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El desfile del yipao

Colombia is full of culture but nothing really compares to the Yipao parade! This “fiesta” is celebrated in the coffee region and it’s a way for the Colombian coffee farmers to pay tribute to their “Iron mule”. After WWII the U.S. had a surplus of Willys Jeeps and started selling them to developing nations. This vehicle was  perfect for the narrow pack-animal dirt roads. Farmers would drive uphill into the mountains, cross rivers half submerged, and then head down the mountain fully loaded with coffee, plantains, yuca, oranges to sell in town.

The term “Yip” is simply how Colombians spell in Spanish the sound of the English word “Jeep” and a “yipao” means a Jeepload, the term used to refer to whatever could be carried in a “yip” and still allowing someone to drive it. Farmers there have a pretty good idea of how much can be carried in a “yip” and a Jeepload or “Yipao” eventually became a unit of measure.

Later the roads were paved and widen and bigger trucks replaced the Willys Jeep but today it remains as a folkloric figure of the coffee region and many of them can be seen in the annual Yipao parades.



Yipao carrying green plantains


The event now has several categories usually separated according to the products carried in the vehicles:

  • Agricultural products
  • Coffee
  • Furniture
  • People
  • Institutional advertisement
  • Piques

“Piques” usually refers to daring tricks preformed by the drivers of these yips. Some of these tricks include going up and down steps, spinning the yip in two wheels and watching the driver get out of the driver’s seat while the yip continues to spin faster and faster with no driver. While the yip spins the driver climbs on the roof and dances or hangs from the front bumper with his head inches away from the pavement and yes, the yip continues to spin in two wheels while the nervous crowd shouts, cries and laughs.

The Yipao Parade is one of the most popular fiestas in Colombia but very little is known about it outside the country.

I decided to create a colorful Yipao Parade in my Spanish classroom and let me tell you: It was a huge success! This has been one of the best cultural activities that I’ve created. My students absolutely loved it and had sooooo much fun working and learning about this crazy but amazing Colombian fiesta! This is a great activity to get away from the typical and often stereotypical cultural activities.  You can purchase a paper model of the Yipao on this site.



The little people watching the parade are actually miniature pictures of the students who built the jeeps and the maquette of a Colombian town.  I took pictures of each one of them and they printed these photos, cut themselves out and placed their picture somewhere in the town.  If you look carefully some are looking out the windows, others are pointing at something, riding on top of a jeep, dancing and doing many other things.



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