This famous contest with all of the Colombian household items piled on top of a car is the most memorable image I have from this land of coffee.

Irina Alamanova

Bulgarian

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Yipao Parade and Contest in Calarcá: The Most Authentic Expression of Coffee Folklore

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  • Place: Calarcá, Quindío
  • Region: Café Triangle, Andes
  • Date: June 20, every year
  • Duration: 1 day
Yipao Parade and Contest in Calarcá /Pic. http://www.flickr.com/photos/96952704@N00/218914144/sizes/o/.

Yipao Parade and Contest in Calarcá /Pic. 96952704@N00

Every year, the inhabitants of a small, but picturesque town by the name of Calarcá, located in the department of Quindío in the Café triangle, decorate their streets, houses, and balconies with elements of their culture. This is the preparation for a celebration replete with applause, laughter, and music, whose climax is the Desfile y Concurso del Yipao; that is, the Yipao parade and contest.

This event pays due homage to the region’s icon, the Willys Jeep, for its performance up and down the coffee mountains of Colombia carrying people, coffee, products, and many kinds of objects. Actually, the word “yipao” is an imaginative mispronunciation of the term “jeep”.

The Willys Jeep

In its heydey, the Willys Jeep helped transport the Colombian countryman in his daily journey through the countryside. “Yipao” is a mispronunciation of “Jeep”.

The original Willys Jeep was a powerful 4-wheel vehicle made in the United States for use in the war. Willys Jeeps were light-weight vehicles, designed to travel on unpaved roads, fields, rocky mountains, desert dunes, and swampy jungles. After World War II and the Korean War, the Americans found themselves with an overstock of these vehicles and began to sell them at a very good price to developing countries, among them Colombia.

The Willys Jeep assisted Colombian peasants in their everyday struggle with the steep Andes mountains. It constructed roads, penetrated the jungle, forged the regional economy, transported agricultural products and the people who produced them, and in the process, became one of the most authentic expressions of the coffee landscape and folklore.

Stories are told about the capacity of this car:

- “How many people can get into a jeep?”
- “As many as can place their big toe on the floor of the car.”

Yipao

The yipao is one of the most symbolic events in the department of Quindío; it constitutes an entire tradition and the means of transportation that identifies the culture of the Café Triangle.

The parade and contest encompass several categories:

Transportation of agricultural products
In this category, the Willys vehicles are loaded with the produce of the region: coffee, bananas, plantains, yuca, firewood, citric fruits, and colinos (coffee plantlings).
Traditional house moving
This is a very picturesque category. Contestants load their Willys jeep with the maximum number of household and farm items used on coffee farms. The Willys is piled up with furniture (beds, chairs, tables, wardrobes), plants, pictures, pets (dogs, cats, and birds), farm animals (pigs, ducks), a sewing machine, mattresses, blankets, clothes, pots and pans, hens in cages, lamps, toilets, portraits of grandparents, and even family members.
Free category
This category requires a great deal of creativity. The Jeeps are dressed up as and loaded with anything the contestant can think of: animals, dolls, a soccer team, shoes, etc.
The pique contest
This contest is about loading the Willys with 1,800 kg of any of the region’s products (generally, coffee). The weight must be carefully distributed at the rear of the Jeep for the vehicle to lean backwards and advance only on its rear wheels. The objective of the pique is to keep the vehicle going forward on a straight line on two wheels for the longest possible distance.

Did you enjoy the Yipao Parade and Contest in Calarcá? Why not spend more time in the Café Triangle:

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