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On the Steps of Pablo Neruda

by Hortense Soulier

World famous poet and Literature Nobel Prize Awarded, Pablo Neruda appears among the greatest symbols of Chile and its dynamic culture. Born in 1904 as Ricardo Neftali Reyes, Neruda spent most of his childhood in the small village of Temuco in the desolate Atacama region, surrounded by nature. As child, Neruda had already decided on a literary career, and after heading to Santiago to study in 1921, he published his first poetry work in 1923 under the pseudonym of Neruda, borrowed from a Czech writer.  

Neruda's freedom of style and natural imagination immediately propelled him to the forefront of the Latin American literary scene, and he was soon recognized as one of the most brilliant artists of his generation.   He travelled and worked around the world, bringing back fascinating stories from his time in the Orient, Europe and many more places.

He was awarded the Literature Nobel Prize in 1971, and died shortly after in 1973, from cancer. Neruda has left a considerable heritage to Chile's culture. Travelers to Chile can learn about this personality's brilliant yet chaotic mind and life by visiting Pablo Neruda's three houses. Located in Santiago, Valparaiso, and on Isla Negra, on the Pacific Coast, Neruda's houses reflect the author's life and work and are truly enchanting places to visit.

Located in Santiago's colorful barrio Bellavista, built on the steep hills of the Cerro San Cristobal, La Chascona is one of Neruda's three houses. Completed in 1955, actually comprises three houses separated by gardens. Restored after it was ransacked during the military coup in 1973, the house has been since turned into the Pablo Neruda Foundation.

La Sebastiana, a colorful house, is located in the charming town of Valparaiso, on Cerro Florida, and boasts fantastic views of the picturesque Valparaiso Bay. The house-museum displays the poet's own art collection reflecting his eccentric tastes. Visitors can enjoy the view from the small café set in the house's lovely garden.

Last but not least, Pablo Neruda's third and favorite house can be found on Isla Negra, just south of Valparaiso. The poet's most eccentric and wonderful house also features displays of Neruda's work and private collections. Bauhaus furniture oddly sit alongside sea shells and butterflies hang on the walls. This is also where lies Pablo Neruda's grave, in the spot he himself designated, facing the ocean and beside his wife.