Valparaiso – go to the paradise, va-al-paraiso
This drawing is of a man who came up to Margaret and I while we were eating in Santiago, Chile. He was pleasantly plump, had a great Mario brothers moustache, and a smile that never left his face while he performed. He wasn’t your typical street performer- he wasn’t polished, you could tell he had another job and just did this for the fun of it, on the side. He played the drum on his back, clashed the cymbal, had a harmonica, hand clappy things (I don’t know the name for them), and maybe a dozen other instruments. His son came along at the end, and accompanied his father on a washboard attached to his chest. While playing all of these instruments simultaneously, they were spinning around in circles and singing. The most impressive feat was that they sounded really good. The most frustrating thing was that he kept spinning, and I never had more than one second to draw him in one position.
My wife and I lived in Chile for a half a year. It was, without doubt, the greatest time of our lives. We made such good friends there, played music every day, ate the most delicious food- I can’t describe how impressed I am with Chile. Margaret and I moved to Chile when we had only been married for three weeks- it was technically a “study abroad” program through the university we both attended in New York. It was really a honeymoon- we had an apartment in Valparaiso, on a hillside in overlooking the Pacific.
The people were so kind to us, they were so giving. My first day in my classes in Valparaiso were very frightening- two dozen Chileans speaking rapid fire Spanish, and me trying to remember the future tense of “hacer”. One guy, Ronald Smith Estay, saw my plight and instantly befriended me. Ronald is a really talented artist who can jump back and forth between painting, sculpture, photography, computers, whatever, with incredible ease. When I was there, he painted very beautiful figure painting of a woman. During that same month, he had welded an enormous hand out of wire. It was the coolest sculpture. Within one week of living in Chile, Ronald had invited us to his parents’ home in Concon. We were at a huge family barbeque, with laughing and singing and people playing the churrango (Chilean folk guitar). There was wine, really good bread, and I think they may have actually killed the fatted calf for us. Okay, they themselves didn’t kill the calf, but they did have a calf-sized amount of meat on the grill. We stayed at their house til about 3 am, and when we realized there was no bus back home, Ronald’s parents moved their daughter to the couch, and insisted on us staying in her room.
Click on Ronald’s photo for his Flickr portfolio- really cool photos of Valparaiso, some of his photoshop self portrait pieces. If you would like to contact him, email him at
In addition, a few of Ronald Smith Estay’s paintings are at this site-
During September at our university, La Universidad de Playa Ancha, communist students took over the buildings, and locked themselves in. They do this every Sept 11 to protest the 1974 coup by Pinochet which overthrew Allende. And so, the student lock themselves in, the police and federal swat teams surround the buildings, and they go back and forth with molotov cocktails and watercannons (guanacos in Chile). When this errupted, Maggie and I hit the road, and traveled all over South America. These are some of the sketches from that road trip. I don’t know where the sketches are from- bus stations in Peru(?), a little girl in Iquique.