Corrugated City

Monday 29 October 2007

10 Ways to Improve Valparaiso

Here are a few ideas that have occurred to me over the past few months.

1. Start an official antique fair (not a tat-fair) every Sunday-at least during the summer months- on Cerro Concepcion, in the streets that surround the Anglican Church just like in San Telmo over in Buenos Aires.

2. Allow only residents' parking on Cerro Concepcion (during the day everyone who works downtown leaves their cars up here clogging up the streets).

3. Permanent police patrol on Cerros Concepcion and Alegre. As the area gentrifies and becomes more and more popular with tourists, it attracts more and more opportunist thieves. Take note of other cities worldwide and increase police presence in the city's most touristy areas. This also includes Sector La Matriz.

4. Build an aquarium. Valparaiso is a beautiful city to wander around and in which to soak up the atmosphere but there's no real attraction here. Build a world class aquarium (after all, we are by the blinking sea here) and the city could attract not just more foreign tourists but locals as well.

5. Advertise for crying out loud. Put big posters up at the airport, build a city website and blog (a la Buenos Aires). Tell the world about Valparaiso. Set up a mobile tourist information centre on the 50+ cruise ships that dock in the city every single year. Attract more tourists and more investment.

6. A bit of government assistance wouldn't go amiss. The Ecuadorian government puts aside some us$30 million a year to maintain the spectacular Centro Historico in Quito. Valparaiso receives in the region of $14.73 (pesos chilenos) from the Chilean government. Shameful.

7. Do as UNESCO demands and get rid of the absurd overhead cabling that ruins pretty much every photo you take of Valparaiso. Bury all electrical and TV cables underground.

8. Pedestrianise the Sector La Matriz, buy out the building owners and offer tax breaks or cheap rent for 2 years to investors willing to open shops and cafes (this is what Quito does, to great effect). Turn the area into a friendly, cafe culture zone.

9. Force GasValpo to change every single centimetre of gas piping in the city. Too many explosions due to poor maintenance.

10. Get rid of the stray dogs. Castrate them, murder them, turn them into empanadas...i don't care. Just get them off the streets and stop them causing traffic accidents and scaring off tourists who think they're bite-y (they're not but they are yappy).

10 (a). Put me in charge :)

Any other ideas out there?


Anonymous said...

Stuff the ATM's with real money for a change...although that might take away from the Disneyland feel, I know.

Matt said...

Disneyland on crack.

Anonymous said...

And if you want to have a coffee culture please bring some from Brazil and stop sell nescafé !

Matt said...

what? tired of nescafe after just a couple of months??? oh, dear...

actually, cafe culture has dramatically improved since my first time in chile 4 years was almost impossible to find real coffee but now most decent restaurants have expensive espresso machines (they don't really know how to use them properly yet but i'm guessing they'll have to work it out sooner or later). There are also more segafredos and illys around which are always packed full of gossiping men and women. I think the entrance of the evil empire (starbucks) had a really positive effect on Chilean cafes and restaurants-it proved there's a demand for proper coffee and we, the consumers, have benefitted.

I actually think that Valpo needs something like a Starbucks either on Cerro Concepcion/Alegre or down near La Matriz-whatever people say about that company, Starbucks acts as a magnet for other 'aspirational brands' and helps attract further investment into an area. It's just what Valpo needs-a big company taking the first step.

Anonymous said...

I heard that they were looking at building a seaside promenade along the foreshore...or did I dream that? They could also look at doing up the promenade along Playa Torpederas - apparently in the 60s they used to hold dances and other entertainment activities during the summer period. This area would make a good spot for a weekend feria artesanal a la the St Kilda weekend market here in Melbourne.

Parking restrictions in Cerro Concepcion? Sounds like the inner city areas of Melbourne - post gentrification!!!

Anonymous said...

the dogs are cute and the overhead wires add character. there's a big difference between making a city better for tourism and utterly ruining its character, as some of your "improvements" would. if you don't like it, you should just leave.

