The 2019 Medellín Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros) took place on Sunday, August 11. This was the last day of the 2019 Feria de las Flores. This year was the 62nd year of Desfile de Silleteros. The first one was held back in 1957.
The two biggest events at Feria de las Flores each year are the Desfile de Silleteros and Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos).
Desfile de Silleteros is a unique parade where paisas of all ages carry flower displays known as silletas on their backs for hours. In the parade each year, the participants range from little kids to men and women in their 60s and even older.
The flower arrangements for Disfile de Silleteros each year are made in the nearby pueblo of Santa Elena. And they are entered in a competition in various categories.
This article has over 25 of my best photos from the 2019 Defile de Silleteros, which were chosen from over 400 photos I took at the parade. Also, you can see our photos of the 2018 Desfile de Silletros and the 2017 Desfile de Silleteros.
History of Desfile de Silleteros
The tradition of silleteros has its roots back in the 19th century when people in the rural areas in Antioquia used these silletas (chair-like) devices to carry the sick and elderly.
Santa Elena flower growers were the first to use the silleta to carry flowers, vegetables and herbs to market in Medellín. And they used the silleta to take food and household items they bought in Medellín back to their homes.
The first Feria de las Flores, or flower festival, reportedly took place in Medellin in May 1957. It was organized by Arturo Uribe, a member of the Board of the Office of Development and Tourism. And the idea behind this event was to help promote the flower industry in Colombia.
The first festival lasted for five days with an exposition of flowers displayed in the Catedral Basílica Metropolitana. In addition, the first silleteros parade took place with about 40 men from Santa Elena carrying on their backs flower arrangements to the exposition site.
The following year in 1958, the month of the festival was changed to August. This was done to celebrate the independence of Antioquia. Over the next 61 years, additional events were added to the festival, which increased the duration to the current 10 to 11 days.
2019 Desfile de Sileteros
There was a total of 550 silleteros in the 2019 Desfile de Sileteros, which is 40 more than in 2018. This year included 80 children. Also, according to news reports upward of 800,000 people saw the Medellín Flower Parade this year.
The silleteros had to walk a record distance of 1.55 miles (2.5 km) in the flower parade this year carrying floral arrangements that can reportedly weigh up to 110 to even as high as 260 pounds (50 to 120 kilograms).
We saw a few heavy silletas in the parade this year that were being carried by four people after the silletero became exhausted towards the end of the parade.
The Absolute Prize for the best flower arrangement in the entire parade this year went to a monumental silleta by Juan Ernesto Ortiz Grajales. He also won in the Monumental category. For winning, Grajales reportedly received a total of 10,638,000 pesos.
Like previous years, additional prizes were awarded in the Commercial, Traditional, Junior and Children categories. Here are the winners this year in several categories:
- Carlos José Atehortúa – Commercial category
- Jhon Jairo Grajales Gómez – Traditional category
- Hernán Atehortúa de Pantanillo – Artistic category
- Alirio de Jesús Zapata – Emblematic category
- María Isabel Hincapié – Junior category
- Simón Zapata Grisales – Children category
There were also several of the original silleteros from the first parade in 1957. They were near the beginning of the parade riding in several of the antique cars from the Classic Car Parade (Desfile de Autos Clasicos) that was on Saturday.
Feria de las Flores also is a popular time for foreigners to be visiting Medellín. Most of the foreigners visiting Medellín during this time of the year come for Feirea de las Flores.
My Experience at the 2019 Desfile de Silleteros
In 2016, I was able to get a press pass to Desfile de Silleteros, which enabled me to get on the street with the parade. But the past three years, I had no success, as press passes are becoming much more difficult to get to the flower parade. This is due to an increasing number of press from around the world covering the flower parade.
This year I went with my Colombia wife. And we purchased tickets on the street for the bleachers. And the bleachers were located on the road below the Parques del Rio park. So, we didn’t have to contend with the sun. And there was food and drinks being served in the bleachers.
The parade was scheduled to start at 2 pm, so we arrived before 11 am and were able to find decent seats. And a pre-parade started soon after we arrived with some party trucks and police, military and firefighter marchers plus bands and some horses.
The flower parade didn’t start to arrive until after 2:30 pm, since we were near the end of the parade route. But it was worth the wait.
Photos From the 2019 Medellín Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros)
Here are an additional 20 photos from the 2018 Desfile de Silleteros (flower parade) this year.
The Bottom Line: 2019 Medellín Flower Parade (Desfile de Silleteros)
This year was my 10th year to see Desfile de Silleteros. It’s the world-famous flower parade in Medellín that has grown over the past 62 years to become a 10-day festival this year – Feria de las Flores 2019.
During Feria de las Flores each year, Medellín comes alive as the city displays its proud heritage in the colors of its flowers that grow in and around the countryside.
During the 10-day festival this year there were hundreds of events but the flower parade is one of the two biggest. It’s definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed if you are in Medellín during this time.
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