This time last year, Medellín was alive with flowers, monumental public events, and civic pride.
For 61 years running, the Feria de las Flores has been the biggest event on the Medellín civic calendar — a celebration of the “sillatero” culture that is emblematic of Antioquia province and the Paisas (as Antioquia natives proudly refer to themselves). In short, the Feria honors the flower farmers (sillateros) who used to walk many miles down into Medellin, carrying their wares on their backs to sell in the city markets.
Last year was our first Feria as full-time residents of Medellín, and we were determined to experience it to its fullest. It was an over-the-top, exhausting, exhilarating, and joyful celebration, and we’re grateful we had the chance to see it in all its crazy glory. Before the world changed.
Here’s our post from the 2019 Feria de las Flores. There’s a lot more here on the history of the sillateros, their significance to the Paisas, and how the Feria came to be.
Today (Sunday, Aug. 9) was the originally scheduled date for the grand Sillatero Parade, the crowning act of the Feria de las Flores. But this year, for the first time since 1957, it didn’t happen. The Mayor’s Office has announced the Feria’s postponement until November, with the parade and other massive events to be presented “virtually.” Given Colombia’s current and unenviable status as a world COVID hot spot, we’ll be surprised if even that comes to pass.
Like so many other global events involving throngs of people, it’s difficult to imagine that the Feria will ever be the same once it does eventually come back. So we’ll content ourselves with memories.
Here are a few photo highlights from last year’s Feria.
The Orchid, Flower, and Artisan Fair at the Medellín Botanical Garden
The Classic Car Parade
The Grand Finale: The Sillatero Parade
What About the Flower Farmers?
As we’ve said, the Feria de las Flores honors Antioquia’s flower farmers, particularly those in and around the town of Santa Elena high in the hills overlooking Medellín. Just before the COVID plague hit, we were able to visit a working flower finca (farm) in Santa Elena. It was a pleasure to meet one of the farmers and hear about his experiences as a sillatero in many, many Feria de las Flores parades. Here’s a link to our post about that visit:
The Feria is a big highlight of these farmers’ year and also a main source of their income. We were wondering how they’ll be able to manage now that their beautiful wares are ready to be harvested and the Feria has been postponed. We got one answer here – a program by which the Mayor’s office is purchasing flowers and distributing them to health care workers and other essential personnel. (The article is in Spanish but easy to translate with Google.)
The pandemic may have put a damper on the Feria this year, but the sillatero spirit is alive and well. Here’s a little video from the Mayor’s office from just a few days ago, honoring the flower farmers who make the trek all the way from Santa Elena down into town with their wares — just as they’ve done for 100 years. The featured silleta honors “The Heroes No One Talks About” – the teachers, construction workers, farmers, health care providers.