All About Colombia’s Impressive Flower Festival
La Feria de Las Flores—the 64th annual Flower Festival in Medellin, Colombia—is scheduled for August 12-22, 2021!
Thousands foreign tourists and Colombian nationals attend this spectacular event each year. It’s one of Colombia’s key regional festivals and serves both a celebration of Medellín’s identity and a stunning display of the gorgeous flowers that are grown in the region.
While the vivid blooms of roses, orchids, and lilies (among many other flowers) are the stars of this event, the weeklong celebration also includes concerts, cultural events, and sporting activities.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the Medellín Flower Festival.
What is the Origin of the Flower Festival in Colombia?
These days, the city of Medellin is chock full of flower exhibitions during the festival, and the pinnacle of the festival is the Desfile de Silleteros (Flower Grower’s Parade), in which hundreds of local flower growers parade through the streets with giant flower displays strapped to their backs.
But how did it all begin?
Behind the Netherlands, Colombia has been the world’s second-largest exporter of wildflowers for more than six decades. Most floral production occurs in the central northwestern department of Antioquia, of which Medellin is the capital.
Fun fact: The export of flowers and orchids remain a vital component of Colombia’s economy, with close to three-quarters of flowers sold in the U.S. coming from the South American country, according to Colombia’s trade and tourism agency.
The true home of the Medellín flower culture is the nearby village of Santa Elena, the epicenter of the region’s flower growers.
During the festival in Medellín, Santa Elena buzzes with life and activity. It’s traditional for people from the city to visit the town on one day during the festival and experience the silletero culture. Many festival-goers choose to visit farms found in the outskirts of the city to learn firsthand about the flowers that Antioquian locals have cultivated for countless generations.
In the spring of 1957, tourist bureau member Arturo Uribe suggested that Medellin host a Fiesta de Flores (flower fair) in the city to celebrate Colombia’s (and Antioquia’s) successful flower industry. He invited the flower growers from Santa Elena to participate in the flower festival parade.
The inaugural festival was on May 1, 1957. Originally referred to as the “Flower Party,” it was a modest regional event. The main events were a single flower exhibition, the first silleteros parade, a concert, and a beauty pageant.
To learn more, visit this website with easy Spanish sentences about Flower Festival history.
The Modern-day Flower Festival Colombia
Today, the festival is one of the most highly attended events in Colombia, with more than 26,000 visitors flocking to Medellin to enjoy the brilliant floral arrangements in 2019. It’s become an international event with incredible flowers hanging from every balcony, lining the streets and decorating windows.
The event’s highlights include:
- Orchid expos
- Concerts by stars like Marc Anthony and Carlos Vives at the Concierto de Conciertos (concert of concerts)
- The Chiva parade celebrating Colombia’s colorful open-sided buses
- Ritmo de Bicicleta (bicycle rhythm), a lively bike tour of the city where thousands gather to bike through the city with music blaring and flowers in their bike baskets
- Firework displays
- Classic car parades
- Art exhibitions
- Cookery classes
- Horse fairs
The main musical event is the traditional Trova Festival, where singers compete in improv sings-offs. The Evening Cultural Park event also features live music.
Medellín’s botanical garden is one of the many venues during the Flower Festival Colombia. Year-round, the Jardín Botánico is a lovely space for Medellín’s population of 2.5 million, full of activities and exhibits that explore the region’s botanical biodiversity.
During the Flower Festival Colombia, the botanical garden features awe-inspiring displays of intricate orchids.
El Desfile de Silleteros
Since the very first Festival de Flores in 1957, the Desfile de Silleteros has been the grand finale of the Flower Festival Colombia. Initially, dozens of locals would participate. Over the years, the parade has grown to encompass more than 500 participants carrying floats through town!
The floats are built on circular wooden platforms up to six feet in diameter that weigh up to 150 pounds total—including the wood and floral arrangements.
The word silletero derives from la silla (meaning “chair” in Spanish). It’s a term that people formerly called the peasants who used wooden chairs to transport goods (and sometimes people) on their backs from village to village.
The most iconic 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 best way to carry flowers from the farm to the city. The name later stuck for flower vendors who carried their enormous bundles of flowers into Medellin on their backs.
The silleteros’ moment in the spotlight is on the last day of the festival when they parade through Medellin. As an enthusiastic audience of thousands cheers them on, they perform the impressive feat of carrying heavy flower arrangements on their backs.
They wear traditional dress and compete for the chance to be crowned with the most beautiful flower arrangement. The 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.
Practice Your Spanish Before the Flower Festival in Colombia
Don’t miss out on your chance to visit Medellín in August and attend the city’s famous Flower Festival. Discover the charm that lies in its unique balance of tradition and modern life. Of course, being able to speak Spanish makes travel to Spanish-speaking countries much easier and more meaningful. And did you know that being bilingual also improves your cognition and decision-making abilities?
Sign up for a free trial class to practice your conversational skills in preparation for your trip to the Flower Festival Colombia! Here at Homeschool Spanish Academy, our friendly, certified teachers from Guatemala are ready to help you improve your Spanish skills.
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