On November 1st of each year, on All Saints' Day in Guatemala, the well-known tradition of the Giant Kite Festival is celebrated. This colorful tradition admired by locals and tourists alike, takes place in Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala.
Thousands of visitors arrive at the General Cemetery of the Municipality of Santiago Sacatepequez in November 1, where artistic and very creative works of artisans are exhibited. The Giant Kites (Barriletes Gigantes) are a sight to be seen. This cultural tradition of Guatemala is not only an artistic exhibition through the manufacture of kites, but it is also an ancient way to maintain the connection with the ancestors.
Historically, based on the philosophy of the Kaqchikel indigenous race, kites represent a union between the underworld and the world of the living. It is the link between those who have departed, the saints and the living.
Legend tells that each November 1st, the Giant Kites must be well prepared to receive the spirits of the ancestors, because if they do not find a good reception, they will bother and punish the living damaging the harvests. It is tradition that in each house of the village, a flower known as 'Flor del Muerto' is placed on the frames of the doors and windows, this serves to guide the ancestral spirits.
The designs for these kites vary depending on the community and the symbolism of each one. When lifting the kites up in the air, messages are sent to the heavens thanking ancestors and asking for protection, welfare and prosperity for the living.
The preparation of these kites is an intensen and creative process that takes months of planning and preparation, with designs that change every year, no kite is equal to the other. Preparing these giant kites in place for the event is a long process that takes hours, families work hard since the previous night transporting and standing each kite in place.
Every year, around 25 giant kites and 80 small kites (barriletes) are made. Each giant kite measures approximately from 6 meter to 20 meters in diameter, perhaps even more for some cases, and is constructed using paper of different thicknesses of multiple colors and sticks of thin and light cane.
As part of this cultural festival, there is contests to reward the best 'kites'. The kites that are only for exhibition enter competition for better artistic design and symbolism, those measure up to 20 meters in diameter. The kites that rise up against the wind measure up to 8 meters in diameter and those are part of a different kind of competition.
It is exciting to see the process of how villagers work hard to lift them up. They form teams of men, each team is dedicated to flying their each kite, visitors to this event see them running in groups, dodging the obstacles on the ground as well as other teams to prevent the kites from colliding each other or getting tangled in the air. The kite that lasts longer in the air wins the competition.
Dont miss this fascinating cultural event every November 1st on All Saints’ Day in Guatemala