Posted by: janetwright2guatemala | 11/08/2011

Spectacular Kites and Flying High for 1st Anniversary in my Site

7 noviembre 2011 lunes  

Día de los Muertos or November 1st is a day to celebrate dearly departed loved ones…Guatemalans  head to cemeteries to picnic as families, offering food up to the deceased. There are no candy skulls (as in Mexico), although eating sweet treats seems encouraged. Maybe to celebrate the sweetness of being alive and still walking on this earth.

A colorful feast for the eyes!

There are 2 festive celebrations in Guatemala on this day, so it’s a hard choice…Spectacularly large paper kites  in Sumpango (near Antigua) or drunken horseback riders who race about the town of Todos Santos (in the far north) where the men also wear traditional clothes. Last year my training group was deprived of attending these celebrations because we were required to journey to our new sites on October 30th. This year we had choices…and I voted KITES!!

Paper marvels in kite form

It was even more special to share these Guatemalan traditions with my visiting dance friend, Michael.  We departed Antigua at 8:30am on a packed camioneta (chicken bus), then were carried along by the throngs pouring into the cancha (soccer field). A kaleidoscope of brightly colored paper kites of various sizes greeted our first view…many propped up on poles, with others in the process of construction. The very largest, about 16 meters in diameter were just for exhibition; their weight and size was impressive (especially their massive infrastructure of bamboo frames).  A friend told me that the following day there might be an attempt to get these huge kites airborne by pulling them behind a pickup!

Building the mega-kites!

The kites represent communication with the dead. Glancing at the variety, some decoration themes became apparent: protecting the environment, combating child abuse, and celebrating childhood.  The first kites that flew were made by children, about 8ft in diameter. Groups of kids ran with the rope to liberate their kite from the earth. The wind was spotty and so most kites stayed airborne only briefly, but the announcer encouraged applause for all attempts. It was a constant challenge to get Guatemalans and foreign visitors to clear the field so that the runners could launch their kites…only threat of injury from falling kites seemed to have an effect on the crowd.

A proud construction team

Families and kids flew their own smaller kites in a grassy field behind the cancha…and we also tried our hands at launching our own paper kites. Some good-natured tangling happened. A very brave boy was spotted climbing more than 80 ft up a tree to rescue his kite, but it was not to be unleashed by the tree…I held my breath until he returned safely to the ground. Pobrecito, a real Guatemalan Charlie Brown.

Celebrating childhood games

In the early afternoon the medium-sized kites (6 meters in diameter) were launched into the air…more running with the ropes, but the wind continued to be fickle. Most ascended and rapidly descended…although a few deceased spirits represented in those paper and bamboo creations hung aloft for a little while. My heart soared along with all of the attempts…I was celebrating 1 year of serving in my site. So much I have learned during this experience of a lifetime and so very much more I have left to do!!

Soaring kites and hopes for my 2nd yr!



  1. Jan,
    May fair winds keep your spirits aloft as mother earth grounds you.

  2. picnic at the cementery, never heard of that. Kinda of creepy.

  3. Mi amiga!
    Tienes que tener una mente abierta! No es tan extraño de visitar nos queridos que ya se pasaron de esto mundo. Yo fui al cementerio en San Bartolo el año pasado y era bien alegre con una banda de marimba, muchas flores y grupos de familias platicando y comiendo!

  4. hola mamacita,

    Beautiful photos! I’m looking forward to spending the holiday season there! I use the Mayan fabric you sent me as a blanket during the cold mornings, and I have gotten a lot of compliments for it. 🙂

    te amo..

  5. Hola Dulces,
    Soon you will get to see even more Mayan textiles here (and maybe some will jump into your backpack as souvenirs)…in a short 5wks you will be here in Guatemala with me!! Que feliz dia!
    Abrazos y besos, Mamacita

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