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Colombia: Medellín Celebrates its Festival of Flowers

Each year when August arrives, the city of Medellín, Colombia turns into a Festival of Flowers in every sense of the word. Cultural activities take place in the city's museums and parks, and numerous musical orchestras play concerts around the city. There is also a parade of antique cars that make up part of the schedule of events enjoyed by residents and visitors. However, one of the main attractions is the parade of “silleteros” (flower carriers), who are peasants that move throughout the city to showcase the large variety of Colombian flowers.

Photo of Silleta Flower Display by Jota Estrada and used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo of Silleta Flower Display by Jota Estrada and used under a Creative Commons license.

The “silletas” are works of art created by the silleteros, and have become the defining symbol for the Festival of the Flowers [es]. During the last days of this event, close to 500 flower displays parade through the city on the shoulders of the silleteros, showing the color and size of these flowers cultivated by the peasants of Santa Elena, a municipality located one hour of travel time from the city of Medellín.

During the 2009 version of the Festival of the Flowers that took place from July 31 to August 9, people around the world followed along with the events through the official blog. On the blog, the festival administrators give the overall festival organization, events, attendance, security, and hotel occupancy high marks [es].

Photo of Silletero with flower display on his back by Felimartinez

Photo of Silletero with flower display on his back by Felimartinez

However, festival organizers also recognized some things that can be improved upon [es], including some complaints about the high prices of admission for some tours, which were not well attended. There was also some disorder with the organization of some events:

Aunque las cifras entregadas hablan del éxito de la fiesta, este año la ‘mala nota’ la sacaron la noche de silleteros en Santa Elena y el desorden en el Desfile de Carros Antiguos.

Even though the submitted figures speak about the festival's success, this year the “black mark” was noticed on the night of the “silleteros” in Santa Elena and the disorder in the Antique Car Parade.

Blogger Xady of Expresate [es] writes about the city traffic that was affected by the closing of the principal avenues in order to accommodate the thousands of residents of Medellín, other Colombians and foreign visitors who enjoyed the multitude of events:

Para realizar algunos eventos o en su defecto muchos eventos la alcaldía y la secretaría de tránsito optan por cerrar vías que son muy utilizadas por otras personas que no están en los eventos agendados, generando así una congestión vehicular o una aglomeración en el transporte público tal como el metro que es la vía más rápida cuando hay este tipo de problemas en las calles.

Aparte de todo esto, en el evento de arrieros, mulas y fondas suele suceder que hay demasiadas riñas y peleas y adivinen el motivo, las mujeres o simplemente el trago. Generando así una cara negativa de la feria de las flores.

In order to put on some events or many events, the Mayor's office and the Transit Secretary chose to close some roads that are used heavily by other people who are not attending the planned events, which creates a vehicular congestion or an agglomeration in some forms public transportation, such as the metro which is the fastest way to move when there are these types of problems in the streets.

In addition, in the event of the carriers, mules, and fondas (bars), there are often many conflicts and fights and guess why, women or simply alcohol. This creates a negative side of the Festival of the Flowers.

Even with the things that went right and went wrong, the Festival of Flowers sought to unite the city through a tradition that started in 1957, after the peasants had been coming down to the city of Medellín with flowers on their back in order to sell them. Here are some highlights of the 2009 version of the Festival of Flowers produced by the festival organizers:

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