Elena is a rural farming area up in the mountains, east of
Medellín, and composed of 17 small villages called: “veredas”.
People, who live down in the valley think of Santa Elena as a scenic,
fresh air place of cool temperatures, and the home of the Silleteros.
Santa Elena, from North to South, is similar to the
length of Zona Urbana, (the Medellin area) and nearly as wide. Santa
Elena, cool clean air, dramatic vistas, un congested, and a beautiful
retreat from vibrant and dynamic Medellin.
are campesinos (farmers) who brighten up the annual Feria de las Flores
(Fair of the Flowers) as they parade (August 7th.) through Medellin
with Silletas strapped to their backs. A Silleta is usually round with
hundreds of colourful flowers attached, and weighing as much as 200
pounds! The Silleteros are always a memorable sight as they parade through
the streets greeted by enthusiastic cheers of thousands of parade watchers.
of Santa Elena also raise papa (potatoes), blackberries, and strawberries.
Area farmers sell their fresh milk to Colanta, the principal dairy plant
in Antioquia. Santa Elena also has small factories which make “Arepas”,
a typical pancake-like, breakfast food made with corn. A Santa Elena
abandoned farm house, almost 100 years old.
building complex in Santa Elena is the Colegio de Santa Elena, a modern
education complex with 980 students, and a part of the Medellin school
range from grade school to high school level and 99% are from Santa
Elena. The student, who represents the 1%, is a U.S. citizen from Colombian
parents (now U.S. citizens) who live in the U.S. Her parents wanted
her to learn from a wider range of subjects than are commonly available
from U.S. schools, and to be with her kinfolk, learning their culture.
She lives in Santa Elena, with her grandmother, shown on her right.
Students using free phones (one minute limit and you have to call again)
which are common in the rural and poorer areas.
a favourable student-teacher ratio the Colegio has two sessions a day.
World population increases are a universal challenge, even in many desirable
rural areas such as Santa Elena. Photos below are of the sewing class,
the Information Technology Class, and the English class, as Professora
Amelia hands back the previous days test. Shown also is the student
suggestion box, and a photo of a typical student lunch which costs less
than 5 cents U.S.
largest building is the village Administration Building, a part of the
State of Antioquia. Santa Elena also has a modern, well stocked library.
the land around Santa Elena, including the beautiful Parque Arvi, is
owned and protected by the State of Antioquia. Building density restrictions
insure that the area will remain a rural setting of rolling hills, great
vistas, streams, forests, family farms, clean air and water.
Elena’s scattered small farms (fincas), and houses (casas) include weekend
retreats owned by the wealthy from Medellin. Some of the houses and
farms are also lived in year around, by descendants of foreign immigrants
from Germany, France, Italy. Etc.
of Santa Elena is decidedly different than Medellin. Locals are more
independent, self sufficient, and less likely to be influenced by fashion,
trends, music, or the TV novellas which throughout Central and South
America are slowly (author’s opinion) undermining the goodness and strong
family orientation of Hispanic culture.
students are a tough, stubborn lot, and not easy to motivate. Exceptions
are those who study hard with the desire to go on to a University. When
they graduate they will leave their families and Santa Elena to realize
their new found potential of greater income, thus more options in life.
Those who remain will perpetuate their culture by carrying on the long
time traditions and values of farming in the mountains of rural Santa
Two Colegio professors are from Santa Elena, seven from Rionegro where
the International Airport is located, and the balance from places down
in the valley, Medellin, etc.
Meet Yazmín Cifuentes, the I.T. (Information Technology) Professor.
She speaks good English, and goes by the nickname of: “Jazz”. Professor
Yazmín, along with her students, is responsible for the Colegio’s
Home Page at: www.ieducativasantaelena.com.
If there are other classes throughout the World Wide Web who would like
to establish a pen pal relationship with the Santa Elena Colegio, visit
author of this text has spoken (in Spanglish) before many school classes
in Cuba, Central America, Venezuela and Colombia. I found the students
of Santa Elena to be unique-a bit suspicious, independent, not easily
led, and perhaps a bit unruly. And… I enjoyed the experience! Would
I like living among them in Santa Elena? Yep!