Main tourist attractions rarely captivate me in their traditional manner. In Santiago’s Plaza de Armas (city square), one would think that I’d be drawn most to its beautiful cathedral and national museums, but nothing captivated me like the six-story spiral shopping center (which are common here) that I entered the Plaza through.
My high school Spanish teacher once mentioned that the same types of shops tend to centralize in the same area in Latin America. I’d forgotten this until I saw 60 hair salons & 15 tattoo parlors all under this single roof. Having just gotten my hair cut back home (Thanks, Lacey!), it felt strange when shopkeepers would beckon me from their doorways as I wandered up the spiral pathway. Gracias, pero ¡NO FUCKING NECESITO!
Seriously though, salons from top-to-bottom. Salons that cater to women, men, young bucks, old farts, ethnic homies, and so forth.
Descending the spiral to the bottom led to Diana, the type of arcade one dreams about, with only the best games, all in working order. Young men spend hours there perfecting their craft battling one another. I saw two dudes go at it for several minutes on Street Fighter 4 with nearly flawless execution. The winner shot an arrogant glance at everyone around, wordlessly saying “This is all I have. Please don’t take this away from me.”
So alpha. ᕙ(⇀‸↼‶)ᕗ
Braving the Legs
Just before hitting Diana’s, I was tempted by a series of tender minxes beckoning me into dimly-lit rooms illuminated by tacky party lights. Neon signs in the blacked-out windows advertised “café,” but I couldn’t help but feel that I was being lured into a trap. You know how it is—one moment you’re diggin’ for clams and the next, you’re face-down on the beach and your kidneys are gone. So I passed by, my curiosity piqued but too self-conscious to go inside.
That night, I discussed my experience at the plaza with a friend who unveiled to me Chile’s most important contribution to the world: café con piernas.
In English, that’s “coffee with legs.”
The abolition of Chile’s military dictatorship in 1990 marked the genesis of café con piernas. As traditionally-conservative Chileans explored their freedom, cafés where women revealed chub-inspiring amounts of leg became a common place of business for many perverted businessmen. Over time, more clothing fell away, causing a cultural hullaballoo, and from then on, the windows had to be opaque for the more scandalous cafés. Naturally, many became fronts for the age-old profession of sexy time fo’ scrilla.
My new friends Sunna & Jopi braved the legs of Café Bahía with me in Galería Santiago Centro. Immediately, I noted the unmistakable resemblance to a strip club, just without the stage. Dim interior, black lights, tacky white Christmas lights, mirrors everywhere, and of course beautiful women. Carolina in particular. My Colombian goddess in a glowing thong bikini. I shan’t delve into the nuances of her supple curves; suffice it to say that God smiled brightly on this woman.
Customarily, they serve no food nor booze and offer only mediocre beverages, which are surprisingly inexpensive—until Carolina seduces a generous tip from you, that is. With only one value proposition, there is no mistake where your attention should be.
In our 15-20 minutes at Café Bahía, Carolina focused the whole of her attention on only us, making idle chit-chat & flirtatiously touching my arm. I won’t deny being affected. ლ(́◉◞౪◟◉‵ლ) Simultaneously, I won’t deny being hyper aware of the denigrating aspect of these establishments.
Carolina moved to Santiago from Colombia 1.5 years ago. After trying her hand at selling textiles and hot dogs for 6 months and surprisingly making no money, she began hunting for a job at a café con piernas despite concerns about prostitution. One year later, Carolina is ostensibly satisfied with her highest paying job ever and has managed to avoid selling her body. Of course, that’s exactly what a prostitute would say to someone like me, but I’ll believe anything that angel tells me. ✿♥‿♥✿
Apparently they are busiest in the mornings. Can you imagine starting your day at a strip club and then heading into the office afterwards? I suppose it’s one way to get motivated. “Gotta make that sale today so I can buy that boat and sail away with Carolina next Summer! I’ll be the one that saves her from these ogling pigs!” Yeah right, buddy. Carolina's in love with me!
So what did we learn today, dingleberries? Well, for starters, don’t fuck with the people at the arcade Diana. You’ll be humiliated. Though of greater import, we learned that it’s tough to make a living selling textiles or hot dogs in Santiago. If you find yourself slangin’ tha weenz only to barely scrape by, just know that a brighter future awaits you at a café con piernas.
So what do you think? Are cafés con piernas immoral? Did I have a shot with Carolina? How much do you hate me after reading this piece? Let me know in the comments, and don't forget to share!