I would love to be sitting here saying what a wonderful time we had had at the La Fería de las Flores, but I can’t… it was a total disaster, and again all down to bad organisation.
I am sure that most people who attended the Parade of Silleteros had a great time, but true to form, we fell for the worst organised event I have ever attended.
We arranged for Pépe to stay with the Sister-in-law and Sebastian for the day (he had a great time!) Marcela, Maria Elena and myself then took a taxi to the Metro, and got off within walking distance of our destination. So far so good, and because I was wearing my Monsoon gear, the sun was cracking the flags, much to Marcela’s amusement.
However as we approached our Stand (No.33), we could immediately see there was a problem, there was no canopy, every other one we had passed had theirs, but ours was bare! It was baking sun, we had arrived early as advised, it was by this time about 10.45am, and the Parade was not due to start until 2pm. At least people on the opposite side of the road, had trees for shade, even if it was free and they were standing.
Marcela went off to make enquiries, the nearest officials, just shrugged their shoulders, so she went off in search of someone’s neck to wring. On her return, she had not progressed much further, even having tried telling them a porky or two, including the fact there was a gringo with her who could not stand the sun, which was the reason we had paid, again shrug of shoulders and suggested the Gringo go home then!… very helpful.
Marcela then began following the debate on Twitter, complaints were coming thick and fast, as a result one of the local Papers picked it up and contacted the Mayor, who said that a canopy would be delivered shortly.
We finally had a canopy erected at 12.30pm, by which time I was starting to turn into a beetroot.
The Parade was due to start at 2pm, and we had reckoned on it reaching our point about 3pm, however at 1.30pm the sponsors floats started to pass us, and we thought things had started early… wrong! after half an hour everything stopped and not a sign of a Silletero.
This took us to 2pm, at which time any reserved seats were up for grabs, seats is definitely being generous, metal benches with 18” leg room, and because they were so low, you had to keep standing up to allow the blood to circulate. There were no spare seats, in fact our area had been over sold, and people were having to sit on the aisle steps, at 55000COP each, that was another notch against the organisers. Then it got worse, because the access had been opened up at 2pm, people who had not paid started squeezing in front of our Stand, against the roadside barriers. People in the Stand were getting irritable, and a confrontation started between, those who had paid, and those who had not. The Policeman on point at the barrier, tried to calm things down, but soon realised it wasn’t going to happen, so he asked the ‘Freebies’ to move, they refused, gripping tight to the barriers, at which he shrugged his shoulders and wandered off.
Shortly afterwards, the Policeman returned with a Boss, who tried reasoning with the ‘Freebies’, but whilst doing so, and getting nowhere, someone in the Stand, inflamed the situation, and threw a half full bottle of Pop, striking a girl at the barrier on the head, she in turn turned and threw it aimlessly back, both were in the wrong, but fortunately it went no further. However the Police all then wandered off, and left the situation to fester.
3pm came and went, and still no sign of the Parade, Colombians sitting around me, who had come to the Event year after year, were saying, never again! and at the same time, they were steadily getting drunk, and more drunk. Tempers were fraying, insults were being traded between those who had paid and those who hadn’t.
Finally about 3.45pm the Parade came into view, at which immediately those who had pushed in front of our Stand, stood up, blocking our view. This was the final insult for the drunken Colombian, in front of us, who hurled a missile, striking a youth in the crowd below. He in turn came jumping up into the Stand, and from his actions, Marcela suspected he might have a pistol, and shouted at him to forget it as the older man was drunk, she was worried because she was sat immediately behind the man, and any shooting was likely to involve her, I missed most of this, as I was watching out for others who were causing trouble.
The Parade continued, and we saw next to nothing, I couldn’t get any decent photos, and my view of the Silleteros was blocked by those in front, so in the end we decided to leave early and cut our losses, if only for our own safety.
The walk to the Metro turned into a hike, because all routes to the nearest stations were blocked by the ongoing Parade, but we got there eventually.
Of the Alcaldia de Medellin (Town Hall) who organised the Event, an utter disgrace, all those effected should be able to claim a refund, but this is Colombia, and not much hope of that!
Of the Police, they should be totally ashamed, I don’t want to be associated with them. There are so many Police, you can walk down a street and see more Police than General Public. I had been told time and time again that the Public have no respect for the Police, until now my loyalties have lead me to defend them, but after their performance today, I can understand why they feel like that, there was no excuse for the Police abandoning a potentially explosive situation, and any call by the Mayor or the General in Charge, saying how wonderful they are here, is an absolute load of rubbish, the people deserve better.
Will I be going next year?…not a hope in hell, nor the year after.