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signlanguageOne of the great things about Central America, for those with an artistic eye and a dislike of cultural homogeny, is the lack of high streets full of chainstores with big plasticky branded signs that seem to make every town centre in England look brash, boring and samey.

Most of the businesses here in the pueblo are family run, and have hand-painted shop signs – it’s just what they’ve always done and is probably cheaper too. Hand-painted signs are found everywhere from street to beach to taxi with the standard of artistic merit varying from the obviously homemade to the professionally executed. Both ends of the spectrum have their charms and eccentricities. Here’s a selection of the weird and wonderful from Mexico to Guatemala.

sign-ding-600Two local chicos run a little repair shack in the backstreets of our colonia Brisas de Zicatela. Their repairs are as sketchy as their sign-stencilling but their surfing is anything but: clean, precise, natural and creative. They’ve both won comps and probably have a pro-career ahead of them for the taking but seem pretty happy out here and out of the rat race just surfing, spear-fishing and swimming all day – these kids don’t have to go to school when the waves are good.

sign-jesus-600Apparently Jesus is the only solution, but even the Son of God can’t solve the parking problems in San Pedro.

sign-cuida-600Signs reminding you to save water and not burn plastic. Hand-painted at the local Centro Cultural which runs environmental and community projects and where we volunteer, teaching English to local kids.

sign-taxi2-600Each taxi rank has a different name and logo here. The taxis in central Puerto Escondido all have this poor guy painted on their doors. With his apparently broken board, twisted leg and gnarled up face, he’s true testament to the heaviness of the Mexpipe.

sign-jocks-600I have no idea what is going on here.

sign-footpowder-600“Talco – for the sweat and bad odour of your feet.” This simple hand-drawn poster gets the message across better than any multi-million Pound ad campaign.

sign-nonadar2-600These signs are strung out all along Zicatela where the waves dump on the beach in shallow water then rip you out at an alarming rate when they hit the deep channel. I love the way the guy is smiling broadly despite his imminent end. A classic case of ‘drowning not waving’.

sign-nirvana-600Smells like thirtysomething spirit: The grunge trend hits Guatemala fifteen years late, or is it an early revival?

sign-nonadar1-600Another pale gringo happily perishing in the Escondido surf. The signs and flags themselves get washed away when there’s a big swell and high tide.

sign-karate-600A cheery karate kid invites you down a grimy alley for a streetfight.

sign-suit-600Would you buy a suit from this man? Is it Chevy Chase?

sign-vista-600Does exactly what it says on the tin.

sign-tintin-600A beautifully illustrated sign for a now defunct eatery on Lago Atitlan.

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