The Medellín Flower Fair: A Flood of Flowers
- Place: Medellín, Antioquia
- Region: Andes
- Date: August 1 - 10, every year
- Duration: 10 days
The Medellín Flower Fair
Photo by: Galo Naranjo
In August, when Medellín – known as the “city of eternal spring” – blooms in all its splendor and balconies, terraces, gardens, and billboards get flooded with flowers, it is the beginning of the famous fair.
This feast of flowers takes place in early August and lasts ten days. It offers visitors and residents over 140 cultural, traditional, and modern events, the following among them: a horse fair, an orchestra festival, the national trova festival (singers in duels of improvised verses), an old and classic cars parade, a dog walk, musical and cultural platforms, the festival of remembrance and folk songs, a contest of talented women, the chiva carnival (a chiva is the typical open-sided bus built on a truck chassis), and the national championship of noise on wheels.
The flower fair is one of the cultural episodes in Colombia with a high degree of reaffirmation of identity and an event that brings together antioqueñosand thousands of visitors in search of flowers, enjoyment, music, and fun.
Origins of the Flower Fair
The first flower fair was held on May 1, 1957, and lasted five days. Activities included dancing in stalls located throughout the city for the people to have fun.
In search of novelty and a way to lure paisasinto participation, Arturo Uribe, an illustrious Antioquenean, proposed the silleteros parade. On that occasion, he invited silleteros from the nearby district of Santa Elena who had devoted themselves to flower production for generations.
The invitation was accepted by forty silleteros, and the spectators, attracted by the beauty and color of the flowers, fell in love with the parade.
The Silleteros: A Not-to-be-forgotten Tradition
The Medellín Flower Fair
Photo by: Serge
Undoubtedly, the most representative event of the fair is the Desfile de Silleteros (silleteros parade). Silleteros is the term used for the farmers who make beautiful flower arrangements on a silleta (a chair-like contraption for carrying flowers on a person’s back). This parade is recognized as a cultural heritage of Colombia.
The silletas are made from wood and have a back plate and two handles for hanging the silleta on a person’s back. They were used in colonial times to carry people on the mountains of Antioquia.The most emblematic figure of this tradition is the legendary María La Larga, a silletera who carried children on her back. María and her novel way of transportation convinced many of the region’s farmers that silletas were the easiest, fastest way for carrying flowers from the farm to the city.
The use of the word silleta became generalized and since the beginning of the twentieth century, the term silletero began to be applied to the people who sold flowers on Medellín’s cobble-stoned streets.
Every year, men women, and children proudly carry on their backs a depiction in flowers of their life histories, land, and culture. This parade is eagerly awaited by foreign and national tourists who join this lovely tradition by chanting “Cuando pasan los silleteros, es Antioquia la que pasa” (When the silleteros go by, it’s Antioquia going by.)