There are many things I love about Santiago, such as chilenismos, my host family, the metro system, the stocky mustachioed man who sells fresh sopaipillas out of a cart walking distance from my house, and the fact that I see the snow-capped Andes Mountains AND palm trees from my bedroom window. Although all of the above are strong contenders, my absolute favorite thing about Santiago is Patronato.
Patronato is hard to describe because it strikes me as so unlike to rest of Santiago. It is a neighborhood or district that is sort of like the Chinatown of the city. There are lots of shops and street vendors on every street as well as numerous semi-open markets, a large number of which are owned and/or operated by Chinese and Korean immigrants. They sell toys, clothing, shoes, trinkets, cheap jewelry, and accessories, and often they are of a very Chilean style… or, at least, unlike things you could buy in the US. Another highlight of Patronato is the presence of many ethnic restaurants and markets, such as Syrian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Chinese (I even saw a stand for bubble tea once). Santiago is fairly (ie: really) homogeneous, so Patronato’s diversity and lively environment is a nice change of pace. Even better, it is not a touristy area at all!
I invited Ashleigh to head out to Patronato with me last weekend since I was on a quest for a pair of jeans (my kingdom for a dryer!) and “fun pants” to wear around the house. We were excited to find some pants that are re-chilenos: the waist is elastic, and the pants are made of silky material and have a baggy and oh-so-comfortable fit. Ashleigh has quite appropriately deemed them our “Aladdin pants.” We walked a little further and came across a hole-in-the-wall shoe store with a clearance sale, and found a bargain on some awesome heels. Even though Patronato attracts many people, we were the only gringas I saw all day, and thus we attracted a lot of attention. We got lots of piropos, but at least they worked in our favor in that a salesman gave me a 15% discount on the jeans I wanted. After shopping, we headed to the movie theater and then bought some comida de la calle or “street food” to cap off the evening.
I love this country and this city so much; it truly feels like “home” to me. This semester I have been taking advantage of spending more time in Santiago rather than travelling on the weekends like I did last semester. It has been really enjoyable, although I’m not sure if it’s better than travelling. I suppose that being able to have both experiences is an advantage of an extended term abroad. I have gotten to see other cities and have a range of experiences, but I am also able to navigate easily around Santiago and give directions and recommendations, such as Patronato!