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  • Colombian Jeeps: Competition and Neccessity

    Our team here is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a special delivery of a jeep from Colombia.

    The first jeeps were imported in the 1940s by the Colombian government, but the vehicles became popular among coffee farmers, who adapted them for a far more quotidian use: transporting coffee in mountain regions previously accessible only to mules. Jeeps in Colombia are called mulitas mecánicas, or mechanical mules. Many families in the coffee-growing region proudly own retrofitted Willys Jeeps.

    In Quindío Province, the Desfile del Yipao (Jeep Parade), takes place each year. Family jeeps are driven down the main streets of the city, and people participate in competitions that determine, for example, who can pack the largest amount of agricultural produce or people in one jeep . Successful packing depends on the skill of the yipero, especially in the pique contest where jeeps are driven while balanced only on their two rear wheels.

    At the Festival, visitors will learn how jeeps built for World War II have evolved into mechanical mules, transporting produce from farms to markets; children from school to home; and families moving household goods.

    Van Luong is the festival blogger for the 2011 Folklife Festival. 

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