Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Fascination With Flowers

Selling flowers in front of Bogotá's Central Cemetery.
Colombia is the world's second largest flower exporter, after Holland. Valentine's Day is the peak of the flower industry and some 80% of Colombia's flower exports during this period go to the United States.

Arranging flowers. 
Flowers are Colombia's second-largest agricultural product after coffee, and generate some 150,000 jobs here in Colombia. But the industry is under pressure, because of lower-cost competitors including Ecuador and Kenya, and the increasing value of the Colombian peso.

But the industry has often been accused of overworking its employees, most of whom are women, and sometimes subjecting them to unsafe working conditions, including exposure to pesticides. Some companies reportedly require their women employees to have had undergone sterilization so that the companies don't become liable for maternity benefits.

The less-than-perfect flowers are sold here in Colombia, where the inexpensive flowers are popular for decorating, especially in cemeteries.

Flowers beside a reproduction of a San Agustin monument. 

Older women flower vendors outside the Central Cemetery. 
Soldiers carry flowers in Palo Quemao Market. 

A flower cart in Palo Quemao Market. 

The tomb of Leo Kopp, Bavaria brewery founder and a popular saint. 

Leo Kopp with a crown of flowers. 
The tomb of Julio Garavito, who is on the 20,000 peso bill. 

A flower worker in Palo Quemao Market. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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