What Are Silleteros?
Silleteros today are flower vendors, farmers who carry their colorful wares down from small plots in the majestic mountains around Medellin to sell in squares and markets. "Silla" means "seat" in Spanish, and men in this part of the world once carried wooden chairs, or seats or saddles, on their backs to bear burdens of cargo like kids, produce, and dignitaries or nobles. Over time, silletero became a term indicating someone carrying a wooden framed container on his or her back.
Silleteros Role in the Festival
In 1957, Medellin civic booster Don Arturo Arango Uribe asked silleteros to participate in a parade; 40 showed up, and today more than 500 silleteros march in what is now the Medellin Flower Festival, an event encompassing flower judging contests, concerts, antique car shows, and much dancing, music, and merriment.
If you're anywhere near Medellin -- anywhere! -- during the end of July and the first week of August, do get there to see the silleteros bear their lovely burdens through Medellin's streets in the Desfile de Silleteros.
Fun fact: The United States imports around 70 percent of its cut flowers from Colombia. It's not hard to see why.