CHILE: The coastal city of Valparaíso in Chile is perhaps most known for its colorful landscape and 43 cerros/ hills. Commonly known as the “La Joya del Pacífico,” (The Jewel of the Pacific), the street art scene here proves astounding.
Valparaíso wasn’t always quite so colorful, but in response to the dictatorship of the 1970’s, artists wanted to make their voices heard, forming underground groups to get their message out to the world. It would seem a wholly turbulent past, but the origin of the colorful houses is actually distinct from that of the street art:
“As Valparaiso is a port city, the short story goes that the “Porteños” (meaning the inhabitants of a port city) used the abandoned metal in the port to cover and protect their houses made of adobe bricks (a kind of clay mixed with water and straw).
And as with wind and humidity the [metal] tended to rust, people started painting their houses with the paint used on the boats. And you will have understood it, these [paints] are very resistant and especially very colorful (it is necessary to see the boats from far). This is what would be at the origin of this ‘coloured metalic’ touch that makes Valparaiso so original.”Source
Dependent on the grade level, we go in a few different directions here. For starters, the street art history is too heavy for kindergarteners, so in class, students focus solely on the vibrant colors. I sing a calming song, “Azul, blanco, rojo, violeta, amarillo, anaranjado, verde y rosa [rosado],” and point to crayons as I go, so as to associate the proper color with each word.
Students are then given large coffee filters, and I show them the food coloring (yipee!); next, students choose which colors, how many droplets, and where they want them, to create their own designs. I always narrate what is happening and ask questions continuously in the target language as I go around from student to student. In the background, I put on a different color song, called Los colores.
This year, I had a set of goteros/ eyedroppers, so kindergarteners used them to mix agua/water and the colors even further. It was great fun, however beware: this can make a huge mess! (No, I don’t say this from experience, haha!) The art teacher got in on this for International Dot Day, and the next phase of this project was to transform the colorful coffee filters into Chihuly Sculptures in her class. Very cool!
Another year, I saved them until Christmas time and older grades used the dyed paper to make snowflake decorations for my classroom.
To extend this project, and after smelling seemingly identical cups of clear liquid–water/agua and vinegar/vinagre [‘bee-NAH-gray’]–students responded in Spanish with either, “Sí me gusta” or “No me gusta” (I like it/I don’t like it/’no may GOOSE-tah’) and proceeded to ooooh and aaahhh when Pato added baking soda, droplets of food coloring, and vinegar to a bowl–resulting in a colorful volcanic eruption!
Older students announced this as “Breaking News” on their class Spanish News Show, watching a Spanish BrainPop video on volcanoes and learning about the Calbuco volcanic eruption in Chile. This connected to their classroom science unit on volcanoes.