Medellin’s Flower Festival ends with traditional parade
Medellin’s Flower Festival, the top cultural event in Colombia’s second-largest city, ended over the weekend with the colorful “Silleteros” Parade, a tradition that this year drew a crowd estimated by organizers at more than 800,000 people. EFE
Medellin, Colombia, Aug 10 (EFE).- Medellin’s Flower Festival, the top cultural event in Colombia’s second-largest city, ended over the weekend with the colorful “Silleteros” Parade, a tradition that this year drew a crowd estimated by organizers at more than 800,000 people.
The 58th edition of the parade, the centerpiece of the festival, celebrated Sunday the fact that the “silletero” tradition has been declared an Intangible Heritage of the Nation.
The tradition had its origins in the 19th century when people in rural areas used these chair-like contraptions known as “silletas” (derived from the Spanish word for “chair”) to carry the sick and elderly on their backs.
Flower-growers from the mountainside village of Santa Elena, in Medellin’s outskirts, were the first to use the silleta to carry flowers to the city’s markets.
On this occasion some 500 “silleteros” (chair-bearers), of whom 420 were adults, 50 were young people and 30 were children, carried silletas with elaborate flower arrangements on their backs.
Before marching the 2.4 kilometers (1 1/2 miles) of the parade bearing heavy flower arrangements on their backs, the local small farmers who did the best work were awarded prizes in the Emblematic, Monumental, Traditional, Commercial, Junior and Children’s categories, according to the type of flower-decked silleta they were carrying.
The organization also awarded the sought-after Absolute Prize for the best flower arrangement in the parade, which this year went to a Traditional silleta by artisan and flower-grower Carlos Alberto Grisales Ramirez from the town of Santa Elena near Medellin, capital of Antioquia province.
“This silleta has unfortunately won the least notice among the crowd because it’s small, but it’s the star of this parade. I made it with my own hands, it’s part of the garden of my house and I carry it in my heart,” Grisales, who has taken part in the festival for 25 years, told EFE.
Those attending the colorful parade also enjoyed seeing the best Monumental silleta, fashioned and carried by Natalia Grajales Alzate, and the gigantic flower arrangement by artisan Fabian Atehortua Hincapie, who won the Emblematic category with a silleta that “weighs 60 kilos (130 lbs.) and sends an environmental message about caring for the water supply.”
Standouts among the 500 silletas on show in the streets of Medellin were those with phrases referring to women, to the event having been honored as an Intangible Heritage of the Nation, and to peace, the latter with messages like “May the only explosions in Colombia be those of joy.”
Also among the flower arrangements were images of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and of Pope Francis, who was addressed with the phrase “We’re waiting for you in Medellin,” a reference to the pontiff’s possible visit to Colombia in 2016.
Over the years, silleteros gradually came to symbolize Antioquia province, which according to the Colombian Agricultural Institute, is home to 26.18 percent of the nearly 6,956 hectares (17,175) of flowers grown last year in the Andean nation.