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La Sebastiana Museum House

Visitors Information

The La Sebastiana Museum House has an audio-guide system. This new system, included in the admission price, is available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

To visit the Museum Houses of the Pablo Neruda Foundation, no prior reservation is required. Visitors are received on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to daily availability. Only visits from schools must be booked in advance.

Location

  • Ferrari 692, Valparaíso.
  • Phones: +56-32-225 6606 / +56-32-223 3759

Open Hours

  • March to December: Tuesday to Sunday 10:10 am to 6:00 pm
  • January and February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 7 pm
  • Monday closed

Cost

  • General admission: Ch$7,000 per person
  • Special admission: Ch$2,500 for students and Chileans over 60 years

 

History

“I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaiso a little house to live and write quietly.  It must have some conditions.  It can’t be located to high or to low.  It should be solitary but not in excess. With neighbours hopefully invisibles.  They shouldn’t be seen or heard.  Original, but not uncomfortable.  With many wings, but strong.  Neither too big or too small.  Far from everything but close to the transportation. Independent, but close to the commerce.  Besides it has to be very cheap.  Do you think I would find a house like that in Valparaiso?

This was the request Pablo Neruda asked in 1959 to his friends Sara Vial and Marie Martner. It seems impossible to find a house that satisfied the wishes of the poet, but after a long survey, they found the main frame of a mansion located on the Florida Hill.  It was built by the spaniard Sebastian Collao, who assigned the whole third floor of the building as a bird cage.  Don Sebastian died in 1949 and the unfinished house full of stairs was abandoned then for many years.

The poet went to see the building.  He liked, among other things, the silly way it was constructed, but he found it too big, so the house was bought between Neruda and the sculptor Marie Martner and her husband, Dr. Francisco Velasco.  The last ones kept the basement, backyard and the two lower floors, while Neruda took possession of the third and fourth floors and the tower. “I loose – he use to say joking -.  I bought just stairs and the terraces”.  The truth is that he had a privileged view over the bay.

The poet took three years to finish with the construction and the interior design of the house.  He decorated the house with old pictures of the port and a great portrait of Walt Whitman. One of the workers asked him once if the person of the portrait was his father.  “Yes, in poetry” –  answered Neruda.

Some of the windows of the house were done like ship’s skylights. The largest terrace was converted in a dinning room.  From there he could hear the resounding bands of the movies at the Mauri Teather, located next to the house.  Dr. Velasco remembered the time when Neruda went downstairs to recommend them the movie that was on, ”Which judging for the amount of shooting they could hear seems to be a good one”.

The house was inaugurated with a memorable party on September 18th, 1961.Each person invited was included in a “list  for unforgettable merits” which showed the help each one contributed to transform  that abandoned frame into “The Sebastiana”, as Neruda named it in honour to its first owner and constructor.

For that occasion Neruda wrote the poem “La Sebastiana” which was later included in the book “Full Empowerment”.  In the initial part the poem says:  I establish the house/ I made it first of air./ then I raised the flag in the air / and I left it hanged/ from the open air,from the star, from/ the light and from the darkness…”

In that time Neruda also, guided his guests in turns to the tower,  From where the entire port could be seen with his telescope. Then he incited his companions to look in certain direction, towards the roof of a house where a naked woman used to lie down to suntan. Nobody could ever see her.  Perhaps, she only appeared for the poet.

Neruda liked to wait for the New Years in Valparaiso. “La Sebastiana” was a privileged balcony for the port traditional firework spectacle. Over there he passed his last end of year, in 1972 and the beginning of 1973.

Dr. Francisco Velasco said that after the dead of the poet, when he arrived to “La Sebastiana”, he found all the people in the neighbourhood agitated.  They told him something rare was happening inside the house.  He cautiously went upstairs to see what was going on.  Once in the living room he found an eagle. He opened the big window to let it go, but he never could explain himself how the eagle got in, because everything was closed.  “ It came immediately to my memory the time in which Pablo commented that, if there were another life, he would like to be an eagle “– wrote  Dr.Velasco.

“La Sebastiana , looted after the military coup in 1973 , was restored in 1991, thanks to the support of Telefonica de España, whose contribution also made possible the purchase of the lower part of the house owned by the family Velasco Martner.  In December of that year was inaugurated the house-museum.  In 1994 was constructed the square, and in 1997, again with the support of the Telefonica de España, was opened the Cultural Centre.

In the house are preserved collections of old maps, of marines and other paintings, among them a portrait of Lord Cochrane and an oleo that shows Jose Miguel Carrera just before being executed.  There are many other relics from the port and curious pieces, like music boxes and an old merry-go-round horse, carved in wood.

 

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