All Things Bright and Beautiful

Caroll Taveras Captures Colombia’s Celebrated Flower Parade

Colombia is blessed with a climate averaging a pleasant 72°F, which means it’s pretty much in bloom all year round. Naturally, given such favorable horticultural conditions, the growing, selling and exporting of flowers has for centuries been one of the country’s most important industries—today it’s the origin of 70 percent of all cut flowers sold in the US. This prodigious output is celebrated annually in the northwestern town of Medillín (the county’s second biggest city), which every August explodes in color and scent for the Feria de las Flores, one of the world’s largest flower festivals. Launched in 1957 as a way to attract more tourism to the area (which in the 70s and 80s had a rather formidable rep as home to the Medillín drug cartel), the Feria launches on the last day of July with a procession of horses through the city streets. Then come the flower sellers (Silleteros as they are called locally), dressed in national costume and bearing enormous back-mounted baskets of floral arrangements, or displaying their wares through elaborate, static displays. For today’s story, NOWNESS asked photographer Caroll Taveras to document the festival. Taveras, whose work has been featured in The Guardian and New York Times T Magazine, is of Colombian descent herself, and was keen to take to the streets of Medellín to experience the festival so many of her relatives had spoken about. “There’s such a party atmosphere,” said Taveras. “It has become a grand carnival, bigger than New Year.” Festivities last for nigh-on a month, and alongside the flower merchants—proudly touting such speciality blooms as orange heliconia and curcuma cordata in multiple colors—there are dance troupes, farm visits, and even a show of vintage motors. “What’s great is that the children are into it too,” says Taveras. “I watched a little girl, around ten-years-old, win a flower arrangement competition. She was so emotional, crying and saying what a prestigious honor it was to win. It’s a family event and the traditional is still so important to them.”

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