In my view, there are few parts of Santiago that can claim to be spicier than the area flanking both sides of the Mapocho River near the Cal y Canto Metro stop. Markets, chicha dens, piracy, oh my! This is not the easiest place to blend in as a gringa, but feeling glaringly out of place is worth it when you consider that virtually every visit to this zone comes with a bonus gift: a moment that makes you stop, knot your eyebrows and ask yourself, "What the f***?"
Case in point: The other day, I was trekking through the area during my three-hour via crucis to renew my visa. I clomped down each block scowling and chastising myself for having chosen that particular day to zip on my oh-so-sexy high-heeled boots.
As I approached one particular corner, I noticed a man holding up a pair of (used?) men's tighty-whities and trying to convince each passerby to purchase them. My two X-chromosomes were not enough to exempt me from hearing his sales pitch. I continued walking, just as the rest of his potential customers had; still, he apparently was not going to take "no" as an answer from me.
"For your baby!" he shouted. "Do you have a baby?"
Even if I had, I doubt he would have been able to fill out a pair of men's briefs. However, I was too grouchy to tell the man as much and spent the next several seconds silently begging the traffic light to change quickly.
"Miss!" The man came up behind me and held up the underwear in all their elastic-waisted glory.
"They're not my size," I told him.
His tenacity was enough to make me wonder if he'd had luck in the past convincing gringas to buy sketchy men's underwear.
When I look back on the experience, I realize that he and I were in the same boat: Renewing my visa was proving to be equally as difficult as selling that underwear was for him.