This afternoon I took a little jaunt to Valparaíso to visit the second home of the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. I hopped on a micro and we climbed up, up into Cerro Bellavista. The driver was very amiable and said that he “might be able to manage advising me on the location of Neruda’s house and driving the bus at the same time…” He let me off literally two three houses away from La Sebastiana. That is the name that Neruda gave his home to pay homage to the original owner who died before the house was completely finished.
Neruda owned on the top two floors and the terrace on the roof, while his friends occupied the first two floors. When he was first searching for an a place to live he gave this criteria:
“I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaíso a little house to live and write quietly. It must have some conditions. It can’t be located too high or too low. It should be solitary but not in excess, with hopefully invisible neighbors. They should not be seen or heard. The house should be unique but not uncomfortable. With many wings, but strong. Neither too big, nor too small. Far from everything but close to transportation. Independent, but close to commerce. Besides that it has to be very cheap. Do you think I would find a house like that in Valparaíso?”
Pretty particular eh?
Funny thing though, on the top floor is a map of the Americas that fills the entire wall. I’m not sure when it was made and I’m kicking myself now for not looking, but Chile was amazingly accurate. North America on the other hand, almost completely wrong. I say almost because the general shape was correct, though majorly distorted; Cuba was the size of all of the southeastern states. And also the great lakes where in the correct position. Other than that, California was an island, Illinois was in the middle of the country, and Canada was touching Mexico. I wonder what would happen if we swapped out a 4th grade classroom map with one of those…
In my opinion this home wasn’t as special as Isla Negra, but it never was supposed to be. Neruda certainly put his mark on everything, but this house was a working house instead of an escape. That being said, there is nothing like the view of the port and all of the colorful houses of Valparaíso. Just seeing that vista every morning is inspiration enough.