Feria de las Flores

The Feria de las Flores, the Flowers Fair, is an annual celebration in Medellin. In a way, it reminded me of the Calgary Stampede. It is a week plus of parades, displays of traditions, and the citizens being even more friendly than usual. This year, 2017, was the 60th year they have had a parade for the silleteros. Silleteros are the people who create and carry the silletas. Silleta is derived from the Spanish word for chair, which is silla. The frameworks that beautiful flower arrangements look frequently look like chairs. Some of these arrangements are huge and heavy. The silleteros work hard carrying them along the parade route. The legs on the frameworks allow the silleteros to put them down without damaging the flowers. The silleteros are hard working artists and for many, the job is one passed down through the generations. We saw silleteros  in the parade from all stages of life. Some were quite young and others were quite old. They all had smiles on their faces, even though some of them staggered under the weight of the silletas.
(Note: I meant to publish back in August. I wanted to write more, but I am publishing this now with what I did write back in Medellin.)

A Trip to Santa Elena

We made a few excursions during the Feria de las Flores. One of our first was a bus ride up into Santa Elena in the mountains, just outside of Medellin. The flowers used to create the silletas are grown in the rural areas outside of the city. The hour drive up, out of the valley brought us to a beautiful country setting, far from the noises of the city. The air was clean and the sun was shining, but the altitude kept the temperature very comfortable.
While we were on the bus the tour guide asked everyone where they were from and what foods are popular there. It was quite common for other passengers to comment on and joke about the responses. It was an interesting bit of insight in Colombian culture. A bit of instant familiarity among strangers. Not something that I’ve seen much happening in North America. Even though I didn’t understand everything being said, I got the impression that these moments of ad hoc bonding are not uncommon.  It was a behavior that I saw at other times during the week. It is one of those things I like about traveling to other countries. I like finding the things that are the same and discovering the things that are different.
A couple of local singers greeted us once we got off the bus we and tour guide encouraged everyone to dance. The farm we went to specialized on creating silletas using only domestic flowers. The creations are judged and awarded prizes during the fair. The ones this farm enters their creations in the “traditional” category. That means they can only use domestic flowers.

Creating a Silleta

While at the farm one of the sillateros talked about the history of the tradition. His daughter was going to be marching in her first parade this year. While he spoke he selected various flowers that had been picked from the surrounding gardens. He arranged the flowers on a small framework. It only took him ten minutes or so and he was in no particular hurry. It was nice, but it was a modest example compared to the much larger arrangements in the parade. Some of them were more than just flowers packed into chairs. Some were large, circular displays over two meters wide.

Parades, Flowers, and More Parades

The bus tour stopped at a restaurant where were served a rather meat heavy typical meal. We also got out at the library and a church in the town of Santa Elena. There was two plus meter statue made entirely of flowers. We had a great day seeing some sights outside of the city. During the Feria de las Flores there are activities going on every day, all over the city, so we made plans to see more. The information is posted online and didn’t pose to much of a challenge to our Spanish abilities now. But it did seem to assume the reader has knowledge of things that we clearly didn’t have. We muddled through however and found several other activities and places to check out. On Lucas’ birthday we went to several locations. We saw some of the larger silletas on display and a parade of bicycles a one day.