The City that Enthralls the World
THE INTERNATIONAL SONG FESTIVAL DECKS OUT THE HEIGHTS OF ITS FAME, BUT THERE ARE MANY OTHER CITY TUNES, LANDSCAPE BEATS, HERITAGE SONGS AND CULTURAL MELODIES THAT MAKE VIÑA DEL MAR THE PRECIOUS PEARL OF ALL CHILEAN SPELLS
Next to the Viña del Mar where the world goes to sing, lives the one that sings to the world, inspiring muses subjugated by the glamor and beauty of the so-called Garden City. The city enthralls both the natives and foreigners, as if to achieve the miracle that its peculiar city life, the natural, patrimonial and cultural features, the ones that makes many pop the question there.
This is what Chile's Cristian Jovani defined as its “war spellbound” in a poem which he admits to have been conquered by this sandy land, the paradise city... The same sensation seems to have enlightened Spanish singer Manolo Galván, one of the voices that has honored this international song festival, when he wrote: “Oh, Viña del Mar / different colors / mixed in you / they intoxicated my mind”. The possession is so huge that the artist winds up confessing how he refuses to sleep in this place because “that would be a sin.”
Founded in 1874 on José Francisco Vergara's dream to build a city near Valparaíso –although with a completely different identity- now that initial yearning of his has gone way too far. Viña del Mar became the precious pearl of all Chilean charms, even in its tourist capital.
The combination of city and nature began to sketch out its paradisiacal image in 1906. By that date, an earthquake had left a hundred victims and dozens of buildings destroyed in large sectors of the nearby Valparaiso. It would be this catastrophe that definitely marked the fate of that city of some 300,000 inhabitants.
This is how a wonderful combination was created: the typical beach buildings, beautifully cornered by extensive green areas and gardens populated by a surprising diversity of floristic species.
At Viña del Mar, an amazing concert among the urban ornaments –walks, large palaces (Vergara, Rioja, Carrasco, Presidential Cerro Castillo, the getaway of the country's presidents, Wulff, Brunett) and mansions of well-to-do families now turned into museums, coupled with its 13 beaches, join a bevy of diverse cultural, gastronomic and entertainment offers. The city pulsates between seasons of concerts and musical shows, with the major highlight being the aforementioned international festivals.
The music festival is held at the amphitheater of the stunning Quinta Vergara, a beautiful park built in the late 1960s that was completely refurbished in early 2000. There is also the film festival, penciled in as one of the most significant ones of its kind in both Chile and the rest of Latin America.
Its most famous museums are El Artequin, dedicated to attract children especially on the basis of the visual arts; al Aire Libre, which honors the poetry of Gonzalo Villar and is connected to the Casa Verde Gallery; the Fonk, where an authentic moai from Easter Island can be seen and treasures artifacts that belonged to the Chilean aborigines.
From the spiritual point of view, its Lyric Season, the International Contest of Musical Execution, the painting exhibitions, the Architecture Biennial and the literary meetings stand tall.
Must-see places for visitors are also the Valparaiso Sporting Club, with its 124 hectares dedicated to equestrian activities and home to the national horserace derby; Avenida Peru, with its well-tended gardens that skirt the coast and enhance the casino (an old building that includes a five-star hotel) and ends up in the renowned Muelle Vergara and its unique breakwater; the magical Flower Clock, the National Botanical Garden with its more than 3,000 plant species, in addition to a lagoon with a pedestrian walkway that ends in a path into the forest; and the Reña- ca, distinguished as the most universal of the Chilean beaches, hemmed in by pyramidal buildings.
And if so much beauty and intensity are not good enough, this voracious spiritual appetite can be quenched with the powerful lyrical immanence of Pablo Neruda, by jumping into the universal charm of his poetry and personality in Isla Negra –about 73 km-, or the Sebastiana –the closest between this city and Valparaiso, and within reach by means of public transport- two of its houses in Chile.
Out of either of these places, you will surely come out with a sigh of deep fulfillment, and with one of Galván's songs prodding into your heart: “Viña del Mar / you'll be my last memory / you'll be my pillow if I'm far away...
El renombrado Muelle Vergara. / The renowned Muelle Vergara.
El Valparaíso Sporting Club. / The Valparaiso Sporting Club.