During Colombia’s Colonial Era, slaves known as “silleteros” would carry cargo — and even people such as children and royalty — on their backs from town to town. Diaries from the 19th century describe dozens of these men climbing the Andean nation’s steep mountains that were impassable with donkeys and other beasts of burden.
After emancipation in 1851, newly freed professionals would earn a living by hauling large quantities of flowers to markets. A genre quickly popped up as skilled artisans would create intricate floral designs to sell or present to romantic interests. In May 1957, the city of Medellin, which is located in the heart of Colombia’s flower-growing region, hosted the first annual Feria de las Flores, which continues to this day.
This weekend, the Queens Botanical Garden will honor this tradition with its sixth-annual, two-day flower festival. On Saturday, visiting silleteros will create and display their medallions of colorful, cut flowers, and visitors will get a taste of Colombian culture through food, hands-on activities for children, and traditional music and dance. Grupo Son Chande, a Colombian coastal band specializing in Cumbia, will perform throughout the afternoon.
Then the Silleteros Parade will take place in Jackson Heights on Sunday. Flower artists will march up 37th Avenue from 69th Street to 86th Street with their creations, starting at noon. After the procession, the public is invited to the Queens Botanical Garden for more music, food, crafts and a ticketed comedy show.
- Free Juniper Valley Park concert series lineup announced
- Enjoy these free summer concerts across Queens parks
- Flushing night market to bring community together