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.
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!!
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!
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.
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.
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!!