Matt said...

Spot on-mangy, scabby dogs that scare off tourists, cause traffic accidents and sometimes bite people and dangerous electrical wiring are exactly what the city needs and really add character.

Patricio-the promenade along up past the port and up and around Torpederas has already been done up-it looks really nice...i think it was part of the project to build the back road down to the port sso all the lorries don't have to drive through one really goes up there at the moment though. I don't think many people even know it's been completely fixed up.

Another thing i miss about Buenos Aires is the Costanera down by the ecological reserve in puerto madero-every weekend, they set up mobile parrillas and a feria and everyone heads down there with their families to have picnics and just wander around. The costanera in Valpo would be perfect for something similar...and it'd be better as, instead of a stinky, polluted lagoon as in BA, you'd have spectacular views of the Pacific and the coastline.

The waterfront project you mention is about 2 years behind schedule. It's down by the Baron Wharf on the way out of Valpo. Local residents' associations are strongly opposed to it as the plan was to build 60m high towers as part of the project, something that would destroy the natural 'amphitheatre' of the city. They want to build a mall, a hotel and some apartments down there but i'm not all that sure whether it would have a great effect on the touristy areas of the city as all it would do would be to attract people to the mall and not to the actual city.

Of course, it would bring money into Valpo and this would obviously have a trickle down effect but i'm not convinced it'd be the great leap forward the developers are trying to make out. I don't think it'll bring more visitors to Valparaiso itself, it'll just bring more people to a mall.

Anonymous said...

I should go back to school I wanted to write stop selling !
Portugal has a real "coffee culture" so yea I don't like Nescafé :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Matt! I didn't know about the upgrade of Torpederas...I knew about the lorry by-pass to the port, though. Now they just need to promote it...hmmmm...I love back planning! I was not aware that the costanera project in Valpo would involve a mall (wrong! wrong! wrong!)...A mixed use precinct would be the ideal scenario with apartment living (...60m is pretty high...not sure about that one), offices, shopping facilities (NOT a mall) and entertainment dining venues. Valparaiso is lovely by day but at night tends to have a no-go feel to it (for both tourists and residents). A precinct with a round-the-clock life to it could help change this perception and hopefully permeate to other parts of the city - especially the historic core...

Puerto Madero is high on my lists of places to visit in BA. I've become a bit of a convert to the Melbourne Docklands project and would like to look at other comparable waterfront re-developments. Initially I felt that Melbourne Docklands was a cheap rip-off of the London Docklands project and, being from Valpo, I felt that it was a slap in the face to Melbourne's port heritage. However, it is shaping up real nice. My only gripe would be the disproportionate number of cafes and restaurants per head of population yet not one supermarket or bank or post office (at this point) to sustain all the residents living there.


Anonymous said...

...not to mention the dog shit all over the pavement - an embarrasment for not only Valparaiso but many large Chilean cities. Dogs are cute but should not be wandering the streets ownerless- putting them down and spaying all pet dogs is the only humane and practical answer in the long run.

I must admit, though, that it is a very funny and particuarly Chilean thing when a dog interrupts some important televised military procession, cavilcade of visiting dignataries or a soccer match! God Bless them!

The electrical wiring looks shit also and if they cannot be undergrounded they should at least be properly extended rather than coiled around at the posts! Undergrounding is a very expensive exercise. In Melbourne it has only been done in new housing estates on the outskirts because of the cost involved in other areas - so your shots of the nice Victorian architecture here will also feature electrical wiring - and tram lines to boot!

Finally, 'anon' your 'love it or leave it' attitude is uncalled for, unconstructive and is actually quite insulting.

Who said that only Chileans are allowed to make suggestions, observations and critiques of Chile? I thought Chile was now a democracy and that kicking people out for their beliefs (if you were one of the lucky ones!)was a thing of the past! Wake up! Its years of complacency, inadequate government support and a general indifference to its neglect that is slowly transforming Valparaiso from crumbling charm to decaying mess. New ideas are what will actually save what we love about Pancho!

