Recently, all of Chile celebrated the Día de Patrimonio (or, in English, “National Heritage Day”). To the best of my knowledge, we don’t really have an equivalent to this holiday in this U.S., and, if we do, it’s definitely not as widely-recognized or celebrated as it is in Chile and throughout other parts of South America. Here it’s a pretty big deal, and pretty much everyone celebrates it. In Chile, it’s a day where the museums, government buildings, universities, etc. are all open to the public. And it gets even better – on this day, almost all of them are free to enter! It’s really just a day about celebrating the history and culture of the country and coming together as a nation.
I took advantage of the free museums and went to a couple of art museums with my friend. We first went to this unconventional art museum right by my house. I had passed by it many times, but I had always assumed that it was some public government building or something. Apparently, it’s a free art museum full of all these crazy art exhibits. One of the exhibits had a table full of little pieces of paper with scissors chained to the table. It was an interactive exhibit, so each visitor could cut out a shape or something from their piece of paper and then put it in one of the gauze pockets that were hanging down from the ceiling. There’s only one word to describe it: ethereal. My contribution to the exhibit was a little dachshund that I carefully cut out and placed in one of the gauzy billows. I even made sure his little head was sticking out so that he could also observe the exhibit.
The second art museum we went to is a more traditional one called Palacio Barburizza. It was actually one of the first art museums in Latin America, with the National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago being the very first one. As I learned from my tour of the museum, the building itself, which is actually a former mansion, was designed by two Italian architects at the beginning of the 20th century. It was originally built to be a home for one of the many well-to-do families in Valparaíso, but was transformed into an art museum in the 1970s. Many of the paintings there are paintings of Valparaíso and the surrounding area, but the majority are from the early 1900s. It was so cool to see the places that I’ve walked through many times captured in a painting, but, better yet, in a painting showing how these spots looked a hundred years ago. It’s like time-traveling in a sense because you can imagine yourself in that very same spot but in a time that now seems like a far-away, forgotten world. Obviously, in a hundred years, a lot has changed in Valparaíso. It’s now a lot bigger and sprawls on and on with seemingly never-ending hills. Before, it was a city that was all centered around the port and the ocean, so the urban hills were not nearly as extensive.
Overall, I had a lovely Día del Patrimonio and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned a little bit more about Chilean culture from the various parades and stands that day, and I definitely learned a lot more about Chilean art. My only complaint is that now I want a Día del Patrimonio in the U.S., too, so that I can take advantage of all of Philadelphia’s museums!