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My friends have been taunting me with La Piojera since we first met. Oh sure, they say, let’s go! La Piojera is great, it’s traditional, it’s messy, it’s smoky, it’s crazy, it’s dangerous, it’s fun. Let’s go.

To which I say, great! I’m on it.

And then someone gets injured or gets a job outside of Santiago or they wait until I’m not here and then go and tell me about it, and I never, ever get to go to La Piojera. It’s not a place one goes alone. It’s also not a place I ever had any great desire to go to with a bunch of gringos, because while I like to be the center of attention for stuff like ooh! the spinny, I don’t really relish fielding questions about my linguistic prowess or geographical origin all night.

So last night when Margaret of the fabulous Chile-centric through gringa-eyes blog, Cachando Chile mentioned a book launch that was happenening at this unvisited-by-me-mustn’t-skip down home Santiaguino drinking establishment, I put the brakes on my apartment search, pedalled like a banshee through traffic home, and set out for the night.

One of the great things about La Piojera is that you can take the metro there, getting off at the metro station Cal y Canto, which has nothing to do with singing at all, rather for the building materials of this bridge (lime and eggwhite, presumably they’d made a giant flan with all the yolks), which is depicted in this diorama, one of a few scattered around the metro system (there’s another in Baquedano).

diorama, cal y canto

Then there’s La Piojera itself (and I apologize in advance because I used my point n shoot and we’re not really on speaking terms right now, given the quality of the photos from last night).

La piojera

On a normal night you’ll find it on a urine-soaked street not far from the central market, with lots of people crowded outside on their way in or out or maybe because they were wondering if perhaps you’d like to part with some of your posessions on the way home. Last night the street was still urine-soaked, but there was a bouncer deciding who was coming to the book launch and who was not. He didn’t say a word to me on my way in, but le ganaba por varios centimetros (I was a few inches taller than him), so maybe that’s why. Or maybe because I hadn’t washed my hair since the bikeride. Hard to say.

Inside there was the book launch (on Cueca, the national dance which has been reclaimed in a kind of leftist, urban ownership movement), raffia-seated chairs for about half of us, and liberal photography of the event at hand. Love catching photographers without their shields (I mean cameras) up.

caught a photog thinking

Then nibbles and libations came out.

First the nibbles, the famous pichanga

pichanga, al estilo piojera

and then the libations, the storied terremoto, “green” wine (pipeño) plus pineapple ice cream.



not so close:

so demure!

And really, this doesn’t tell you anything about the book launch, which Margaret has covered, as always, from a different perspective on Cachando Chile and my write-up doesn’t get into the festiveness, the flour-sack full of aserrín (sawdust) they sprinkled on the ground and then swept around to absorb spilled drink and whatnot, the other refreshments available, the vinegary smell of the place or what it felt like to leap onto the metro at last call and be the last person out of the metro station where I live and have a giant gate swung closed behind me (at 11:30ish, I’d guess).

It’s only the beginning of a story. And I’m willing to bet money that this woman, from the first picture I took inside La Piojera, and who in my mind and on flickr, I call “somebody’s grandmother” could tell the story much, much better.

somebody's grandmother, la piojera

And in case you missed it, here’s the website for La Piojera, complete with music, photos and an inviation to the Fonda Guachaca and the Semana de Chilenidad, all in celebration of Fiestas Patrias, the national holiday which is technically Sept. 18th, but red-white-and-blue streamers already abound. And you haven’t heard the last of this from me, les aseguro (I can assure you).