Cafe Con Piernas. A Chilean Cultural Experience.

We march through the business district of Santiago de Chile. 6 English guys. The mood is somewhat apprehensive. What we are about to do is something generally reserved for drunken behaviour at 3am. It’s 4pm and we are all stone cold sober.

We enter a shopping gallery. It is filled with stationary shops. We arrive at the place. The windows are blacked out. We all stand at the door nervously, waiting for someone to take the lead and enter. Finally we muster the group courage. We go inside.

 Coffee With Legs

We had entered what is a uniquely Chilean cultural experience. Santiago is famous for its ‘Cafe con Piernas,’ that litter the business district. There are two types of Cafe:

1. Upmarket cafe that one can sit and have a coffee. The waitresses are pretty, and wear short skirts. It is all decidedly classy however, no blacked out windows etc.

2. The shadier establishments. So I believe, these range from being actually quite nice, just with the women wearing very little, to the downright borderline brothel. These are essentially strip clubs with a twist. Only open in the daytime, they serve nothing but coffee. Catering for the frustrated businessmen of Santiago.

We went to establishment number 2 (this is the point where my mum has a near heart attack while reading this blog).

We enter the place. They tell us we need to buy a ticket for our coffee, then present said ticket to a girl of our choice. The cafe is rather small, laid out so there is a bar-come-platform in the middle. We all squeeze along one row and hand over our coffee tickets.

The place is a mixture of strippers, wearing what can only really be described as dental floss, and Chilean businessmen, all wearing suits and ties. 6 English guys in jeans and t-shirts, we feel somewhat out of place.

The girls begin to take interest in the group. None of us however are willing to tip them for a dance. The experience was evoking various displays of emotion. Some of us are trying to play it cool, enjoy our coffee (that is what we came for after all). One of the group is visibly quite shaken by the experience. Another, the one chap with a girlfriend in the group is obviously uncomfortable, in an environment such as this.

 So we stand a drink our coffee and watch events in the place unfold. One girl is trying to chat up our nervous friend. He appears to have regretted giving his ticket to her. We watch a businessman across the bar as he fondles a stripper rather liberally. He obviously tipped her well.

Then things take a turn for the weird. My friend next to me, turns to me and announces ‘someone just groped my arse.’ I look at him rather bemused, and shrug my shoulders.

Two girls begin trying to chat us up. One of them begins having a conversation with me. Asking where we are from etc. This would be normal in any other social situation, except for she is nearly naked, simultaneously giving a middle aged man a lap dance. While Mr. Businessman gropes aways, she begins to tell me that she thinks he is gay, and that I seem much more of a man.

 At this point, in disbelief, my Spanish deserts me. I stare blankly at her. So she does what any self respecting stripper would do and grabs my crotch (why, I shall never fully understand). Then she tells her friend to do the same. My friend stares at me in utter disbelief. I am frozen in shock, while two strippers compare notes on their findings, right in front of us. Mr. Businessman then shows his displeasure at his girl’s adulterous behaviour, and she returns to giving him full attention.

We finish off our coffees and leave. Everyone is a little shaken from the experience. It wasn’t sexy, erotic or pleasurable. I felt rather violated by the bullish strippers’ behaviour. Oh, well, at least the coffee was good.

If you would like to know more about Chile’s ‘Cafe con Piernas,’ please watch this video:

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