Every January, since 1956, Manizales has held a fair that brings together the best of artistic, cultural, sporting and nightlife events; the fair has Spanish roots with bull fights and other traditional content and catches the attention of both locals and foreigners alike.
Manizales was founded on October 12, 1849, by a group of twenty Antioquians (The Expedition of the 20), who came from Niera and Salamina. There is a strong Spanish influence in the culture and the population was very homogeneous, mostly white, until other ethnic groups migrated to the city in search of the universities.
Manizales is the capital city of one of the smallest Colombian departments. The city is described as having an “abrupt topography” and lies on the Colombian Central Mountain Range (part of the longest continental mountain range, The Andes) with a great deal of ridgelines and steep slopes, which, combined with the seismic instability of the area, has required architectural adaptations and public works to make the city safer. Even though Manizales has a very difficult topography, there are many coffee plantations in this extremely fertile region.
Held at the same time as the fair is Coffee International Beauty Pageant (Reinado Internacional del Café). The current winner being Maydeliana Liyimar Diaz, from Venezuela.
The beauty contest originally began in 1957 and was held every two years (1957, 1959, 1961, 1963) under the name of Continental Queen of Coffee. However, to give a wider scope, in 1972 its name was changed to Miss International Queen of Coffee Pageant, thereby increasing the participation of coffee producing countries from other continents. Manizales is the permanent home since its inception.
With so many events taking place over the 9 days of the fair it’s impossible to see everything. Perhaps one of the most impressive displays I saw was the Cabalgata Feria de Manizales (horse riding). Over 500 people participated in this extremely raucous parade, along Calle Santander, with their spectacular displays of *Paso Fino.
*The Paso Fino name means ‘fine step’. The Paso Fino is a naturally gaited light horse breed dating back to horses imported to the Caribbean from Spain. Pasos are prized for their smooth, natural, four-beat, lateral ambling gait; they are used in many disciplines, but are especially popular for trail riding.
Incidentally, Manizales is twinned with Oxford in the United Kingdom.