USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’
Festival
general

The Festival of Flowers in Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia, our biggest festival and celebration is the Festival of Flowers, a yearly festival that celebrates our beautiful variety of flowers. We come together as a people and witness the flower growing families parading their latest designs as they carry them on their backs through the streets. It’s a breathtaking sight and something I’ll never quite forget. I’ve asked my grandmother, a native from Medellin who has spent her whole life there about her insights on the celebration.

A note: An Antioqueño or Paisa is a person from our region in the North of Colombia, high up in the Andes Range.

Below is a verbatim transcription first in Spanish, and then fully translated to English:

“El festival de las flores…pues el festival siempre se celebra en Augusto. El siete de Augusto. Ya están organizando el del año próximo. Entonces te voy a decir del festival de las flores. El antioqueño ácido muy negociante siempre, mi amor. El que el vende, lo produce. Ai aquí cerca a Medellín un pueblito muy frío, muy frío que se llama Santa Elena. Aya desde muchos años se cultivan las flores, y las señoras ricas aquí en Medellín le busca tener floreros con flores muy hermosas. Aya se cultivan flores de todos tipos muy hermosas, finas, como las rosas, orcidias, romelias, pero también flores más baratitas, las margaritas, los camelias, las flores menos elegantes, menos caras. Entonces, el señor cultivaba las flores, y las esposas y las niñas se venían a Medellín para venderlas y habían barrios más ricos como tu conoces aquí en Medellín como por ejemplo laureles y el poblado, la gente son muy ricas.

Entonces las que venían con las orcidias, la flor nacional de Colombia, las rosas que son hermosas aquí, las romelias, las flores más elegantes de vendían en el poblado y las señoras las compraban por que ellas no tenían probeñnas de plata. Pero las otras florecitas al fin se hicieron las más populares, porque ya la gente no tenían tanta plata entonces esas flores ya se vendían muchas aquí en el centro, en el verinque, en la media, en barrios menos ricos.

Se volvió una industria grandísima. Entonces el campesino sembraba una quadrita de tierra al año, y ya después podía sembrar dos o tres. Y se volvió tan importante sembrar flores que de volvió un negocio tan importante como vender frutas o pedalear carros. Entonces esta feria de las flores se originó a por ay cuarenta o cincuenta años. Pero las flores han sido desde ase muchos años un patrimonio antioqueño en casi todos los pueblos, pero mucho más en este porque la gente de especializaron. Por ejemplo las margaritas, las naturales, eran solamente blancas y amarillas. Pero el antioqueño se inventó la forma de ser las margaritas moradas, azules, o verdes. Entonces eso les aumentaban mucho el negocio.

Entonces cada vez el campesino sabía más de esas flores, muchas variedades de esas flores se hicieron porque el antioqueño las creo, por eso se volvió una industria fuerte, por eso se ha echo famoso, y en esos últimos cincuenta años se han volvió una exhibición con esos silleteros.

ENGLISH:

“So the festival of flowers. Well, the festival is always celebrated in August. The 7th of August. They are already organizing the festival for next year. So I am going to tell you about the festival of flowers. The antioqueño has always been very business savy, my love. What he sells, he made himself. Here, near Medellin, there is a town that is very very cold called Santa Elena. There, for many years, they’ve been cultivating flowers. And the rich women of Medellin look to have big bouquets of flowers with beautiful lush flowers. There they cultivate flowers of all types, beautiful, fine flowers. Roses, Romelias, Orchids, but also cheaper flowers, Daisys, Camellias, less elegant ones that cost less. So there in Santa Elena, the men cultivate the flowers and the women and their children come into Medellin to sell them. There were richer neighborhoods like you know, such as Laurels and the town center, where the people are very rich. That’s where you buy the nice flowers. There they had the orchids, the national flower of Colombia, also the fine roses which are incredible here. The Romelias, too, the most beautiful flowers of all kinds. And the rich women would come and buy them because they had no money problems.

But in the end it was the cheaper flowers that became most popular because Colombia fell on hard times and no one had any money, so those cheaper flowers sold very well in the city center, in all of the neighborhoods with less money. The flower industry became huge. So at first the country fellow would plant one plot of flowers and then year on year it would grow, he would have two or three plots of flowers. It became so important a business that one could make more money selling flowers than selling fruit or driving around a cart.

So this festival of flowers of ours really became well established about forty, fifty years ago. But flowers have been an important facet to us antioqueños in almost ever town for a very long time, but most especially here because the people really specialized in it. For example, daisies, the natural ones, were only white and yellow. Yet the paisa came up with a method of cultivation that allowed for purple, blue, and green daisies. So these new flowers really led to quite a growth in flower production and selling.

So every time the paisa knew more about those flowers, new varieties arose, each special and cultivated by those countrymen. That’s why it became a strong industry. That’s why it’s world famous. And in those last fifty years it’s become that famous exhibition with those displays on the cultivator’s backs.

