If in your mind Colombian city of Medellín is strongly associated with infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, it’s time to crush the old stereotype. These days, it’s the flowers in Colombia that they’re more famous for, and the transformation is truly remarkable. The second largest flower supplier in the world, Medellín is home to the largest international flower festival in the world. It’s called Feria de las Flores, or in English, the Festival of the Flowers.
In the beginning of August, when the “city of eternal spring” Medellín blooms in all its splendor and the streets are flooded with flowers in Colombia, it is the beginning of the famous 10-day festival. Feria de las Flores celebrates not only the country’s floral heritage, but also the country’s diversity.
It’s Not Just About the Flowers in Colombia
The festival has earned the title of the biggest cultural event in Medellín. The most unique festival in Colombia, it attracts thousands of people from all over the country and abroad. Additionally, although visitors are mainly interested in the flowers, the fair offers over 100 events that draw people from around the world. The city bursts into salsa street parties and hosts music festivals (including some famous names). There’s a Trova competition of improvised singing, an orchids and birds expo, and a horse fair. Besides that, there’s even a vintage car parade, a chiva parade celebrating Colombia’s colorful open-sided buses, and art exhibits. And of course, there are fireworks at the opening and closing of the festival.
Steeped in rich cultural and botanical excellence, Colombia’s city of eternal spring truly comes alive as it proudly displays its traditions in the vibrant colors of beautiful flowers that grow here all year round. Observed since 1957 Feria de Las Flores in Colombia is a significant part of the city’s cultural identity and is on the same scale as Independence Day in the US.
The History of Feria de Las Flores
With all the numerous activities it is important not to forget the main reason for the celebration: flowers. The economic importance of flowers in Colombia cannot be exaggerated as it has grown into an annual billion-dollar industry. The second largest flowers supplier in the world, the country exports over 70% of cut flowers to the US alone.
Even though Feria de Las Flores started to honor the growing floral industry in the country, there was also another reason behind the celebration. In Colombia, the flowers are tributes to women, fertility and life itself.
The first Festival of the Flowers in Medellín was celebrated over 60 years ago and has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1957. Even though the first celebration was short, it did include the silleteros parade. Silleteros was the word for the slaves who carried goods and wealthy people on their backs during colonial times. Nowadays, people parade with beautiful flowers expositions mounted on their backs instead. Starting with just 40 silleteros in its first year, it grew to over 500 participants and the number is getting larger each year. This symbolic act against slavery, the silleteros parade is considered one of the festival’s main events.
What is Silletas?
Today, the festival includes many activities including concerts, horse rides, and fireworks. Despite the other things to do, the Silleteros parade is the most symbolic event during Feria de Las Flores. In Colombia, it is an important part of the country’s cultural heritage. The silletas are chair-like wooden contraptions with a back plate and handles for carrying flowers on a person’s back. Not surprisingly, it was a woman who came up with this ingenious method. María La Larga was the first to use this novel way of carrying the flowers. She convinced farmers to use silletas for transporting flowers from the farm to the city. For this reason, in the modern day, the term silletero simply means anyone who sells flowers in Medellín’s streets.
Today, farmers design elaborate arrangements for the festival. Then they parade through the city with silletas on their backs. This is the culmination of the festival. The constructions are quite large and can weigh up to 150 pounds (70 kilos) and measure about 16 feet (5 meters) in diameter. All of the flower arrangements are made with a variety of the unique and exotic Colombian flowers.
A Tip for Tourists
The farmers who come to Medellin to show off their best flowers during the festival aren’t solely from Medellin. Many come from a small suburb called Santa Elena. If you came to see Feria de Las Flores in Colombia, visiting farms in Santa Elena is a must. On a day trip, your guide will take you through field of stunning local flowers. They’ll show you how people create these elaborate wreathes. Most importantly, everywhere you go you’ll learn some fascinating background about this beautiful tradition. There are many farms you can visit depending on your own preferences. However, according to tourist reviews, El Pensamiento silletera is among the best since it includes a detailed demonstration of wreaths making.
In one of the largest flower–producing regions in Colombia, the annual Feria de Las Flores festival blends culture and color in an explosion of unique flowers. It is the city’s most symbolic celebration. It is an historical icon of the country for a reason.
The Festival of the Flowers in Colombia is a paradise for flower lovers! Most importantly, it’s also an opportunity for tourists to learn more about Colombian culture and traditions. As a result, attending Feria de Las Flores festival will give you a glimpse into the unique character of the city and its people, as well as a chance to join in one of the country’s most famous events.
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