Fileteado Porteño: The Art of Hand Lettering in Argentina

hand painted sign that say Mitio, San Telmo, Argentina


Fileteado Porteño is the decorative hand lettering and artistic style that is frequently spotted in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Fileteado letters are highly stylized, colorful, and painted with dramatic illusions of depth. It is characterized by lines that turn into spirals, the almost obsessive use of symmetry, the framing of each composition when it is finished, and the lack of blank space. The ornamentation tends to include decorative leaves, animals, cornucopias, flowers and the Argentine flag.

The Fileteado art form originated in Buenos Aires towards the end of the 19th century. At this time Fileteado embellished wooden carts carrying food for sale to the people. Since then it has evolved to adorn all kind of objects from signs, to taxis, old colectivos (buses), and even personal automobiles!

Today this traditional hand lettering art is most frequently seen on signage. In fact, at the San Telmo fair every Sunday you’ll see lots of artists selling their work at the market.

Of course, with the popularization of any art form you will see lots of faux Fileteado throughout Buenos Aires. Sometimes shop owners go the cheaper route of having their signage printed in the Fileteado style, instead of hiring a professional fileteador.

Here’s my favorite samples of the Fileteado art form:

Ford Model 31 AA with hand painted lettering of Buenos Aires

Photo courtesy of esaacademic, the spanish wikipedia.

colorful hand painted sign that says Tango Argentina

Photo by Jonathan Evans from Flikr. Artwork by fileteador .

hand painted sign of Buenos Aires my love.

Another piece by fileteador .

San Telmo and Abasto are the probably the best neighborhoods to see some great traditional Fileteado in Buenos Aires. Several Fileteado pieces were pointed out to us on the San Telmo Art Walk Tour. If you are looking for more examples online check out this Fileteado Flickr Group, or this you-tube Fileteado montage.

Seeing all of this beautiful hand drawn letterforms and signage in B.A. was the inspiration for my summer hand lettering side project.

Ah, sometimes I miss the charm of my beloved Buenos Aires.