I'll vote for you Matt!


Matt said...

yep, the dogs and the cabling are the two things every resident-chilean or foreign-complains the most about. there's nothing charming about either.

A part of Valpo being named a world heritage site is was that all cabling in the designated area had to be buried. This still hasn't been started 4 years on. Underground cabling is usually reserved for gated communities or upscale neighbourhoods in Santiasco so it'll be nice to see historical buildings without the wires instead of just new tower blocks in Las Condes.

A funny (but kind of tragically Chilean) story...the council actually recognised that the perros vagos are a problem and so decided to build a new kennels complex outside of the city. It's almost completed. The thing is...they took the decision to build the thing first and then count the it's almost certain they won't have enough room to house all of them. Duh.

A lot of Valpo's strays are currently housed in the back garden of a friend's girlf's dad's home up in Placeres. The neighbours aren't happy. This family assists the council in rounding the dogs up whenever there's a big event in Valpo. As there's nowhere to keep them for more than a few hours, they're all let go as soon as the event is over.

By the way, what you say about the Melbourne Docklands could equally be said about Puerto Madero-PM looks pretty amazing and the new high rises don't look out of place there at all. The converted warehouses are really cool and there are some great restaurants. There must be a few thousand new flats down there. But no supermarkets. No shops. Hardly any buses. Nothing to attract people to actually live there. It's just an investment bubble waiting to burst. And the quality of the incredibly expensive apartments is appalling-paper thin walls mean you can hear the (non-existent) neighbours doing what they do. It all looks pretty and spectacular but just underneath...welcome to Argentina- all style, no substance!

Anonymous said...

Couple of things I have to say here to these Forasteros: First of all, this is Chile. As such, we don't drink coffee, we dance awfully and we hardly sing (there are exceptions). Grain coffee is more expensive and the other shtuff does the trick anyway. Second, the ATM dispense REAL money, millions live on that money and some could die without it, so "Shileno" unload your unwanted sarcasm elsewhere. If you feel so rich that ours doesn't fill you, la puerta es ancha. Third: Chile does not exists to please a bunch of enfant-gatée gringos looking for adventure, palms, sun and cigars. We are not outspoken, funny or exuberant,...We drink tea, my dear, without milk.
I will vote for a Chilean like you anytime.

Matt said...

hey santiago, don't be too harsh on chileno (at least not in this case...)-he was given a fake note from an ATM here in Valpo a while back...

it's true about the dancing here...even i, the world champion bad dancer, don't feel too scared about standing up and swaying from side to side in a vague attempt to move my hips in Chile :)

...and i'm desperately trying to get all the chileans i know to drink with with a few drops of milk but not much luck so with 8 sugars seems to be the way it's taken here and it's not going change anytime soon...!

thanks for the i have 2 :)

Anonymous said...

...I'm a chileno that likes just a small drop of milk in my tea and coffee...I've only ever had it that way. Don't know if its something I picked up subliminaly here in Australia or whether my parents used to drink it that way back before we migrated...

Chile may not have a tradition of preparing and drinking coffee - but neither did Australia up until very recently. We have a brand called International Roast that in the 70s and 80s used to have pride of place at many a kitchen table. Believe you me this stuff is gut wrenching making Nescafe taste like Lavazza. Now its only bought by cheap-arse businesses to dish out to their staff in the tea room (it rots there coz no one except for the biggest tight wads will drink it). Nowdays there is not one restaurant, cafe or greasy take away food outlet that doesn't have an espresso machine...even McDonalds....And for dancing...let me tell you Santiago Flores! Australians make Chileans look like Cubans on the dance floor. I wish I could do a demonstration of the 'Whyalla Shuffle' for you however I don't have webcam and my dog chewed up my lambs wool moccasins! When you say chilenos are not good dancers, yes, but by Latin American standards...Aussies don't give a shit if they look bad dancing (or if they critically hurt other partners on the dance floor with their elbows and huge, heavy feet) because they dance for FUN!

