“No hay mal que por bien no venga.”
There is no bad from which good does not come.
-Old Latin American adage
I have not been with my Chilean friends since those fateful days I was tramping around South America. In Santiago, goods and amenities are divided into their own towering buildings by their particular attributes. Therefore, if you want underwear you just go to the building that only sells underwear and you will find hundreds of stores vending the same pairs of panties. These buildings are kind of like small shopping malls where all the shops only sell the same type of good.
A very simple way of shopping, I say, for people who are just out to buy underwear.
Well, the tattoo studios, underground record stores, and heavy metal t-shirt shops in Santiago are divided along these same lines and, likewise, have their own little mall. It is in the district of Providencia, and entering it is like coming into some kind of heavy metal roost of the underworld. Tattoo parlors upon tattoo parlors are only interrupted by the occasional record store.
I entered into this dark pit of Santiago’s sub-culture a young, long-haired, sapling of a traveler. I was in the market for a tattoo and was told that this was the place to find an artist. As I walked through the doors, I realized that I had been directed to the correct location.
So I began walking past the tattoo studios trying to get a feel for the quality of tattoo art in Santiago, Chile. The shops were arranged around a square around a central corridor and a ramp winded the way up past the storefronts like a screw. As I walked by these tattoo studios I looked at all the photos of the artist’s work that hung on display in the windows. The first five tattoo studios did not seem to do very good work, so I walked on up the ramp to the second and then the third floor of the building. At this point, I did not find a tattoo studio that stood out as being particularly good or inviting.
I soon found myself at the doorstep of Pablo Barrios tattoo shop. The photos displaying his work passed my inspection criteria, so I walked in to talk to him. I found a bald guy inside tattooing some stupid design on the lower back of a blond with big tits, tiny waist, and a big ass. She could have stepped out of a bikini magazine and I would not have been the wiser.
It was more than apparent that Pablo Barrios was far too interested in his rather sexy client to bother with some chump 21 year old gringo. I stood there for around ten minutes staring at him before he looked up from the blond’s rather plump rear section to notice me.
“What do you want?” he asked.
He then flung me one of his portfolios and promptly went back to the ass.
I realized then that I was not beautiful enough to be tattooed by this dick.
So I slipped unnoticed out of his studio and was just about to give up my tattoo hunt, when I noticed that there was one last tattoo parlor a little further up the ramp. I stood in indecision for a moment, but then figured that it would not hurt to check out this last shop.
It was called Cuerpo Orgulloso Tattoo, and it seem to have something about it that was a little different than the rest of the tattoo studios in the building. I looked at the tattoo photos in the window for a moment and, please at what I found, entered upon a scene that was far different than the other shops. People were all sitting around joking and laughing with each other, smiles greeted my entry, and the happy hum of tattoo machines resounded over this jovial setting. I was immediately meet warmly by the receptionist as she quickly engaged me in some in-depth conversation about politics or something. I was made a friend in an instant and the artist agreed to tattoo me after he was finished with his other clients. This was how I met Sergio Villagran and his wife JessieAnne.
Small plastic cups of chicha soon began falling first into my hands, and then into my belly. Friends were made and a new tattoo was stamped upon my hide. We celebrated.
I then left the studio and returned to Cuerpo Orgulloso Tattoo a month later with Erik the Pilot for another bout of tattooing and friends . . . Chilean style.
Over the five intervening years since I said farewell to these friends on a daybreak Santiago city bus after a long night, I have not forgotten them for an instant.
I have been visiting them at their home in the South of France for the past month.
And now, good readers, you know how I met these friends from Chile, so I can carry on with my yarn.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
December 29, 2007