I’d like to take a blog post to simply explain where I live and what the surrounding area is like. We’ll begin at my house in Viña del Mar, Chile. Viña del Mar is a 10 minute micro ride from Valparaíso, and is oddly distinct from the city itself. Some Chileans distinguish Valparaíso the city from Gran Valparaíso, which is the city, Viña del Mar, Con Cón, Reñaca, Quilpué, and Villa Alemana, which are all smaller city towns slightly north.
It’s generally agreed upon that the more northern the town, the wealthier the community. The term here is cuico, meaning those with money, connections, and higher standards of living. They’re the opposite of flaite, who I’ll discuss in another blogpost. This stereotype is pretty well founded, and is a Chilean trend, as in Santiago the city is filled with densely packed poor communities and wealthier citizens living on the city edges beneath the mountains.
Viña itself contains a mix of cerro, plan, and for lack of a better term, regular housing. Much of coastal Chile is very geographically abrupt. That is, we have the ocean in front of us, but hundreds of feet of vertical distance to reach the different neighborhoods. There are hundreds of cerros in Valpo, all of which are very high up and very tightly packed.
Everything surrounding the cerros at sea level is plan. I live in neither of these spaces. I live on 2 Norte and 4 Poniente, across the bridge from all that elevation.
This part of Viña del Mar is very different than Valparaíso. It’s simply more organized. The grid system, the street shops, and even the street vendors just feel less erratic than the city itself. That’s not to say it’s better, as there’s still violence, theft, and general danger, but Avenida Libertad and Plaza Vergara are great references to guide oneself through the city.
Two other IFSA students live in this area, on 5 and 8 Norte. One lives across the bridge, and five live up in the cerros of Viña. The remaining half are similarly dispersed across Valpo. This distribution gives us a great range of how the communities differ, despite their closeness, and keeps us from hunkering down in one “international” neighborhood.
We still do that too much though.