If there was anything good to come out of globalisation it would be that we can now share, adopt and transform cultural practices of other countries as a means of making our own culture a lot stronger and dynamic...VIVA EL CAMBIO! I say...the changing face of coffee and dancing in Chile are cases in point!...That said, I also believe that some things should also stay the same...If chilenos were exhuberant, gregarious and walked with a swing in our step then we would not be chilenos! In that respect, I luv us the way we are!

I guess these 'forasteros' as you call them are only making comparatives with their own societies back home - which is just human nature and actually quite healthy for all involved. Its important to note there are also many chilenos who go abroad and piss and moan about the country they are visiting and how much better things are back in Chile (I have had the 'pleasure' of meeting many here in Australia!)...


Anonymous said...

"Mierda de perro no es cultura" I wanted to spray paint it on EVERY wall in Valpo. I think they like dog shit everywhere.

Anonymous said...

mierda de perro..
Italy France Brooklyn etc...they all over the world.
What kill the dogs??? please, it's not the animals fault! It's the peoples fault, again.

Just found your blog.
I'm Chilean, from Valparaiso.
I totally understand where you´r coming from.
But all this is also a outcome from a long dictatorship, even though it ended nearly 20 years ago (-89, once again a American, Capitalist, Imperialist act)
It's still on peoples mind, unconsciously. You just want to have enough money too feed your family. You don't have the time to think about the new coffee generation. And no STARBUCKS!!
A antic fair would be lovely as an even larger artisan market. An underground electrical wiring would be in my list as well.
Fix the trash system-a BIG PROBLEM.
Also keeping the stores open! stores are always closed, why?
no money? no workers?_________

Don't make it another Puerto Rico, another little state of America.

-I see paradise-

ivan said...

Hopefully, the Chinese residents of Valparaiso will read your "10 ways to improve Valparaiso" and make empanadas or dim sum out of those fucking stray dogs. They really suck.
I totally agree with running all the electricity in Valparaiso underground so that we can appreciate the architecture a bit more. It would be much safer for everyone too.
Please, no fucking Starbucks in Valparaiso. That shit they serve is not even coffee. There is plenty of great freshly roasted Brazilian coffee available and at good prices.
Great idea that of starting an antiques fair or market on Cerro Concepcion, I think it will do great.
I would turn plaza Anibal Pinto in a pedestrians only area and allow the restaurants to set up tables out on the sidewalks. In fact, I would redirect or relegate all North and South bound traffic to the streets that are closest to the waterfront. Make people walk, for their own health, for a change and for the environment.
I don't know about an aquarium in Valparaiso...what are you going to feature in it? Jureles, merluzas y reinetas? jajaja. Just kidding.

Anyway, I really like your initiative and great input on how to make things better for the porteños. Matt, I wish we had more people like you in Valparaiso. We really need it there. Cheers!

Ivan Rojas

nholz said...

Matt - if you still read these, I have a few questions I'd like to ask you about waste management/pickup/recycling in Valparaiso - what's a good email address I can reach you at?

Matt said...

go to

Ivanhoe said...

The dogs aren't cute at all, in fact, they suck and some bite. Most of them are infested with ticks or mange (which is worse) and the "authorities" need to do something urgent about this dog overpopulation annoyance. On the other hand, I totally agree with Matt regarding the outdated street electric wiring, it should definitely be underground, they are an eyesore, dangerous, and interfere with the view. If there were 10 more people like Matt in Valparaiso, this city would be a true "Jewel of the Pacific". I have followed Matt's important contributions to our city ever since he decided to set foot in Valparaiso and I only have great things to say about him and I applaud his willingness to make things much better in my home city. Matt, keep up the great job, buddy.