sábado, 3 de mayo de 2008

The leaving

An air of fantasy and quiet belies the hustle and bustle of busy men and women who frantically work below this cover of foliage and fog as they give the finishing touches to their entries to the Silleteros Parade. The smell of flowers and freshly brewed coffee permeates the air and intermingles with the sounds proper of a festive day.

It’s the dawn, the beams of sunlight tint the horizon with a deep orange color while the fog and the clouds hover low, hiding the view of the city. Santa Elena district, laborious and given to staying up late, gets up to accomplish its annual rendezvous with the Flower Fair.

The first rays of the sun catch these two women as they give the finishing touches to their silleta.

  The day of the parade has come. The flower farmers give a final touch to their flower chairs –or silletas- which were assembled on the eve. With great care they push the most delicate flowers into the framework one by one, to ensure their freshness and appeal until the end of the afternoon when the Silleteros Parade will be over.

No detail is overlooked. This silletero gives the final brushstrokes to his work of art before starting out on the trip to Medellín.

  An atmosphere of fidgety good-bye and being ready to take part in an important ceremony prevails. There’s no other topic of conversation while they dress up and put on their finery. It’s a propitious day to wear something for the first time. The splendorous morning turns up with its intense blue. Memories of former parades come up and the desire grows to win one of the prizes the judges will award the winning silletas. In every single house in Santa Elena there’s a single motto frolicking in the heart and lips of the paraders: “I’ll get it this time.” There’s even time to pose for a picture to fix the memory in the family album.

A myriad of small parades are staged throughout the streets of Santa Elena as if rehearsing for the ever-important annual gathering in Medellín. Pictured left to right, Jairo de Jesús Hincapié, Luz Amariles, and Miguel Salazar, from annexed Village of San Ignacio.

  It’s the time to go now, and the most authentic parade emerges from every corner of the district. There’s clapping and one hears cheers; excitement grows as paraders say good-bye to those who have to stay home watching the event on television and seeing their close relatives go by.

Every detail, no matter how small, is carefully tended to befote the annual meeting with the nearby city. Luz Amariles from Annexed Village of San Ignacio readies herself in anticipation of the cheering multitudes.

  In the leave-taking ritual, every home shows itself before the others in the privacy of the community space, in the joy of its own parade, without judges or crowds. On their backs, the silletas —expression of identity— swing rhythmically.

Today, hundreds of camera flashes Hill accompany this Silletero on her journey through the city, as hundreds of spectators Hill want to capture a piece of the memorable event.

  Santa Elena becomes a pack of leave-takings, a collection of moving fragrances and colors, a cluster of hugs that stay attached to the skin. There the silleteros go with their fast-beating hearts to turn up to the annual appointment with a city and a country that bow at them in fascination. The entire event is an affirmation of life and hope which are displayed in a flood of moving silletas.

The Santa Elena mountain paths represent the first steps for the silleteros as they carry their precious cargo to waiting vehicles that will transport them down the mountain to Medellín.

  Slowly, the silleteros reach the spots on the main road where some dump trucks, trucks and chiva buses will pick up the precious and fragile load. Some neighbors and relatives gather at the site and they hug and congratulate in the middle of a hullabaloo. The loading of the chairs into the trucks is still a delicate operation causing worry. Their accommodation and the care during transport are key factors for the impression they will make on the public and jury.

Being a silletero becomes a family tradition, which is passed from generation to generation.

  In this scenery, in the open, the buses de escalera or chivas appear with their load of flower chairs either firmly tied on their roofs or comfortably attached to the supports in their interior. This combination of the colorful bus body structure and the silletas enhances the internal and external colors of these chivas, offering a striking view. Very few times we can see this multicolor combination of popular expressions —chivas and silletas— turning back the hands of the social memory clock, now linked by the spirit of a festivity that, in passing, pays tribute to the history of transportation.

Every year several children are handpicked to participate in the Silleteros Parade, which becomes a source of pride for them and their families.

The monumental silletas are splendid works requiring a big vehicle to be transported. This generates another show: the caravan of dump trucks coming down the snaking road with the city seen on the background, framed with mountains. It gives the impression of a floral avalanche over the city.

The quiet rural setting will soon change for this silletero family as they take their silletas to the edge of the road for the trip to the Medellín valley to participate in the Silleteros Parade.

At first light, the entire family comes out to the edge of the road to send off their silletero.

Dawn brings this silletero to eager crowds who have waited all night to get a first glimpse at the silletas before they take the short trip to the Silleteros Parade in Medellin.

Facing an arduous day ahead, this silletero takes a break from his previous night of hard work in preparation for the Silleteros Parade.

On saying good-bye to their elders, children cannot fathom the exotic scenery that awaits them. Pictured Leonel Sánchez from Annexed Village of San Ignacio.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the croad, this street sweeper, one of many who are part of the resources assigned to the Fair, takes a respite from his busy day to delight in these Silletas grouped by the side of the road.

Every silletero shadows his creation zealously to make sure it arrives unharmed to the parade.

The entire community gathers round to make sure a neighbor’s participating silleta arrives intact to the Silleteros Parade.

As they near the city, the silleteros can imagine the applause and acclaim from cheering appreciative crowds that encourage them to participate in the Silleteros Parade year after year.

The traditional escalera bus becomes a moving flower exhibit.

After a full year, the long awaited day to again fulfill the dream to participate in the Silleteros Parade, finally arrives.

At long last the end of months of planning and carefully tending of each flower come to their culminating point as the silleteros wind their way down the hilly sinuous Santa Elena-Medellín road.

Texto: Edgar Bolívar Rojas