans will gather to scream and shout and lose their minds), cost 6,000 pesos or about $10. I am six rows back and right on the midline of the field. I walked here straight from where I bought the ticket in the center of town, about a two mile walk nearly straight up one of this city’s brutal hills, past the port and along the waterfront. Now it’s 5:22 and the game starts at 6 p.m. and the fans are starting to fill the stadium that seats about 5,000. The Wanderinos aren’t having a spectacular year but they are in the top Chilean league and are one of the oldest futbol teams in Chile because Europeans brought the sport over and it took off in this international port city.

The green shirted goalie from the Ws comes out to warm up first and the still-small crowd cheers for him. As folks from this port city leave work they make their way to Estadio Elías Figueroa Brander and the fan area begins to get packed. Now the home team fans start to warm up their lungs with a chant and a cheer for their team as the squad jogs out onto the field to “Sweet Child of Mine” …goddamn Americans.

And of course my phone is dying as I type this and I won’t be back to charge for hours and I may need the map to walk home or Uber if I don’t feel comfortable finding the right bus or walking back to the city center after dark. Stay tuned…

Holy shit!!

After the Wanderers scored first and the home crowd lost their minds, visiting Iberia responded with an equalizer straight away in the second half. Then after about 40 minutes of rather sloppy futbol (though I’m certainly no expert) the game went to a shootout — best of five shots. After the teams traded the first goal, the Wanderers missed their second shot. The crowd collectively moaned and it seemed to be over already. But amazingly the Wanderers’ goalie blocked the fourth shot and then their last shooter made the fifth shot. The game would be tied if the fifth Iberia shooter could make a routine penalty kick…

The green-clothed home crowd erupted when the goalie blocked Iberia’s last shot! The Santiago Wanderers de Valparaiso won the game in the last possible moment and will move on to the semifinals of the Copa Chile tournament! The fans yelled and cheered and marched out of the stadium into the streets and down the hill into Valparaiso proper where the diehards partied all night. I know this because our street art/graffiti tour guide the next morning (spoiler!!) was incredibly hungover from partying with his friends until the early morning. He wants to start a Valparaiso futbol tour next — seems a bit less popular than the graffiti, but I kept my mouth shut…

I’m exhausted when I get home but my dormmates are just getting ready to head out to Altamira Brewery near our hostel. Javier said it was fantastic and would have live jazz tonight so I agree to tag along. The place is very touristy but an incredibly nice microbrewery that would do well in any American city. By the time we get back everyone is hammer drunk. They are falling on each other and sitting cuddled on the floor together and talking about popular music and showing each other pictures of their friends back home. It’s pretty cute actually and though I don’t really care about the $500 designer pants that Hillary wants I smile anyway at the photo from her Instagram feed. These kids are really silly and I might as well live on another planet but it’s nice to have some genuine company either way. They pass out pretty shortly after and I flick the light switch and fade to black right right behind them. I’m exhausted and my legs are so sore from walking all day. This is a theme here in Valparaiso. I miss my bike but all this walking feels so natural. Anyway, it seems damn near impossible to ride a bike around the hills of this city — and I think most locals agree because I only see about one person a day on a bicycle and sometimes a single speed but never fixed. I’m rambling now…

Goodnight futbol freaks, nos vemos!


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