In la Feria de las Flores, everyone knows about the big events: the three parades, the orchid and bird show, the fondas.
But if you take a look at the program, there are a slew of other events, some with cryptic titles like “Antioquia un solo corazon” and “viejoteca bailable,” (danceable oldies).
None of them are accompanied by descriptions, so there is really only one way to find out what everything is.
The one complication however is that I am in the throws of the final experiment of my PhD, and so I had just one free day to enjoy the Feria.
The plan was to be at Terminal Norte by 7am on Saturday to really aprovechar the whole day and go to 15 events. The obstacle was a little birthday party the night before with two-for-one caipirinhas.
I woke up at 7:49am on Saturday with a throbbing headache, but still managed to get out of bed, eat some oatmeal and take 2 Advils. Somehow my plan was thwarted though and I mysteriously woke up again at 10:15.
Then an innocent conversation about bed bugs with the lady who cleans our apartment turned into an hour-long detailed account of how her neighbors are trying to kill her.
Needless to say, I was out the door by 1pm! I still managed to get to 10 events though, working my way north to south. I mostly went to events that will repeat all throughout the week.
1. Museo Vivo de las Flores
Terminal Norte, first floor, 7am-7pm daily until August 13th
Um, I think maybe “Living museum of flowers” means something else in English. This “museum” was a little triangular space where potted plants were being sold in the middle of the bus terminal.
This could be considered a nursery, a florist, a flower shop, but my friends, if you were hoping for a museum, you will be disappointed.
On the bright side, the Museo Vivo de las Flores is a nice little oasis in the middle of the otherwise bleak bus terminal. And the Medellin themed music (“Me voy para Medellin a la feria de las flores…”) blasting over the speaker made for a festive atmosphere.
But really, there is absolutely no reason to go to this except if you are in the market for some flowers and el Terminal Norte is the closest place to get them. And also just out of curiosity- who buys a potted plant before an 18 hour bus trip? So many questions.
2. Mercado de Sanalejo
Parque Bolívar, 8am-6pm, 1st Saturday of the month
The Mercado de Sanalejo event takes place on the first Saturday of every month, so it is not strictly a feria event, however it was awesome regardless! This is a big outdoor market where you can find anything from guarapo to e-cigarettes to gigantic dog statues to hideous 80s MC Hammer style balloon pants.
The location-Parque Bolivar– has a tranquilo, down to earth energy that doesn’t feel touristy or inauthentic but at the same time it is not dominated by teenage stoners like in the Parque Periodista or Parque Carlos E.
It is very peaceful with large, beautiful trees shading most of the park. The crowd is a mix of everyone- families, young couples, punk rockers, grandmas.
Many people stroll with a Club Colombia or a guarapo (lemonade made from sugar cane) as they browse the stalls and talk with the vendors, who are very friendly.
Two booths I really liked were Jawi’s Pulseras y Anillos and Wintia. Jawi’s is run by Javier and Nelson Bucheli (pictured above), two brothers who make and sell bracelets and rings made of various metals with simple and classy designs.
Javier wanted me to make sure to mention that they have been making jewelry for 32 years. I bought a small bronze bracelet on which they engraved my name for a mere 3,500 pesos (~$1.85).
Wintia sells more eclectic style jewelry that is made in the mountains, according to Wilson de Jesus Perez, who makes all the jewelry.
He says that one could consider his products to be “artesanías silvestres,” which roughly translates to rustic or silvan artisanal products. At Wintia I bought a funky bronze ring and a pair of earrings made from 20 peso coins. The two items cost me 15,000 pesos (~$8.00).
Mercado San Alejo was a little too great and I soon realized that I needed to get out of there because it was getting dangerous for my pocketbook. However if you are looking for a local artisanal market without tourist pricing, this is the place to go.
Jawi’s pulceras y anillos: tel. 316-368-0267; email: email@example.com
Wintia: tel. 216-8831; cel. 312-735-4404
3. Festival de Vida Plaza Botero – Haciendo Silletas
11am-5pm daily until Sunday*
Plaza Botero was filled with people selling things, playing music, getting drunk, taking pictures. Yes it was filled with vida to say the least, but where was the specific “festival of vida?”
Was it the people playing bucket drums? The guys hiding behind Botero statues selling knock off replicas ? The fake ponies? The Club Colombia bus?
