Valparaiso is a gritty, grimy, dirty, hilly, colorful, charming city, about 1.5 hours west of Santiago. It’s full of incredible vistas, good seafood and punk rockers of every stripe. In all my travels so far I don’t think I’ve seen more punks per square foot in one city.
I arrived there after an invitation from Mauro, one of my Chilean amigos on Facebook who fronts a local punk band called ALKOL DINAMITA (alcohol and dynamite). He invited me to the Ska Festival they coincidentally were having the very weekend I was in Chile. I love ska, or skampe as it is sometimes called in Latin America, so how could I resist?
Upon arrival by bus from Santiago I found there were no buses returning back until the next morning so I set about arranging some lodging for the night. Most hotels were booked due to the high season so I tried Casa Aventura, in hopes of securing a private room. No such luck. I’d be sharing a room with 3 strangers. No problem, I just needed a place to crash for a few hours. On the way out, the nice lady at the hostel gave me a map of the area, complete with big Xs marked on the barrios peligrosas (dangerous neighborhoods).
I stopped in one of the many hole in the wall restaurants by Plaza Sotomayor to sample some empanadas. The waiter was a young tatted up, hardcore, punk. We talked about the show and he was bummed because he had to work and would miss the concert. I gave him some stickers and a card and told him to check the blog so he could read about the concert and himself. Que paso amigo? Those seafood empanadas were awesome.
Mauro and his friend, Gabriel, met me at the restaurant. Since they are strict vegetarians they couldn’t share in my meat filled and delicious empanadas but they could share some beers. After polishing off some beers, we headed over to Bar La Aduana for the show in what seemed to be a semi sketchy part of town.
We were early for sound check so I took a moment to interview Maria and Vanezza, a couple of big ska fans, as well as Mauro. When the show got going I got some decent footage of a couple of the bands before the crowd made it too difficult to video. Ok, ok actually the beers kicked in rendering me too lazy to shoot. The crowd was fairly mixed male to female and was very into the ska music and rowdy party atmosphere. The first band, Twana, did much more than warm up the crowed, they boiled them to a frenzy and set the tone for the rest of the evening, providing all the other bands a really tough act to follow.
As the effects of the beer loosened up my Spanish speaking ability, Mauro, Gabriel and I had a few laughs and discussed everything from Chile and U.S. politics, punk music (of course) and the difficulty being Vegan in a carnivore centric continent like South America where meat is the centerpiece of most food choices. I sheepishly confessed the hardships I encountered during my failed two month vegan experimentation in such a vegan friendly place as New York City. I vowed to try again, freshly inspired by my new Chilean amigos and their discipline.
Alas, it was finally time to make my way home before becoming too baracho (durnk) so I pulled out my handy dandy map the nice lady at Hostel gave me. When Mauro pointed to our current location on the map It was in one of 3 big X areas on the map the lady had stressed was peligrosa (dangerous) especially en la noche (at night). Well it was night, I was slightly drunk and carrying cash as well as lots of photo & video equipment. Mauro and Gabriel agreed this neighborhood was dangerous at night and even seemed concerned for their own safety getting out of there.
We agreed to walk together back to Plaza Sotomayor where we hoped we could catch taxis to our respective destinations. And we did. I made it back to my rented bed without incident and I never felt any threat whatsoever other than the barking dogs and the occasional drunk revelers who kept waking me.
Valparaiso seemed full of mostly hardworking, good people many of whom happen to love punk & ska music. It’s a delightful city that seems tailor made for punk rock. Blue collar, working class but very artistic and bohemian and most of all, un poco peligrosa (a little dangerous). Just the way I like it!