Casa de Isla Negra. Museum in Chile, South America

Casa de Isla Negra

Museum in Chile, South America

Casa de Isla Negra Photo © chilenauta

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Casa de Isla Negra

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Located in Valparaiso of Neruda’s homeland Chile, this breathtaking house, originally designed to look like the insides of a ship, is probably not what someone would expect from the typical writer's home. Walking into Isla Negra is like walking into the dream house of a histrionic, worldly man. Isla Negra is a gorgeous, living testament of Neruda's love for good company, amusing stories, dinner parties, and rarities. A passionate collector, he kept most of his massive collections in this place, which can still be found there and include ship figureheads, seashells, giant beetles, butterflies, and even pornography. “Don't look into the eye of the Comanche Chief”, the tour guide will warn you “as it is cursed and will grant you a certain death”. Memorabilia such as this is what Neruda would use in his many social gatherings to amuse and impress his audience. An accomplished diplomat, this beach getaway would often be visited by dignitaries and cultural personalities from all over the world.

The Museum

The insides of this house include hardwood floors and ceilings, and even though they are considerably low, emulating those of a ship cabin, the spaces are filled with natural light and from almost anywhere in the house, one can be delighted by the view of the ocean in its fullest. There's an irresistible quality to this place, which is only strengthened by its surroundings: the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Ocean and the natural beauties of the Región de Valparaíso. This sweet, mellow home on the verge of the ocean is the perfect getaway. No wonder why Mr. Neruda chose to end his days in this place.

The Town of Isla Negra and its Surroundings

The road leading to Isla Negra is quite a sight as well. The Valparaíso Region is known worldwide for the quality of its seafood, and in the nearby town, Cartagena, visitors are able to treat themselves to some traditional Chupe de Loco (traditional Chilean Abalone pie) or maybe some Empanadas de Jaiva (chilean crab empanada), or even take a stroll down the morning fisher’s market and get top-quality seafood to cook by themselves.

A seafood meal would be the perfect prelude to a visit to Isla Negra, as everything about this place is somehow reminiscent of the sea. One of its wings is entirely paved with seashells, which were collected by Neruda himself, who liked to walk barefoot on those floors and feel them caressing his feet. The Figureheads, Neruda’s obsession, are found in a separate chamber, which in and of itself could be worth the whole visit. Each one has a name (La Micaela, La Marinera de la Rosa, Las Dos Medusas) and one of them, Maria Celeste, can be seen crying during the winter, due to the room humidity condensing on her eyes. Or maybe, as the guide says “She just misses being on the ocean”.

No matter how you decide to experience it, do arrive early and make sure to take the time to go through the tour of the house, have a cup of coffee in the canteen overlooking the sea, and then just walk down the rocky coastline, listening to that ever roaring sea and watching the sunset on the Pacific. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to experience some of the magic that gave life to Neruda’s art.

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Author: eymili. Last updated: Jul 12, 2014

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