Finally I asked the ladies at the Museo de Antioquia ticket booth and they said that it wasn’t happening and they didn’t know why. So, I moved on to the next event which fortunately took place at the Museo de Antioquia.
*I am guessing that the Festival of Vida will take place at some point in time and perhaps did not occur on Saturday because it was too early in the feria or maybe because the kid pony parade passed through the Plaza Botero and the two events would have run into each other.
4. Exposición Antioquias, La Diversidad
Imaginarios de identidad sobre Antioquia y los antioqueños
Museo de Antioquia, daily 10am-5:30pm until August 18th
Price: 10,000 pesos ($5.29)
I almost didn’t go to this exhibit because I had just gone to the Museo de Antioquia two weeks prior and I generally get bored in museums. I’m really happy I did though because this exhibit was phenomenal.
The theme of the exhibit is the diversity of imagination about the Antioqueño identity. In the past this has included beliefs of grandeur and the belief in an Antioquian race.
The exhibit starts out with a piece called “Humanos Derechos,” by Fernando Arias.
The whole piece consists of 4 videos, each consisting of one of the following people disrobing: a Colombian army soldier, guerilla, paramilitary soldier or a campesino. It is meant to be a commentary on the common humanity of all those involved in the armed conflicts in Colombia. The video shown in the museum is just the Colombian army soldier.
The name “Humanos Direchos” is a play on the phrase “derechos humanos” (human rights). When reversing the order of the words, the phrase means humans standing up straight.
In the video, the soldier is alone, in uniform and fully armed with a huge gun, standing at attention. He strips down, piece by piece beginning with his gun and ending completely naked.
The video is silent and there is about 30 seconds of him standing at attention in between each piece of clothing that he sheds. What began as a very intimidating military figure slowly transforms into a vulnerable young man.
The video is very uncomfortable, with the most powerful part for me being when he removes his dog tags and then stands at attention in just his underwear.
It is like watching somebody being stripped of their identity- by the end his posture has completely changed just by the simple act of removing his clothes.
Another very cool installation in this exhibit is “Abriendo camino” (making way) by Esteban Zapata. It is a two room installation of an airplane taking off, flying and then crashing into a glass wall and smashing into pieces.
Zapata explains here that the airplane taking off represents the idea of the original Antioqueños settling the land with just their axes and machetes, the self-sufficient pioneer, which was the Antioquian image until the 70s when the image of industrialized drug cartels began to replace it.
The crystal wall that the plane crashes into represents the inherent disaster in narcotrafficking.
There was so much to see in this exhibit that one would have to could go multiple times to take it all in.
Other pieces I liked included a water fountain made out of cardboard boxes (shown above) and a video of Medellin from 1925 where people on horseback go faster than the cars.
So, although this is also was not strictly a feria event, as it has been going on since July 12th and continues until August 18th, it was by far the best “feria event” I have attended.
It captured what I love about Medellin- its progressive and creative spirit and its simultaneously profound and off-the-wall, at times arrogant but always infectious, interpretation of itself.
6. Antioquia es un Dulce Cuento (Antioquia is a Sweet Tale)
Centro Comercial Gran Plaza, 10am-6pm
This week most of the booths will transfer across the street to the Parque de las Luces and the CC Gran Plaza will instead have a pony festival.
This was a small and depressing “exhibition” in a small and depressing mall. There were around 20 booths selling mediocre traditional dulces form Antioquia that you could buy at any given dulce shop here.
I was coerced by a tricky lady into buying a limonada with salt and spent the next 30 minutes trying to find a place to throw it away.
You can get the same stuff at Nutibara where you could enjoy it with a the beautiful view of Medellin and fun atmosphere.
7. La Granja City Farm
Centro Comercial Punto Clave, 4th floor of the parking lot, 12pm-7pm daily forever (not a temporary event)
Price: 5,000 pesos (~$2.65) for 2 adults and one child
Being a biologist, I was excited about the city farm event. I was wondering if it would be like a farmers market with real farmers. Oh how wrong I was.
I had a the first inkling of disaster when I wandered around CC Punto Clave and there appeared to be only two floors, even though the program had said the granja was on piso 4. Finally a security guard told me that there was a piso four in the parking lot.
When I arrived, I saw what this really was: the parking lot-petting zoo version of Chuck E. Cheese. Everyone entering had a kid and there was nothing feria-related.
I paid my 5,000 pesos and entered as the creepy loser without a kid going to an all-kid place. I saw tons of animals in too-small stalls poking their heads out waiting to be fed carrots.
There were peacocks, vultures, goats, llamas, and a horse, a cow and a donkey. In the center there was a pen with little sheep and baby pigs. Off to the side were the bunnies and guinea pigs.
All were cramped in pens with little kids running around everywhere throwing carrots at them and I had just one thought running through my head: get me outta here!
As I ran for my life out of the mall, I was ironically greeted by this sign:
I guess this place is listed in the feria program for people with kids who come in from out-of-town for the feria?
However, at this point I was starting to feel like they had put whatever they could find in the program to make the feria seem bigger.
All I knew for sure was that I really wished that the program would have had event descriptions so that I could have saved myself the pain of the farm city farm.
8. Lo Mejor de las Silletas y las Flores en el Pueblito Paisa
Pueblito Paisa, 1pm-8pm*
At this point, just two of the seven events I had gone to were strictly feria events, one didn’t even happen, and one had severely traumatized me, so I arrived at Pueblito Paisa with low expectations.
After rescuing two lost tourists who were trying to walk to Nutibara in the dark from Industriales, I set out in search of lo mejor de las silletas and las flores (the best of the silletas and flowers).
If you don’t know what a silleta is, it’s this:
As in Plaza Botero, Pueblito Paisa was full of vida, but not feria-specific vida. I searched high and low for even one silleta but came up with nothing.
I went in the gift shop to ask and the girl working there was surprisingly forthright. She grabbed the feria program and immediately called the phone number listed in the brochure to find out why the heck there was nothing there.
She was so zealous I was afraid she was going to steal my program which had all my notes on the other 8 events in it.
It was a Saturday at 6pm and I expected no one to answer on the other line, but to my surprise someone actually answered!
The gift shop girl was like “Look, I got all these extranjeros (I guess I wasn’t the first to ask) coming here asking me where the silletas are, so where are they!”
After a 15 minute conversation and getting put on hold many times, the answer was yes they are here somewhere.
The gift shop girl sent a different gift shop girl to go find them and after 15 more minutes she came back with good news: she pointed out the door to two small tents hiding behind the side of what I think was a parking lot.
There were about six silletas at various stages of completion. At the end of the last tent, a man was placing the final red flowers in a silleta for Yamaha motorcycles.
I have to admit- it felt magical. I watched him decide where to place the flowers and then I took his picture. It definitely was not the best of the silletas and flowers, but it was a special moment.
*I suggest checking the program to see if this is still happening on the day you want to go. I know eventually they move the silletas somewhere else and there is a different event in Pueblito Paisa.
9. Tapete de Flores
Centro de Comercial Santa Fé Medellín
The photo speaks for itself. The entire first floor of Santa Fé is covered in a carpet of flowers. It’s pretty and makes for a good picture, even if you just have a cell phone camera like me.
Plus it’s always fun to go to Santa Fé for a bit, grab a bite, and then spend $150 bucks at Desigual on a dress you’ll never wear.
10. Dieciseisava Exposición Bonsai “Amanecer Yamadori”
Centro de Comercial San Diego
I always leave a bonsai exhibition saying the same thing: how do they do that? Amanecer Yamadori was no different.
Impressive bonsai trees of all shapes and sizes surrounded by stereotypical Asian statues. One of them even had flamingos around the base.
And of course, there were many places to insert yourself in the exhibit for a photo, which they really like to do here and luckily, so do I and so does the girl in the green shirt who likes to touch tongues with dragon statues (see below).
As with the carpet of flowers at Santa Fé, this exhibit is fun, low-key and a nice change of pace from the other more hectic events.
One could spend a nice afternoon hitting the various events at each mall on the Avenida Poblado strip- Santa Fe, Oviedo, Premium Plaza and Santa Diego- as a tranquilo way to soak up the feria atmosphere before heading out for some rumba in a concert or a fonda.
This ended up being a really good way to experience the feria without sitting through another 8 hour parade. The program can be downloaded here and I suggest just picking a few random events and then going out to investigate them.
It could be that they have nothing to do with the feria or maybe they won’t even happen, but who cares!
No matter what, you will see another side of Medellin and isn’t that what it’s all about for us extranjeros?
And BTW- since they so liberally add events to the program, I am thinking of teaching my cats to dance and submitting it for next year’s program.
I’ll call it “Bailable Gatoteca.”