Street News: Santa Elena

Word has it from friends and neighbors living in the Santa Elena area that the way the Flower Festival was handled this year resulted in a complete disaster there.

The origin of this event is the traditional mode of transporting flower crops from Santa Elena to Medellin. This was done by loading the flowers onto wooden pack frames (silletas) and carrying them down to Medellin on foot. This was very colorful and the silleteros became an icon of local tradition. As a result the area around Santa Elena is now considered to be part of the National patrimony and is much loved by people in Medellin.

A key part of the Flower Festival is a parade of the silleteros. The silletas have evolved into elaborate and highly competitive floral designs. It has been a tradition to go up to Santa Elena the day before the parade to see the construction of the silletas, eat, drink and party. This provides much needed income for the local residents.

This year it was decided that the event would be “improved.” Special buses were designated as THE transportation mode and tourist packages were set up at a cost of 70,000 pesos per person. This is about $US 35.00 which is expensive for most people here. Consider a family of five when the minimum wage is around $250.00 per month.

Very few people went. The folks in the area had bought all the food and supplies they generally need to cook for, feed and entertain the large crowds they expected. Sales were minimal and most of the perishable items will probably be lost. Local income levels will not bare this kind of screw up. Outrage is said to be rampant from Santa Elena to El Tambo.

More on this later in the week. My wife will be up there for some project meetings and these are expected to be turbulent. I would not want to be a representative from the Mayor’s office. Did someone say tar and feathers?

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