Partying like a Paisa at The Festival of Flowers

Trip Start Dec 10, 2011
Trip End Sep 29, 2012

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Feria de las Flores

Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Medellin in known as the city of Eternal Spring, thanks to the pleasant climate it boasts of sunshine and the city's green lined roads and suburbs (barrios). The city can proudly boast itself as the flower capital of the Americas nestled high in the Andes at 1500 metres above sea level.  

Suitably named the Festival of the Flowers, 'Feria de las Flores' is internationally acclaimed and tourists and national visitors flood to Medellin to partake in the festival’s activities. Since I was here again and staying long enough to see this I wanted to share what it was all about.

Imagine roughly 10 days of any excuse to party, for me is the essence of the festival, locals and visitors wearing national costume, beer consumption going up as did sadly theft, as I personally found out myself.

The festival is the most important social event for the city and there is a pageant, automobiles, a Paso Fino (horse parade) and many musical concerts. 

The main highlight of the festival is the Flower Parade itself. A lot of preparation goes into this and on the day it is truly amazing to see young children right to older people carrying very heavy flower adorned 'Sillateros’ on their backs down from the mountains outside Medellin.

The tradition goes back to the first parade in 1957, celebrating the end of slaves carrying people on their backs up steep hills, in place being represented by the flower displays. On this day we ventured down to the river side where the procession would start, armed with sun cream, hats and money to buy beer. We rented some stalls and ended up standing on them which was perfect for seeing all the flower displays, a lot of dancing, drinking was done that day, getting into the true ‘Paisa’ spirit (Paisa is a word for people from the Antioquia region) and we had a lot of fun with the people in the crowd with us.

The city’s botanical gardens had a special display of Orchids on during the festival, this is the national flower. I had not been yet so thought it would be a perfect time to visit, mmm maybe, maybe not? The flowers were beautiful and the gardens are lovely to wonder around and lose yourself, except I did not lose myself but my handbag. Yes after eight months traveling I was robbed. The thing is I did not see what happened, I was on a kind of date and I guess a bit distracted. After eating lunch and then going to pay my handbag was gone; my keys, wallet, camera, mobile phone all gone and the only souvenir I had bought for myself an Alpaca leather handbag. We think it was kids as we did not see anyone near us and yes during the Flower Festival, more tourists can result in more thefts and a hot spot had to be right in the ‘Jardin Botanico’ during the festivities. My friend and the police were great but I was not going to see that bag again, I was fed beer and looked after all day to help numb my shock of being robbed, at least I was OK and safe that was the main thing.

This did not dampen my spirit and I continued to party during the 'Feria de las Flores' and went to one of the many music concerts happening across the city, this one was called ‘Noche Tropical’, tropical night and boy was it!

It was my first night in my new house in the area of Estadio, and even though I had a plan to rest I went out with my lovely new housemates and reveled in being outside on a nice evening, in the ‘Plaza Mayor’ where the city’s convention centre is situated. Life is for living I thought to myself. We were drinking beer again, well why not and dancing to wonderful Salsa music and some lethal firewater was passed around (Aguadiente). We fortunately got to see a Dutch female trumpet player guesting with Cesar Mora, salsa legend in Colombia, fantastic. Check her on youtube: I also had a lot of fun dancing with some Paisas who made it their mission to not let me be still even making me wear their traditional ‘sombrero’ (hat) and ‘ruane’ (cape) round my neck almost like he was trying to capture me. I did escape though about 1am!

The big finale of the 'Feria de las Flores' is the ‘Cabalgata’, Horse Parade, which made it twice into the Guinness Book of Records for the highest number of horses in a parade. The horses are Colombian ‘Fino Paso’ This means they have a certain gait or trot and although it is interesting to watch, after a while you watch the horses less, after several hundred passing by it gets a bit boring and chat and drink beers with your friends more. Which is what we did. I met a lot of interesting people on this day as throughout the festival, including a young kid turned entrepreneur in the making who loved my 'gringa' Spanish and made a smart profit selling us water. I also got asked out by one of the Colombian Carabineros, who as I posed with him for a photo whispered in my ear ' Do you have a boyfriend?' in Spanish, I replied 'I don't understand sorry!'.

We finished off the festivities by enjoying listening to some free live salsa music nearby sponsored by Pilsen beer, and I have to say that is the most fun I had in a while dancing outside a supermarket. We ended up being the tourist attraction, a large group of foreigners dancing salsa either badly or pretty mediocre but with the 'paisa spirit', we were partying with and like the paisas.

I also managed to source new free Pilsen ‘Paisa’ t-shirts for my friends and I with some cute Spanglish and a smile. It seems, I’ve still got it!
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greekcypriot on

Next time be more alert when you are among crowds. It is so pity that you lost all those things Charlotte. I guess you bought a new camera afterwards?

charlotte on

I was alert as I have been for 9 months, when you are targeted that's it. Could have happened in any city in the world and we think it was kids so we had no chance to even spot them coming!

Sadly I don't have a camera now, but have a mobile with a camera I'm now using not so good but will do till I can buy a new one back home. Electronics are expensive in Colombia.

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