Silleteros on Sunday!!!

Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
Trip End ??? ??, 2006

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, August 7, 2005

Sunday morning, my other cousin, Marta Lucia's (also my mom's niece, but from a different sibling) husband, Virgilio picked me up at Clemencia's house at around 9 am. My flight was scheduled to leave at noon, but I changed it so I'd have the opportunity to spend some time with Marta L, Virgilio and their two daughters, Ana Maria (20 year old med student) and her fiesty sister, Elisabeth (age 10ish). Marta L and Virgilio bought the house my dad bought for us in Colombia, the house he dreamed of retiring. Unfortunately, he died and my mom had to sell the house to put us through school and to simply make ends meet. Fortunately, though, my mom sold it to Marta L and Virgilio, so it's still a special place. Anyway, we arrived at the house and after saying our hellos and meeting Elisabeth for the first time, off we went to try to see the "silleteros" (flower chair carriers) setting up for the parade which was set to start at 2 pm. I knew I was going to miss the parade because I had to head back to Bogota to then drive 3 hours to Paipa, a town north of Bogota where we would be holding our two week trial ad course.

The desfile de los silleteros ( flower chair carrier parade) is the final coup de grace of a two week celebration of the flowers in Medellin. There are exhibits, events, get togethers and lots of partying!! From the little I've been able to gather, the tradition is hundreds of years old and started in a small outside of Medellin called Santa Elena. The silleteros are comprised of different families from the area (sort of like the Palio in Sienna) who build the flower chair floats and decorate them with all types of flowers. The process takes a couple of days (probably because they party so much in between) and is finalized the day before, Saturday. Only shuttle buses and taxis are allowed in the area after 1 pm on Saturday. People come from all over to watch the flower chair floats being built. People rent farm houses, camp outside, sleep anywhere they can and party like it's 1999 (that's for you B. Willie). Seriously, they drink, mostly firewater, they sing, they eat and continue this scandalous behavior into the morning.

The following morning, the floats are loaded onto trucks and the caravan into town begins. They drive the trucks loaded with the floats into the center of town, Boston. There, they unload the floats and the campesinos (country folk) dressed in the traditional garb begin setting up their areas and touching up their floats. The country folk are all ages, shapes and sizes. The one thing they have in common is the pride and love they have for Colombia. It's really amazing.

Anyway, after saying hello to the kids, the five of us headed to the area where the floats were starting to set up. The area was blocked off and there was a huge police presence. They wouldn't allow anyone within 50 feet of the floats. I was bummed! Luckily, my cousin works with the police in some capacity I still don't quite understand. After talking to a bunch of people, she was able to find the Captain and I was golden!!! I was allowed to walk amongst the campesinos and the silletas. It was AMAZING! The silletas were huge and the colors vibrant and enchanting. The campesinos and silleteros were so nice and were always willing to let me photograph them and even stand next to them. There were silletas for the recently deceased pope (he's big in Colombia, even now) and local artisan designs. The predominant message in all of the silletas was of hope and peace. That message impressed me immensely and at the same time saddened me. Colombians have been hoping and struggling for peace for the last 40 some odd years. Despite the reminder that peace is not at their fingertips, they don't lose hope. The strive even harder for it. It's a lesson I will keep with me from now on. My favorite float was yellow with a big red heart with two and peace (okay, 3 words :-)) I've attached a bunch of pictures of these floats. Blow them up as large as you can so you can begin to appreciate the beauty and the amount of work and imagination that went into each one.

It was so great to be there. In the same neighborhood where my grandmother lived (yes, the one I was forced to live with in 7th grade) and where I had seen the same parade years earlier.

We headed to the main plaza where we got the chance to hear an orchestra and it's conductor have been playing in the same plaza for over 35 years. They dress in their tuxes and evening gowns and perform for about 2 hours each and every Sunday. As time drew near, we headed back to the house and they to the airport. We stopped at a roadside grill and had some food. Then, off to the airport we went and I got on my 3 pm flight back to Bogota. I was so glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with my cousins and their kids, grandkids, great grandkids, etc. It's something I never really had the opportunity to do as a kid because both extended families were here in Colombia. So far, this has been a great professional experience, but an even better personal one.

I arrived in Bogota 34 minutes later and was met by Lucho. We picked up my Colombian counterpart, Manuel and headed to Paipa.
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