For the last 57 years Medellin has celebrated los silleteros (pictured above), the men and women who used to carry people and cargo on their backs on chairs, including carrying the sick to doctors. Los silleteros are celebrated at the 10 day Feria de Las Flores (Festival of Flowers), which proved once again that Colombians know how to dance, eat, celebrate their culture and work hard.
On any given day of the Festival of Flowers you could find at least 20 events, exhibits or concerts occuring all over the city and surrounding hillside towns. The contagious sonds of salsa choke (the salsa style made famous by the Colombian football team at the World Cup), vallenato, champeta, and reggaeton could be heard (and danced to!) all day and night all over the city as toursists and locals enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere.
The highlight of this massive festival is the Desfile de Los Silleteros (The Silleteros Parade). A silletero is now a folkloric and honored figure in this region, but not a viable profession. The revered tradition is honored now by carrying a massive silleta ornately decorated with thousands of flowers grown in the hillside towns.
These silletas weigh about 70 to 100 kilos and silleteros are proud to have the honor of carrying them through the parade route in the scorching tropical sun. Its an incredible sight to see men and women of varying ages carry these massive flower creations as the crowds cheer and clap for them.
Watching the sweat-soaked grimaces and smiles of the silleteros as they carried the flower covered burdens was a beautiful illustration of Colombian´s perseverance, work ethic and vivacious culture in the face of hardship.
I was fortunate enought to have been placed with Interactuar, the only Kiva Field Partner in Medellin, during this entire festival. Here are some of my favorite sights I was able to capture during this years parade:
You can impact the ife of a hard working Colombian today!