Feria de las Flores Funtivities!

The first week of August brought with it a packed week of funtivities here in Medellin as they celebrated the Feria de las Flores (Flower Festival), which has been taking place in Medellin every year since 1957 and is the city’s most important cultural event and festival. As usual, I have an obscene number of pictures from the week’s festivities, so I’ll largely let them do the storytelling. The week started off with the Cavalcade, which is a parade or procession on horseback. I LOVE horses and it was pretty incredible to see over 6,000 people mounted on horseback riding through the main streets/highways of the metropolis of Medellin. 6,000 horses in the city! It was crazy and awesome. More pictures found here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.850087136741.1073741836.34001194&type=1&l=ecff9a0042

Sooo many beautiful horses of all shapes, sizes, and colors!

Sooo many beautiful horses of all shapes, sizes, and colors!

Out working for Rotary selling the official lanyards required to participate in the horse parade.

Out working for Rotary selling the official lanyards required to participate in the horse parade.

Yep...that man is riding a cow in the parade. I hope you're as impressed as I was.

Yep…that man is riding a cow in the parade. I hope you’re as impressed as I was.

Over 6,000 people mounted on horseback participated in the parade!

Over 6,000 people mounted on horseback participated in the parade!

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Marta, the wonderful Rotarian who I currently live with, and a couple of her friends invited me to a concert mid-week that featured a typical Colombian style of music called Vallenata, which derives from the coastal region of the country and are typically love ballads of sorts. I’ve found that many people don’t dig vallenata music, but those who do are seriously into it! While a concert of love ballads may sound dull, these people were drinking their fair share of Aguardiente (Colombian liquor), dancing the night away, and belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs. One thing I find interesting about Colombia is how typical it is here to just drink straight liquor, particularly rum or aguardiente, which are both produced here. As you can see in the sign at the concert, the alcohol available for purchase was various sizes of rum or aguardiente…forget beer and cocktails…that stuff is for pansies here.

With Marta at the Vallenato Concert!

With Marta at the Vallenato Concert!

Bottles of liquor are often the alcohol sold at events here...beer is apparently for pansies. (No flower festival pun intended.)

Bottles of liquor are often the alcohol sold at events here…beer is apparently for pansies. (No flower festival pun intended.)

_________________________________________________________________________________________ The next funtivity of the week was the “Orchids, Birds, and Flowers Show” at the Medellin Botanical Garden, which I attended with a group of friends from school. This event greatly exceeded my expectations, as I was expecting to simply see a variety of orchids, birds, and flowers sitting around on display throughout the botanical gardens. What I found was one massive exhibit after another of artistic and creative displays of a vast array of flowers and orchids, many of which were in colors and forms I’d never seen before. It was truly breathtaking, and my pictures don’t even begin to do it justice. Many more pictures can be seen here:http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.850090165671.1073741837.34001194&type=1&l=6112ec7804

Out with friends from school at the Botanical Garden's festival event.

Out with friends from school at the Botanical Garden’s festival event.

There were so many crazy and beautiful flowers I'd never seen before!

There were so many crazy and beautiful flowers I’d never seen before!

Flower art displays at the Botanical Gardens.

Flower art displays at the Botanical Gardens.

A ginormous flower bouquet creation! So cool.

A ginormous flower bouquet creation! So cool.

Beautiful artistic flower displays at the Botanical Garden's event.

Beautiful artistic flower displays at the Botanical Garden’s event.

Awesome flower art in Medellin's downtown area.

Awesome flower art in Medellin’s downtown area.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________ That Saturday morning a group of friends and I woke up unnecessarily early (we’re talking 4:30am) to beat a phantom rush and crowds of people that we were supposed to have encountered as we tried to make our way to Santa Elena. Santa Elena is a nearby town that holds the long tradition of making the infamous silletas, which are massive flower displays mounted on a wooden framework and then carried on the backs of men, women, and children (who are called silleteros…because they carry the silletas) during the flower festival’s biggest and final event, the parade of the silleteros. So these silletas are built with dried and fresh flowers the Saturday morning before the big Sunday parade in the town of Santa Elena and big crowds come to watch the locals as they build their beautiful silletas. However, the crowds (we learned) start showing up around 9:30-10:00am…not 6:30-7:00am as we’d been told. So we got to watch the whole morning’s events…including the silleta makers eating breakfast before they even started working. 🙂  Also, we had the fortune of getting to watch the making of the silleta that the next day would win overall grand champion out of the 500+ silletas in the parade, so that was cool! I tried my hand at carrying a very small and simple silleta and those things are HEAVY. The ones carried in the parade range from 90 to 250 lbs!!!! CRAZY. And crazier still is that by law they must be carried by someone from Santa Elena, typically the person who made it, which are often people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who have been carrying on this tradition every year for over 50 years now!

In Santa Elena looking MUY Antioqueña (the region I live in)

In Santa Elena looking MUY Antioqueña (the region I live in)

Watching what ended up being the grand prize silleta being built in Santa Elena!

Watching what ended up being the grand prize silleta being built in Santa Elena!

Even the silletas with almost nothing on them were super heavy!

Even the silletas with almost nothing on them were super heavy!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________ So Sunday was the big day of the parade of the silleteros and I was luck to score some excellent free tickets to a private viewing stand owned by the local liquor factory (thanks again to Marta and her friend!). I invited my friend from school, Juliana, to join me and we had a super fun and long day, spending over 6 hours in our bleacher area watching the festivities and enjoying tasty cocktails courtesy of our viewing stand’s sponsor. It was utterly unbelievable and amazing to watch the silleteros hauling their 90-250 lb silletas on their back along the LONG parade route. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. Although it couldn’t rain on the awesome day we had, my parade day had a bummer of an ending when 15 minutes before the end of the parade I looked down to realize that my bag, which had been in between my feet for several hours (I should mention everyone else around me also had their bags, purses, etc between their feet) was no longer there. Gone. Stolen. So I lost my cheap Colombia cell phone, my house keys, my Colombian ID, my Colombian bank card, and various other items. It was a pretty awful inconvenience (particularly getting my house keys stolen and my hard earned, long-awaited Colombian ID taken), but at the end of the day I felt fortunate that although I’d been robbed, it had been in an entirely non-violent way. Also, long, crazy story short…whoever robbed me was kind enough to pull out my Colombian ID, keys, bank card, and medical insurance card and leave them somewhere, and then a kind stranger managed to contact me and get them back to me! By that point I’d already gotten new keys, paid to apply for a new ID, etc, but it’s still incredible that they were returned to me! Okay, I’ll let my plethora of pictures do the rest of the talking. Stay tuned for my next post about more recent adventures, including visiting the Colombian desert region, going to an indigenous health conference, and last, but certainly not least, Matt’s 3rd and final trip down to Colombia, which was WONDERFUL. 🙂 Even more pictures found here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.850098723521.1073741838.34001194&type=1&l=42906d90f7

Dancers celebrating the proud tradition of coffee growing in Colombia!

Dancers celebrating the proud tradition of coffee growing in Colombia!

Precious little girl!

Precious little girl!

These are the traditional little box silletas.

These are the traditional little box silletas.

There were sooo many incredible old women like this parading along with pride!

There were sooo many incredible old women like this parading along with pride!

One very proud and adorable silletero!

One very proud and adorable silletero!

Some of the 500+ silleteros that participated in the parade!

Some of the 500+ silleteros that participated in the parade!

Beautiful dancers sporting cigars while they performed!

Beautiful dancers sporting cigars while they performed!

Carrying on a proud tradition!

Carrying on a proud tradition!

Beautiful young silletera girl

Beautiful young silletera girl

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