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.
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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”.
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.”
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.