Analysis: this is a very interesting story that captures a lot of the shifting dynamics in Colombian society as well as economic disparities. This festival truly is the biggest celebration we have in Medellin and it was lovely to hear my grandmother’s thoughts on it. It has quickly become a major cultural symbol for us paisas.

Customs
Festival

‘Silleteros’ – Flower Carrying in Colombia

In Medellin, Colombia, our biggest festival and celebration is the Festival of Flowers, a yearly festival that celebrates our beautiful variety of flowers. We come together as a people and witness the flower growing families parading their latest designs as they carry them on their backs through the streets. It’s a breathtaking sight and something I’ll never quite forget.

The silleteros have been come a folk symbol for our region of Colombia. Diego Rivera famously painted a silletero during a visit to our region. And even outside of the festival, one often finds flower growers with heavy displays on their back, ready to sell flowers. I asked my grandmother about the history of these flower carriers. Below the verbatim Spanish text, one will find an english translation.

Por qué tienen las flores en su espalda?

“Preciso por que pesan tanto, las flores. las más lindas y lo más grande el silleto, el premio vallé más. Al principio no les daban premios, sólo los aplaudían y los sacaban el el periódico por que antes no había televisión. Decían cuales eran las más lindas y quien había ganado, quien las había cultivado, pero no habían premios en efectivo. Pero ya las producen, las industrian, la gente muy rica patrocinan la feria de las flores. Dan premios muy grandes. Un premio que se puede ganar un silletero es que lo mandan a estudiar las flores al exterior, vez? Entonces les interesa mucho, si? Antes en las ferias eran muy chiquitas las silletas, pero fueron creciendo tanto que ya son kilos y kilos. Para qué la espalda del silletero pueda resistir ay unas medidas para que no se vayan deformando las espaldas de ellos. Entonces por eso la parte que necesita la más fuerza para resistir es la espalda, y por eso las silletas generalmente se ponen en la espalda, son casi como sillas. Es como una silla que ellos asen y la cuelgan en la espalda. Esas silletas las hacen con figuras hermosas. Ya hasta son con historias completas, caracteres grandes. Son de las mismas flores que ellos cultivan. Es algo que se aprende generación en generación. Ósea, los hijos de los silleteros aprended del cultivo, del diseño de la silleta, como cargarla. Ya es una tradición. Ya ay familias con diez, quince premios porque cada año lo hacen mejor.”

ENGLISH:

Why do the silleteros carry the flowers on their backs?

Precisely because those huge displays of flowers weigh so much. The bigger and more beautiful the display, the bigger a prize the flower grower can get. Before, there were no prizes, they were just applauded and they came out on the newspaper, because before there was no television. They would write about who had had the most beautiful flower displays, who had cultivated the flowers, but there were no real prizes. But now they really cultivate those flowers very scientifically. The very richest in Medellin provide patronage the Festival now and they give incredible prizes. For example, a prize a flower grower might get is to study flowers and cultivation techniques around the world, you see? You see they’re very interested in that. Before the flower displays were very small but year on year they grew and now they’re massive and weight very many kilos. So that the spine of the flower grower doesn’t get deformed during the long festival, they’ve designed a certain device to carry that many flowers without injury. So of course the portion that needs the most reinforcement is the brunt of the back, so the device they use is called a silletera, they are designed almost like a chair that they make themselves and then hang on the back. Those flower holders, they spend so much meticulous time coming up with clever designs for them. They make beautiful art on them with flowers. Now they even have stories, figurative works, symbols for towns. They’re all made with the same flowers that that family cultivates themselves. It’s something that’s learned generation to generation. That is to say, the sons and daughters of the flower growers grow up learning how to cultivate those flowers, how to design the flower displays, how to make the flower holders, how to carry it. It has very much become its own tradition. There are families now that have won the big prizes ten, fifteen times. Every year they are looking for ways to improve, every year they are getting better.

Analysis: This has always been a big question for me before going to the festival and before witnessing it firsthand. This image of the flower carriers is all over our country, in paintings, on murals, in our songs. It’s interesting that this has become such a strong cultural tradition in such a short amount of time, and that it is carried forward by families of flower growers.

Humor

A Colombian Paisa Finds A Genie

This is a Paisa (Northern Colombian) joke I collected from a relative. Although the joke was performed as being distinctly paisa, it exists in multiple languages. In any case, it’s an excellent joke:

Below, the original Spanish followed by a complete English translation

Un paisa está haciendo un agujero en su jardín para plantar un árbol cuando desentierra una lámpara mágica.  La frota y le aparece un genio que le dice, ‘Te voy a conceder tres deseos, pero a tu vecino le voy a dar el doble de lo que tu me pidas.’  

