Top Menu

Medellin – How To Enjoy the Desfile de Silleteros?

La Feria De Las Flores & the Desfile de Silleteros – Do Not Underestimate Planning!

Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

One of 300+ Silletas, Desfile de Silleteros, 59th Edition of La Feria De Las Flores

This is the second time I experience the “Feria de las Flores” in Medellin, and I encountered mostly the same challenges in 2016 as in 2009… Except maybe that the increasing popularity of this festival makes it now even more important to carefully plan your visit than it was 7 years ago…

 

 

 

 

  • Book accommodation as early as you can, and in any cases at least 2 to 3 weeks ahead (if possible 3 months in advance, if you want something specific). Be also prepared to pay somewhere between 50% and 100% more for the same place as normally. Believe me, you do not want to go “Hostal Hunting” as we did back in 2009…
  • If you want to see the Desfile de Silleteros, you have 2 options:
    • If you do not intend to buy tickets in the tribunes (or couldn’t), go there between 08:00 and 09:30 am (the parade starts at 14:00), buy one of those plastic chairs and secure a first row place. Then sit quietly, chat with your Colombian neighbors, buy some of those delicious fruits from street sellers, and patiently wait for the show to begin… Arriving later than 09:30 o’clock means you will see nothing!
      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

    • If you intend to buy tickets, well… You will most likely not be able to secure the Holy Grail yourself: those can be bought 2 weeks before the beginning of the Feria de las Flores (which last 10 days), and all tickets are presold within hours (you cannot buy from abroad). So you will have to take one of those packages from a Travel Agency. The ticket costs 75.000 COP (23 €) if you can buy it officially, and a tour will cost you approx. 120.000 COP (37 €), if you are lucky enough to only partake in the “Desfile de Silleteros”. It is most likely that an Agency will try to sell you a full 2-3 day package that might cost way more! Beware that you must be there if possible at 10:00 am, very latest at 11:00, because the tribunes are grossly oversold. At 11:30, you won’t find a sit even if you paid for it!!!
      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

      Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

    • We had not prepare anything (except book a hostel), and found out that our chances of getting tickets were close to none. But our friends Maggie & Claudia, 2 Colombian – American ladies we met in Caño Cristales, would not let us have a bad experience of the Feria de las Flores, and went well out of their way to organize us 2 tickets. When we thanked her, Maggie simply said she wanted us to enjoy our stay in Colombia… So gentle, so Colombian!
  • Be flexible and go for the smaller events… There, you will find true highlights and lots of Colombian here for some really nice, relaxed and cheering moments. People around you will be pleased to see foreigners, and will do their best so that you have a great time (yes, you will drink a quite a few shots of Aguardiente and dance with people you had never met)
    • In 2009, we went up the Metro Cable to the Barrio de Santo Domingo for the view of the city and experienced a group of twelve young dancers of the Academy of Ballet who performed a medley of different dances that brought you to your knees… This was probably one of my greatest travel experiences so far!
    • In 2016, we simply went to the bus station (Terminal Sur) to buy some bus tickets for Salento… And found a concert of various artists and a crowd of locals here for some serious fun & party! Well, we stayed 3 hours there, danced with cheering Colombians, were invited for numerous shots of Aguardiente & Ron (Medellin, of course), and some Cervezas! A really nice evening in the most unlikely place!
      Concert for the Feria de las Flores at the Terminal Sur, Medellin, Colombia

      Concert for the Feria de las Flores at the Terminal Sur

      Concert for the Feria de las Flores at the Terminal Sur, Medellin, Colombia

      Concert for the Feria de las Flores at the Terminal Sur

    • In 2016, I did not go back to Santa Elena to see the making of the “Silletas”, as the experience back in 2009 was… Well, special! A mistake? I will never know…
      DesfileDeSilleteros-116

      The Making Of the Silletas, Santa Elena near Medelli

      DesfileDeSilleteros-117

      The Making Of the Silletas, Santa Elena near Medellin

 

Some Thoughts About The “Desfile De Silleteros”

The parade that takes place at the end of the Feria de las Flores is undoubtedly the highlight of the festival of flowers in Medellin. It is also the most popular moment, with no less than 800.000 visitors in 2016 (already 400.000 in 2009).

Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016, Medellin, Colombia

Desfile de Silleteros, La Feria De Las Flores, 59th Edition in 2016

It is indeed a stunning moment, and the 300+ Silletas (best described as artistic compositions of flowers attached to a large oval piece of plywood – on its back is a kind of harness that allows it to be carried in the “Defile de los Silleteros”) are absolutely gorgeous, creating a seemingly endless river of complex, delicate & colorful flower compositions… A unique sight!

Nonetheless, this beauty was somewhat tarnished by the faces of the “Silleteros” who carry those heavy loads (up to 70 kg, we were told) on their back and walk slowly for more than 2 hours under a scorching sun: faces of pain, faces of burden, trying to smile for the cheering crowd but more often than not only grimacing… Regularly, Scouts that accompany the Silleteros had to give them help…

Colombians we asked insisted that the Silleteros are very proud to partake in the parade (Desfile de Silleteros) and insisted that it is a long tradition that they want to pursue…

 

The Desfile De Silleteros As A Photographer

Let’s put it straight: my experience of the “Desfile de Silleteros” as a photographer was not the most rewarding one, with an unpleasant aftertaste that things are made unnecessarily complicated for amateur photographers… Challenges are indeed not only technical but also (or mainly) organizational ones…

The technical challenges, though numerous, are not the heaviest ones:

  • Light & shadows: the Desfile de Silleteros starts at 02:00 pm (sharp, believe it or not!), and therefore every motive is a game of shadow & light, of underexposure & of overexposure, with no possible mean of improvement… I personally chose to slightly underexpose my pictures (I went for Manual Settings or M) and then corrected in LightRoom, at least what could be done… Since corrections where partly greater than 2 stops, it was definitely an advantage using a Full Frame DSLR (Canon EOS 6D).
  • Close-ups & Large frames: of course it will depend from where you sit, but basically, you will be too close for large frames and too far for close-ups. It was a game of changing lenses from a standard lens (24-105) to a tele-lens (100-400) and back, but both were absolutely necessary. It would have been a huge advantage working with 2 bodies, one with a tele and one with a standard frame, though…
  • Lack of time and ever changing subjects: you have to be very reactive and have a quick eye in such an event as a parade, especially if you are close to the “action” and hence have little time seeing “what’s next”. So take decisions on what you want to photography and stick to it, else you will spend your time missing subjects!

But the heaviest challenge is by far an organizational challenge…

  • If you are an accredited photographer (don’t ask me how it works, simply no idea…), you are allowed to stand on a bridge above the parade. This is a great location, but you will completely miss the faces of the Silleteros from this bird view…
  • If you are in the tribunes, and no matter how early you come, you are not allowed to sit or stand in the front, making it extremely challenging to take pictures, as you always have somehow the barrier on the way…
  • If you are in the “public area”, even if you are in the first row, you are too low to really take good pictures of the silletas and of this river of flowers. Moreover, you are facing the sun, making it even harder to have good pictures. Last but not least, the background will be tribunes, not the best sight, even with an open aperture…
  • My advice? Try to secure a ticket in the tribune, be there early (10:00 am sharp), secure a first row sit, in the middle of the tribune where you are far from the organization staff, and sit on the floor right next to the barrier that separates you from the parade. I hate to recommend that, but ignore what the staff says, they will eventually get tired and ignore you… And at some point, move up to the bridge leading to the tribune, from where you will also have a bird eye view on the parade (normally reserved for accredited photographers, but after a while the police couldn’t obviously care less…). So yes, unfortunately, if you play by the rules, you will have major extra challenges in photographing!
One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

One of the 300+ Silletas

 

, , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply