TLDR? Medellín’s Feria de Flores festivities spill out into the surrounding communities in proximity to the city, such as in Santa Elena.
In some ways, it makes all the sense in the world that the Feria de Flores party would be raging on in the mountains. I mean, this is where all the flowers grow.
One of the places close to Medellin that has one of the most robust festivals is the nearby community of Santa Elena, Antioquia. Santa Elena is just outside the city but feels like a remote mountain village. The very tradition of the Festival de Los Flores originated in Santa Elena since it’s one of the region’s biggest flower exporters.
I went to one of Santa Elena’s Festival de Los Flores celebrations and had a fabulous time. Let me tell you all about it.
An Important Part of The Cultural Heritage
Despite its small size, Santa Elena is a very beautiful and very special community. It finds extra life from its proximity to the metropolitan center of Medellin.
The Feria de Flores is a very important part of the Antioquian cultural heritage. Additionally, the festivities in Santa Elena begin even earlier than in Medellin and many other places in the area. The party I attended took place in late July, almost two weeks before things started in Medellin.
My guide to the area explained that the festival events were an important element of what keeps the Santa Elena community glued together.
Many of the performers and flower-bearers were children in the community. My companion explained this was purposeful, to keep people’s minds on hope for the future.
Music, Dancing, Food, and Flowers
The festivities took place in the Santa Elena town center. The auditorium has a very sizable stage and sound system despite the rather small nature of the community.
There were several musical acts, many of whom performed songs that focused on the nature of the Paisa identity. There were even a few original songs that were about the town of Santa Elena itself.
There were also several dance troupes and other performance artists. They made the whole environment feel very festive and alive. You could tell that the crowd was entranced with everything that was happening on stage.
The vivacious energy from the stage spilled over from the performers and into the other festivities available just nearby. Numerous food vendors served tons of delicious Colombian cuisine for affordable prices.
There were also many local vendors selling their wares. These ranged from homemade textiles to locally crafted coffee and beer products.
Many people from the community came together and chit-chatted, drinking coffees and beers. They observed the musical performances off in the distance, having a blast.
I had a ball perusing through all of the local vendors while the festival musicians played their songs. It felt like I had stepped into a time in the distant past, but also it felt very present and relevant.
I sampled some delicious food and purchased some knick-knacks from local vendors. After that, I got ready for the main event of the day: the procession of flowers.
Dedication, Tradition, and Craftsmanship
The main attraction at Santa Elena’s festival (at least on the day I went) was the parade where everyone would wear and showcase the flower arrangements they had prepared for the festival. The arrangements are prepared with extreme dedication and beautiful craftsmanship. You can tell that there is a lot of work put into them.
The flower decorations range from simple yet refined arrangements of flowers in their wild form. There are also more composed versions where people make images out of the leaves and petals of the flowers. They typically wear these on their backs as they parade through the procession, in the AntioquianSilletero tradition.
Some of the images were more traditional, depicting things like hummingbirds and other icons of the local natural world. There were others that were more contemporary and sometimes even comical.
I saw one flower arrangement made in the image of Hello Kitty, and there were others in the likeness of Spiderman, Darth Vader, and even real-world characters, like newly elected President Gustavo Petro.
A Reminder of Antioquia’s Pristine Natural Beauty
The beautiful festivities taking place all around me served as a stunning reminder of Antioquia’s intensely beautiful natural landscapes. Nature pairs well with the rich cultural heritage of its inhabitants.
These parts of Colombia are some of the world’s most bio-diverse areas. I found that observing the festivities of the Festival de Los Flores was even more enjoyable with the gorgeous Antioquian landscapes close at hand.
It also helped remind me that many of these traditions originated in rural communities like Santa Elena. These are places where people work the land, living near the substances that provide them nourishment and life.
The celebration of life itself is perhaps one of the primary characteristics of the Feria de Flores festivities in general. I found that experiencing it in a place like Santa Elena made many of the festival’s messages in general much more real and present.
I only made it to one single celebration at Santa Elena’s festival. However, there are many, many other ones that are available that stretch out throughout the course of July and August.
Festival de Los Flores Santa Elena: A Reminder of Antioquia’s Rich Cultural Heritage
Many of Santa Elena’s events occur in the central town square. So, chances are you won’t have any trouble finding yourself in the center of the action once you make it outside of Medellin.
I would highly recommend trying to make it to at least one Festival event in a rural community outside of Medellin. This is especially true if you’re visiting the area to observe some festival events.
I found that attending events at a rural Festival de Los Flores enhanced my understanding of the festival in general. It was also a good excuse to explore some of the absolutely beautiful Antoqiuan landscape outside of the city!
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