‘Humm, mira, quiero una rubia que este buenísima y que pese 65 kilos; que le des a mi vecino cien millones de pesos, y que me des a mi un susto que me deje medio muerto….’

ENGLISH:

A paisa (Colombian countryman, cowboy) is making a hole in his garden to plant a tree when he finds a magical lamp in the ground. He rubs it and a genie appears, who says: ‘I am going to give you three wishes, with the exception that I’m going to give your neighbor double of what you ask me.”

‘Hmm, look, I want a 100 pound ruby that’s absolutely marvelous, that you give my neighbor a million pesos, and that you give me a scare that  scares me half to death’

Analysis: Any good paisa joke is based up in the mountains, or in the great outdoors where one works on the Finca, or Ranch. The joking hostility of the joke is quite interesting as the Paisa is known archetypically as a neighborly, kind Colombian. I love the joke and its play on words.

Game
general

Burlap Jump Rope- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”.

 

Transcript:

“M:  We had a game that, I don’t know como se dice en ingles, it’s with the rope. Rope?

S: Yeah, like a jump rope?

M: Yeah. We played at recess every single day when I was in third grade, yeah. I remember very specific.

S: What sort of rules did the game have?

M: The rules is that you jump, and when you jump if you get stuck in the rope, you are out.

S: Did they use two ropes or one rope, was there a song that you sang?

M: You only used one rope, there was one person on one side, and someone on another, and you was moving the rope around.

S: You didn’t sing anything?

M: We count, either the person that was in the middle had to count, even if it made them tired.

M: Yeah the person who can jump for the more long time would win. But sometimes we moved the rope very fast, it was one way we made the person lose, because there was no way the person in the middle could jump that fast. But Colombia we used a specific rope, not the plastics or synthetics. It’s made with wheat, what is the name of that plant, the thing that they make of those bags that they store coffee. Very famous in Colombia. Let me look….

(Uses search engine to find name)

M: Burlap, that used to hurt a lot when it hit your legs. YEAH, it was very painful. Burns and it gave you marks in the legs, because we had a school uniform, skirts, and they hit you in the legs.

S: Just one more question, was the person in the middle usually a girl or guy, or both?

M: Doesn’t matter boy or girl, it was a mix, a mixed game.“

 

Analysis:

The game seems like a very standard version of jump rope, similar to ‘Double-Dutch’ played in the United States. The use of Burlap was emphasized by  ‘M’ because of how painful it had made the game, resulting in pain when the jumper lost, possibility attaching an extra ‘cost’ to losing the game. The moving the rope ‘extra fast’ combined with the pain generated by the sort of rope may have acted as a form of teasing among students.

The use of burlap is very common in Colombia, notably used on coffee bags (as the speaker noted), which is a hallmark of Colombian identity.

general
Legends
Narrative

La Llorona- Colombia

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

Collector will be specified as “S”. Collector did not speak during this portion.

Transcript:

“M: A cousin always visit us, and he always scared us with a sort of story. He would use the crying woman or the Llorona… I remember he turned the lights off and everyone in the living room, we’d sit down in the living room, and he would repeat the same stories.

“Could you tell again the story of the Llorona?” [said by "M" and her siblings]

” …everyone needs to be quite, never look outside in the windows, she could be outside there.” [Said by the Cousin]

The story was of a woman tha…. Uh… let me see thinking about how is this story…. Yeah they say that the husband took the kids from her. Yeah, and she killed herself, and she appeared every night in the cemetery, and she crying “where are my kids, where are my kids?” and the more funny thing is, my cousin was so funny, he said: “I was drunk one day, I was crossing the cemetery”.

He wanted to take a shortcut, so he took the cemetery. And he said the short way was in the cemetery, and when he was passing he heard the voice say “where is my kids, where are my kids?” . He said he was so scared he peed in his pants, and he wasn’t anymore drunk, and he said he ran like a crazy. But the funniest thing is he peed in the pants, when he went in the house, and his in the blankets.

But he doesn’t know if that was real or not, because he was drunk.

That story start in the 18th century, they said that was the time that that happened, in the 18th century.

He told us a lot of stories, that is the one I remember more.

 

Analysis:

La Llorona is a myth that has heavily permeated Latin culture, being a very common piece of Folklore in these countries (Kirtley, 1960). La Llorona, or the cying woman, is referenced here with the assumption that the person collecting the folklore knows about her origins, and her ability to be interested as a generic sort of scare in a funny situation only serves to reinforce her ubiquity in Colombian culture. The covering of the windows showed that at the very least, she believe the story could have been true at the time it was being told to her. I should also note, “M”s explanation of her origin story was simply at my request, and did not reflect her original approach to the story (the portion directly after the ellipse).

 

 

 

Kirtley, B. F. (1960). ” La Llorona” and Related Themes. Western Folklore, 155-168.

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