The next day I decided to take a walking tour of the city, it was run by a local and totally based on tips, which I really appreciated. I got to learn a lot about the history of the city and many stories of the surrounding neighborhoods. I knew this city was not the safest in Chile (robberies and muggings are common, even among locals) but apparently a lot of the city that tourists don´t have reasons to go to are downright dangerous. There was huge staircase we went by called the ´Escalera de la muerte´ which apparently is not just named for it´s grand number of steps. We got more backstories of the street art all over the city... apparently if you don´t let a local artist paint on your house, you will get tagged by gangs instead and the house will look pretty awful, so it´s kind of an obligation in the city, (though most residents consider it a privelage). We also learned about the legendary Valparaiso Downhill mountain bike race (I would definitely recommend watching this video to get an idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
After the tour, the guide recommended and excellent place to get the (in)famous Choriallana. It´s meal usually shared by two people that is comprised of french fries covered in steak, covered in onions, and finally covered in fried eggs. Many people lovingly call it ´a chilean heart attack´. It was delicious and I warned myself that I should only try it a few more times. This, as well as the Pastel de Choclo (I would describe it as a corn pot pie), were my favorite non-seafood dishes I had in Chile and hope they´ll both make it to the states on day. After a night in the courtyard filled with a riotous game of Jenga (seriously... it was intense) we headed back to the El Gato en la Ventana and had another excellent night of dancing and partying. However, we stayed up long after the bars closed to see people already starting to protest for the memorial day tomorrow.
The holiday being celebrated when I was in Valparaiso was one filled with contention. It´s dark history starts with the actual event it commemorates, which is the day when the Bolivia destroyed a naval ship near the atacama desert in the late 19th century. What this holiday fails to mention is that the fighting started because Chile overtook the desert and its rich copper resources when Bolivia, who was the current owner of the area, wanted to tax Chilean companies for mining it. In the end Chile won the war and now the majority of the desert, along with its copper, belongs to Chile and is the country´s main export... but it is also one of the reasons Bolivia is currently so poor. However, more recent events were what had instigated the current protests, as many of the left-wing residents of chile are against the corrupt educational system that usually keeps the lower classes of Chile from ever having the chance to receive higher education. Since on this holiday Pinochet ordered the execution of students who were protesting the same problem decades ago, the protest during this holidy has become quite large among the student population. I found out some of the people staying at my hostel had come specifically to watch or participate in the protests.
After resting for a few hours I arrived back at the plaza to see the protest in full swing. It was another great contrast with Chile´s marines marching by in a parade for the more apathetic masses and the students chanting only a few blocks away. We got to see the president give a speech in the city, but we didn´t listen very long as he is not a popular politician. We decided to head to Viña del Mar, Valparaiso´s rich sister city, to escape the crowds in the afternoon. This sister city was nice, but extremely boring, rich and quiet. The beaches and miniature castles built on cliffs were quite interesting, but that was pretty much it, and we quickly made our way back to Valparaiso. After a chill night of relaxing and another impromptu barbeque, I decided it would be best to leave the next day. The hostal staff and other guests were sad to see me go, but I was off to try and see Mendoza!