I already have visiting Colombia on my bucket list, but seeing this just bumped it up even higher. In the town of Calarcá, Quindío and the department’s capital, Armenia, there is a five-day Jeep parade every June. The annual tradition has been going since 1988 and is listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the longest Jeep parade. You see, in the Coffee Triangle of Columbia, the locals worship an unlikely icon, the Willys Jeep, America’s military vehicle of choice during World War II. Every year in the small town of Quindío, there’s a big folkloric parade celebrating the utility vehicles, loaded with (literally) everything but the kitchen sink. They call them “Yipaos” (loaded Jeeps) and they have become the beloved symbol of this region since they were first imported to the country in the 1940s. Take a closer look at this slightly odd but very charming Colombian tradition.
The “Yipao” is a significant part of daily life in this corner of the world, where they rule the unpaved roads of Colombia’s coffee mountains carrying large groups of people piles of coffee bags, harvested produce, livestock, you name it and they transport it.
In the older and smaller towns, it’s a common tradition for families moving their house to pile everything they can onto one Jeep and do it all in one single trip.
They’re also known in Spanish as “mulitas mécanicas” (mechanical mules) because they allow the country’s farmers access and transport to places previously accessible only to pack animals.
For many Colombians in Quindío, their livelihoods depend on these sturdy little Jeeps and so, they decided to pay homage to their four-wheeled friends with an annual Yipao parade.
And in case you hadn’t made the connection yet, the “Yip” in “Yipao”, comes from the locally adopted pronunciation of “Jeep”.
Every summer, hundreds of Jeeps descend upon the towns for the parade, all of them loaded with different things that are meaningful in the region.
The parade is also a contest to see who can load the most onto their jeeps.
No really, an actual contest with several divisions and prizes for the winners in each category.
That is a lot of corn.
There is something you won’t see in Moab, Utah.
This one is from my favorite category, the pique contest.
There are four categories in all.
They are all pretty fun.
You can see just from looking at these pictures why people travel from all over the world to see it.
Their crafts are beautiful.
Even outside of the Yipao parade, family Jeeps in the Colombian coffee-growers axis are decorated throughout the year with ornaments, religious icons, and kitschy accessories.
Here you can see people gathering to watch.
A Jeep of handmade shoes.
Do you think that dog knows how to do the beauty queen smile and wave?
These pictures are amazing!
I wonder how long it takes them to get everything put on the Jeeps.
I love that their dogs get to ride up top with them.
You have to admit it’s pretty amazing how much stuff they can pile on.
These guys were pretty good at it too.
The first category is, agricultural products. This pretty much involves piling as much coffee, corn, bananas, or local produce as humanly possible onto the car. The second category is house moving. In this one the Jeeps are loaded with household furniture including TVs, entire wardrobes, beds, and items typically found on coffee farms. Oh and don’t forget the dogs, cats, and family members. The third category is a free category. This is sort of like four-wheeled works of art with a local flair, the Jeeps are dressed up with dolls, perhaps by the town’s doll maker, or baskets by the local basket weaver or covered with shoes from the cobbler. The fourth category is my personal favorite, the pique contest. This last category is where you really get to flex your Jeep-loading muscles and pile 1,800 kg of any of the regional products at the rear of the Jeep so that the vehicle leans backwards and drives only on its rear wheels. The objective of the pique is to keep the vehicle going forward on its two rear wheels for the longest possible distance. This category is more for the local “cowboys” who also like to hang off the front the leaning Jeep as its riding to get the crowds cheering. Think somewhere along the lines of bouncing cars from 90s rap videos meets the mechanical bull at the rodeo.