MEDELLIN, Colombia – Around 500 people descended on Monday from the mountains of the Colombian town of Santa Elena wearing small chairs adorned with flowers on their back to fill the streets of Medellin with colorful flowers, commemorating the 60th year of the annual silleta (saddle) parade at the Festival of Flowers.
With the small chairs called “silleta” decorated with flowers on their backs, the families that still practice this tradition – which is one of the nation’s Intangible Cultural Heritage events – undertake a journey of two kilometers, parading and keeping this legacy alive.
Among the 23 people who pioneered this festival in 1957 was Rosa Emilia Grisales, an 88-year-old woman who told EFE that 60 years ago, during the exhibition of flower arrangements in Bolivar Park, she and her husband became “the first winners of the parade” thanks to their traditional “‘silletas’ full of a great variety of flowers.”
This year’s highlight was the floral arrangements dedicated not only to the six decades of this tradition and the peace achievements in Colombia, but also to Pope Francis’s upcoming visit to the country in September, as “a messenger of peace,” according to Isabella Ramirez’s “silleta,” which was made in honor of the pope.
The mayor of Medellin, Federico Gutierrez, described this year’s Festival of Flowers as successful, after the event culminated with the “Parade of Silleteros” and with a preliminary balance of at least 14,110 visitors during the first seven days, of which over 6000 were foreigners.