Monumental Callao has become one of the most important touristic destinations of the Peruvian first port due to its impressive conversion in the last years. Thanks to art, this area, which in the past was known for its unsafeness and poverty has changed dramatically. Nowadays it is one of the new trendy areas close to the capital, Lima.
The Spanish colonists founded the port of Callao in the 16th century, and it quickly became the main port for all goods coming from the Spanish Latinoamerica. Later, with the beginning of the republic, its population increased, and the port went through a period of prosperity. However, in the last decades, it experienced an economic decline, and the crime and drug-business started to dominate its streets. Finally, thanks to public and private initiatives, Callao shows us now a different face: a bohemian and unconventional destination, a perfect spot where you can find history, culture, and music.
The other day, I heard a lovely girl saying to her boyfriend while taking photos: “I’m starting to fall in love with this place.” And it is true; the charm of these streets of art, love, and culture brings up only good feelings.
Bordering with the Lima region, Callao is part of Lima Metropolitana. However, there is a small but critical detail; according to the law, the port of Callao does not belong to the Lima region, but it is another region itself- something the “chalacos,” the people from the port, are very proud of. They simply love their barrio.
“Tengo barrio”. Literally translated as “I have a neighborhood”, the word barrio in Peru is very inculcate in the collective soul of the people. Having barrio means to have an identity. To be the ambassador of the neighborhood or in general terms, of the country you come from. This word evokes childhood memories, the taste of home, the old streets, the good friends, the good and the bad times, the spirit of the place you belong to.
Forty-five minutes or one hour from Lima downtown are enough to get to the Port. You will notice you are there because of the colorful streets. This place has adopted the Graffiti Culture on its walls. The colors, design, and creativity of many professional artists are now reflected in every corner of the Monumental Callao. Peruvian and foreign artists are coming to design mind-bending wall paintings. The streets, full of lampposts and graffiti, tell by themselves Callao’s history. It’s common to listen chalacos saying about street art: “while other districts remove it, Callao appreciates it.”
The path of art begins at Plaza Matriz. Take your time to appreciate its church and more than fifty murals, mosaics, and street paintings — a paradise for Instagrammers. Then get lost in small alleys, try some real ceviche or refresh your thirsty soul with a chilcano de pisco. Art galleries and local shops are on both sides. It is mandatory to visit the Ronald Building, located at Jiron Constitucion street. It is an English style building, built in between 1920-1928. Most of the art galleries can be found here. Into their galleries, you are going to see a lot of fascinated artists talking about their work over the years. Nowadays, this building is known as Casa Fugaz. Contemporary artists like Alex Newman or Mabel Poblet have left their work there. All of this goes well with the different events organized all along the year: photography and sculpture, fashion shows, international art exhibitions, electronic music festivals, or local salsa parties.
Last but not least, on weekends, you can enjoy a live DJ set or even a local band at around 18h. Where? On the Rooftop, the terrace of Casa Fugaz. If you are passionate about photography, I highly suggest going a little bit early to take some lovely and stunning shots of the port and the sunset upon the Pacific Ocean. Don’t miss it!
You can take part in one of the graffiti classes, and also join a guided local tour for a reasonable price. Another unforgettable experience consists of making a wooden boat at the port for a beautiful sailing experience on the Pacific water. Regularly on weekends, local food festivals and live music can be enjoyed on the square in front of the port. As a Peruvian, I am very proud to see how an artistic community project can bring the beauty and the charm back to our first port. Like the awakening of the sleeping beauty in the fairytales. I promise: your time spent in Callao will always remain in your box of memorable and lovely souvenirs.
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