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:



The so called "monumental" silletas on display.



 
The relative success of the Colombian footbal team at this years World Cup was a popular theme commemorated on many silletas




Many silleteros showed their joy and pride of displaying their silleta.




When silletas were too heavy or silleteros were exhausted volunteers assisted the silleteros carry them.




In between silletero groups were regional dance groups adding more joy to the party!












Children also participated with small silletas.












The strength of silleteras was on full display as many of them hung their silletas on their foreheads.




You can always find the traditional grilled arepa, beef and potatoe skewers at any good Colombian festival!
 


















The life of Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez was also honored on several silletas due to his death earlier this year.

















"Let Peace No Longer Be a Dream but a Reality"- One of several anti-war/ peace themed silletas as reminders of the continued armed conflict in the country.

 
Medellin is referred to as the city of eternal spring time usually because of its year-round beautiful weather. Yet the Festival of Flowers allowed its music, culture, food and people to flourish and prove that they are the true beauty of Medellin.

You can impact the
ife of a hard working Colombian today!


 
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Comments

Beautiful pictures, David. Thanks for sharing!

Hi Nancy, Thanks! Interactuar is definitely a great organization. The more I work with them the more respect I have for the work they do.

Loved the joy, the creativity, and the dreams represented in the colorful silletas! Colombians are special people. Thanks for letting me share in the parade!

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David was raised in southern California very near to the Mexican border, which allowed him to grow up with an appreciation of multiple cultures and perspectives. Los Angeles is his second home after attending UCLA and working for a stock research company as a consultant. During David’s time at the University of California, Los Angeles, his interest in global affairs, traveling, foreign cultures and international development grew significantly, albeit without clear focus on what to do with that interest. As a consultant, he was able to grow his investing knowledge, become more interested in financial services and innovative technology. David decided to combine his interest in international development and financial services and pursue microfinance. This lead him to diligently study microfinance and volunteer as a Young Ambassador for Opportunity through Opportunity International. David hopes his experience as a Kiva Fellow will be just the beginning of a long career in microfinance.
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