Argentina’s artisanal heritage is less obvious than, say, the indigenous textile traditions of the Peruvian or Guatemalan highlands, but both the city and the countryside have characteristic crafts. The finest urban expression of folk art is filete, the rainbow signage that, in the hands of skilled painters, approaches fine calligraphy.
Befitting their origins on the Río de la Plata (literally, “River of Silver”), Argentine silversmiths create truly intricate jewelry, plus adornments such as the facón (knife) and espuelas (spurs) that accompany traditional gaucho clothing. The major silverwork center is the Buenos Aires provincial town of San Antonio de Areco.
Expert leatherworkers, in turn, produce gaucho-style clothing and horse gear such as rastras (belts), reins, and saddles. Both traditions come together in paraphernalia for mate, the herbal “Paraguayan tea” whose consumption is a cultural bellwether. Traditionally, mate (the herb) is sipped with a silver bombilla (straw) from a mate (gourd, in a different context), which may be mounted in a leather holder.
In the northwestern Andean provinces, indigenous weaving traditions are apparent in blankets, ponchos, sweaters, and similar garments. The Huarpe styles of Cuyo and the Mapuche of northern Patagonia differ in their approaches to such goods.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition