sábado, 3 de mayo de 2008

The silleteritos

For adults a commitment. For the little ones a game... that becomes a tradition. The children of Santa Elena’s Silleteros obtain a wealth of knowledge from their parents about the job of being a Silletero.
In many Spanish and Spanish-American cities, the occupation of carguero or costalero of the images used during the processions of Holy Week, is a family tradition that is handed down from generation to generation. A similar situation occurs with the job of Silletero, especially when it comes with the honor of participating in the great Silletero Parade, the last event of the Fair. One of the most valued of possessions a Santa Elena family can own is a contract, with all its obligations and privileges, to officially partake of the Parade. The contract, along with age-old knowledge about plants, flowers, construction, and manner of carrying the Silleta, are transmitted from father to son.

In some Santa Elena homes, seasoning food on old traditional firewood stoves, is still part of daily life. Old flavors fill the refreshments Silleteritos like little Berta Zapata, pictured here from Annexed Village of Piedra Gorda, will savor during their parade.

In a somewhat similar fashion as the “little” Holy Week in Popayán (where children replicate their elders’ carrying of images during the processions), the profane flower celebration in Santa Elena, involves children, too. Here the children hold their own Parade through the streets of the District as well as one of the neighborhoods in Medellín.

During this parade dress rehearsal, there are no spectators, no crowds. Only nature co-conspires in the dreams of these Silleteritos. From left to right: José Miguel Zapata Atehortúa, Jonatan Estiven Grisales Atehortúa, Daniela Zapata Atehortúa y Yesica Tatiana Grisales Atehortúa, from Annexed Village of La Palma.

The Santa Elena District, with its landscapes of singular beauty to delight the visitor, has held the Silleterito Parade for quite some time. This event, which each year attracts more and more public, is organized by the Silletero Corporation of Santa Elena. Hundreds of children between the ages of 5 and 12, all descendants of Silleteros, participate. The District’s various schools add their own flare with dance groups and other artistic manifestations.

Of deeply seeded roots, the Santa Elena community shows its commitment to their ancestors by preserving the traditions of the Silleterito Parade. Some of the children will also parade through the streets of Medellín. Children in the picture are: Sebastián Grajales wearing poncho and Maria Camila Soto walking in the company of Maria Vásquez, foreground, Humberto Soto, carrying large Silleta and, on the street, Estela Zapata, all from Annexed Village of Piedra Gorda.

Every year, thirty children parading in the Silleterito Parade, are selected at random to accompany their elders in the great Parade in Medellín. One such case was Carlos Andrés González, the grandson of Mr. Jaime Atehortúa L., former president of the Silletero Association of Santa Elena. In 2006, Carlos Andrés took part in the Parade, alongside other children, carrying a Silleta weighing some 70 pounds.

Small, spontaneous parades sprout far and wide, merging into merry multicolored meetings of Silletero children who celebrate their elder’s traditions. Pictured, little Sandra Sepúlveda and Rubén Sepúlveda, from Annexed Village of Piedra Gorda.

In Medellín the Silleterito Parade, is scheduled as the official opening event of the Flower Fair. This event which follows the same format as the great Parade, that is, the Silleteritos interspersed with cultural groups, is held in a neighborhood with a name that becomes the celebration: La Floresta. The Parade’s 20-year anniversary was held under the motto: “When the Silleteritos go by, the future of our lineage goes by”, which clearly expresses the intention of instilling this heritage-rich tradition in generations to come.

Quick steps speak of the Silleteritos excitement. Pictured, Maria Fernanda Alzate Vásquez slightly ahead of Ana Maria Vásquez, both from Annexed Village of Mazo.

Not long ago the occupation of Silletero, selling flowers in the big city, brought food to the table of many a Santa Elena family. Nowadays its significance is transmitted from father to son, with the latter embracing it with pride. Miguel Ángel Alzate Hurtado from Annexed Village of Mazo is seen carrying his own Silleta.

The Silletero ritual is preserved generation after generation in this community, located just 20 minutes from Medellín. In the picture, from left to right: Faber Alzate, Royer Alzate y Jorge Grajales from Annexed Village of Mazo, in Santa Elena.

Silleterito Andrea Alzate Rodríguez receives her Silleta. She is accompanied by Jeimi Paola Gallego. In Santa Elena traditions are inherited, and being a Silletero is a tradition.

Already part of the Santa Elena Silletero tradition, tot José Miguel Zapata Atehortúa, from Annexed Village of La Palma, proudly displays his new, though fully traditional outfit, as he walks to meet the rest of the Silleterito children.

In the picture, Silleteritos ready themselves to lift their precious cargo. Later they will proudly display their Silletas as they parade in front of the crowd during the Silleterito Parade in Santa Elena. From left to right: Andrea Vásquez, Estefanía Grajales, Ana Maria Vásquez y Maria Fernanda Alzate from Annexed Village of Mazo.

Silleterito children get ready to begin their walk through Santa Elena’s main street. The parade will include some cultural groups from the various annexed villages, which will make this a truly communal celebration.

During the 50th anniversary of the Silletero Parade, the children paid homage to their departed elders.

For years the children have watched their parents function around their flowering structures. Today they follow suit, like little José Domingo Londoño, pictured here, from Annexed Village of El Placer.

Today the green Santa Elena mountains overflow with children and flowers while applause fills the air.

Her face says it all. It’s the face of joy of all the children who participate in the Silleterito Parade in Santa Elena.

A shower of flowers and droves of children add color and joy to the mountain. Santa Elena comes out en masse to witness this heart-stirring celebration

As if emerging from a field of flowers, these Silleteritos captivate the hearts of the thousands who come to partake of the festivities. Pictured front foreground, Juliet Cristina Grajales, from Annexed Village of San Miguel.

The children in the Silleterito Parade, in La Floresta neighborhood, reaffirm the region’s commitment to the half-century-old Silletero tradition.

On the 50th anniversary of the Silletero Parade, the Silleterito children paid their respects to their departed elders with these flower arrangements. Pictured Octavio Soto, from Annexed Village of El Llano.

By: Juan Luis Mejía Arango

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