April 13, 2024

‘Silleteros’ Reveal Spectacular Gardens in Santa Elena Traditional-Flower Contest

Medellin’s 59th annual Desfile de Silleteros (Flower-Carriers Parade) this year is expected to draw more than 800,000 in-person visitors — plus hundreds of thousands of TV viewers — for an event that provokes amazement, tears, elation and pride.

But behind this spectacle — this year on Sunday, August 7 — are the gardens cultivated by generations of traditional flower growers in the Santa Elena district in the eastern mountains above Medellin.

This year, the “Corporacion de Silleteros de Santa Elena” (the flower-carriers trade association) sponsored a contest to reward participating silleteros that maintain artisanal cultivation of certain types of traditional flowers — some varieties of which unfortunately have become exceedingly rare.

This year, the winner of the contest would get an all-expenses paid vacation to a Caribbean beach resort – a relatively modest compensation for the months and years of toil and dedication to gardens that yield beauty, pride and satisfaction, but don’t generate a cash benefit.

To see what’s behind this contest, Medellin Herald accompanied a group of independent judges — including local artists and experts from the Club de Jardineria de Medellin – in visits (July 19 and 20) to more than a score of artisanal “fincas” (little farms and gardens) in numerous “veredas” (neighborhoods) in Santa Elena.

For example: One such farm we visited in the “El Porvenir” neighborhood – accessible only via footpath, and owned by silletero Jhon Jairo Grajales (see photo) – featured a spectacular collection of multicolored “Margarita Africana” (Arctotis stoechadifolia).

Judges ranked the gardens for flower variety, quality, creativity, esthetic presentation, organization, and perseverance in maintaining certain traditional flowers.

What follows are a few highlight photos from the silletero-garden visits:

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