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San Telmo

Filite - local ornate lettering

If there is one place in Buenos Aires where tourists flock to, it’s San Telmo. It’s an older barrio than others and the narrow streets are full of hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants and dozens of antique shops on the central street of the barrio – Defensa.

Around San Telmo, the shop signs and other signs are often produced in this flowery lettering called Filete. It’s local to San Telmo and Boca and is associated with tango. In the 1960s/70s, the local buses used this font on their signs but in the mid 70s when the authorities tried to ban tango from Buenos Aires (the administration felt it was a vulgar dance and didn’t want the world to associate Buenos Aires with it!), they also banned filete font from public transport systems.

Dancing tango in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo

Sundays are the best day to visit San Telmo because Defensa is closed to traffic and hundreds of hawkers line the street selling everything from mate bombillas, art, jewellery to shawls, food, gelados. I stopped to buy a shawl as the temperature would drop slightly in the evening.

Because last night was the last Sunday before Christmas, the market was unusually busy and full of festive charm. Dozens of different bands paraded the street.

Later, sitting in Plaza Dorrego, some of the ship’s passengers met up – drank lots of Quilmes and watched some tango as the night wore in and the stalls around us packed up and went home.

Parade down Defensa

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