viernes, 2 de mayo de 2008

Santa Elena

This aerial view shows the annexed village of El Placer in the Santa Elena District. Located on a high mountain plateau, the village displays its exuberant vegetation with the backdrop of the Medellín Valley in the far distance.

This district of Medellín, located on a mountainous area east of the city, offers an attractive cold weather scenery. It comprises some natural reserve areas, a beautiful pond, some wetlands and numerous creeks and water sources.

This aerial view of Santa Elena shows the district’s central area with its church at the center, the main square, and the administrative building.
Santa Elena is linked to Medellín through the ancient road that in 1925 connected the Aburrá Valley and the Saint Nicholas Valley in Rionegro, which laid the foundations of the city-region concept we have today for this attractive and thriving area. Currently we can also reach Santa Elena through the road leading to the José María Córdova international airport as well as through the Medellín-Bogotá motorway.

Santa Elena residents make nature part of their daily life.
This territory, characterized by very particular topographic features and varied scenery with some microclimates, comprises several rural districts as follows: Barroblanco, El Cerro, El Llano, El Placer, El Plan, El Porvenir, El Rosario, La Palma, Mazo, Pantanillo, Perico, Piedragorda, Santa Elena Central and San Ignacio. It’s right there where everyday life of the heirs of the silletero’s tradition goes by. A silletero is a flower grower and merchant to whom homage is paid every August in Medellín with the Parade of Silleteros.

Floriculture is a Santa Elena tradition. Time-tested techniques are applied daily with utmost care, as does Mrs. Noelia Patiño, pictured here tending her garden.
By the end of the 19th century, Santa Elena peasants dedicated their land to grow their food crops and they traded the surplus in Medellín, together with flowers, humus, ferns and bird food. At about the middle of the 20th century, Santa Elena experienced a time of peasant flower-growing peak that later was taken by powerful flower-growing industries that established the export business to the global market.

This house is witness to a time long gone when Santa Elena residents would bring their home-grown flowers and vegetables on their silletas for sale at neighborhood markets, church courtyards, and streets of Medellín.
Santa Elena was always thought of as a convenient place to have a change of air. Some families from Medellín had farms and farm houses there and they used to have long stays there. There are testimonies of some people —who were kids then— about how they were taken there on a chair resting on the back of a servant, a chair carrier. Also, many families from Santa Elena came to settle in the eastern neighborhoods of Medellín, looking for the comfort of the city and extending their offspring in the city.

Time-honored designs combine with modern materials as new generations of Santa Elena residents build their houses.

  An interesting ecological project involving the whole rural district is in progress in this exceptional territory, the Arví Park, which integrates a network of old colonial paths revealing the serene natural scenery. Some institutions like Comfenalco and the National University have set up a branch there; the former manages the Piedras Blancas Ecological Park which was the first water supplying reservoir Medellín had, and the latter has established the Agricultural and Forestry Schools there.

In Santa Elena, a house that respects itself will display a variety of flowering plants. Pansies, chrysanthemums, begonias, agapanthus, among many others make for a more joyous living.

  Nowadays, Santa Elena —famous for its silleteros who annually parade in the frame of the Flowers Fair— is a territory of open scenery where the rural customs coexist with cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is common to find young professionals, artists and craftsmen, retired couples and university students living in this rural district among the peasant population. They are either owners or tenants of small farms which have a picturesque house surrounded by gardens. Therefore, the traditional style of rural houses coexists with a more contemporary rural architecture among the farms devoted to farming, recreational farms, inns and leisure centers.

By the roadside, Luis Eduardo displays and sells flowers, medicinal herbs and plants. Fragrances in the area captivate visitors.

One can live well in Santa Elena, in a traditional or in a modern way, on a seasonal or a permanent basis, thanks to its mild weather and to the fact that time goes by peacefully and smoothly, without noise or haste, in an environment full of fresh air and confidence.

In Santa Elena, properly equipped educational institutions make the learning experience more enjoyable for local children.

Santa Elena’s flower growers apply different methods to cultivate flowers. Jaime, a local silletero is pictured here in his greenhouse.

Santa Elena and its environs are excellent for growing vegetables, flowers, and fruit, offering folk diverse sources of income, as with this strawberry grower and dealer.

To Cecilia, commendations, medals and prizes deserve a place of honor: it is nothing else but her family’s “silletero accomplishments.”

Carmen, an orchid grower, has been awarded a number of commendations and prizes in the most important flower shows in Medellín.

Many city people have found in the district of Santa Elena an ideal place to live.

Yarumos (Cecropia telealba), siete cueros (Tibouchina mutabilis), marra bollos (Meraiania nobilis), pine, and eucalyptus trees, constitute the predominant plant life on this side of the mountain, and the perfect backdrop for dwellings with original architectural styles.

Edgar Bolívar Rojas