The yellow zapatico taxi cut me off turning right on the Carrera 11 in Chapinero. No indicator right – sin la luz naranja de su direccional prendida – he was furious with me for taking the corner slowly. I flicked him the bird, as rebellious as one gets in the family Volvo estate in response to the ubiquitous – hijo de puta – received.
Heading in to the Siete de Agosto, passing dull architectural creations, standing out only due to their exteriors having been coated in bathroom tiles, I took in the different colours. Black, white, blue and fluorescent green, each building seemed to be held together with square tiles and darkened windows. Brothels. Surely, each establishment has a name, perhaps known only to the caretaker pimps – seated on plastic rimax chairs outside – the workers and their patrons.
It’s early though and I don’t expect there to be too many girls around. I am mistaken as there are girls and their colleagues, of all shapes and sizes, present. A cleaning lady in an institutional light blue work coat tosses soapy water on the external tiles and scrubs the shiny grey wall with a brush. I suppose she’s washing down the excesses from last night in the barrio. Puddles of suds form black puddles in the crooked potholes.
We’re here to get some special herbs which are sold round the back of the Plaza de Mercado. This vast market for produce in the Siete de Agosto neighbourhood is similar to the well-visited Paloquemao in Los Mártires, but retains more authenticity in my opinion. We find the vendor and purchase 2000 pesos worth of Matarratón (Mother of Cocoa). This would be, we had been reliably informed, enough to boil up and then we’ll use it to cleanse our home of a negative aura.
I swung back up through the Siete de Agosto, past the car workshops and into the area nearing the Avenida Caracas. About four blocks to the west of Brunner’s urbanistic scar through Bogotá, I dropped off the Volvo at a car wash. I figured that any establishment known as Iguana Blue, healthily patronised by Escoltas having their armoured Toyota vehicles cleaned, would be good enough for us.
It’s in this area, from Iguana Blue and just before a three-block stretch of rubber stamp, embossing seal and engraved sign emporiums, that you’ll find a more sinister collection of faceless bagnios. Aca no se vende vicio.
The propietors here may not sell illicit commodities in powder form within, but there is plenty more on offer. Having left my car behind and now on foot, it’s impossible to avoid the middlemen. These are ticket touts or leafleteers, clutching poorly assembled monochrome advertorial pimping literature.
Chicas, chicas, chicas, he says as I pass. I cross the road, glancing at my watch. It’s 9.30am.
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