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How the Giant Kites of Sumpango and Santiago are Made

The giant kites of Santiago and Sumpango are part of the tradition, culture and history of Guatemala. The "All Saints' Day" is celebrated every November in Guatemala, and in Sumpango and Santiago villages in Sacatepequez, people celebrate this important date by raising the "Giant Kites" to heaven.


The cultural festival of the "Barriletes Gigantes de Sumpango" was named Cultural Heritage of Guatemala on October 30, 1998. Subsequently, this same festival that is also held in the town of Santiago Sacatepequez was recognized with the same honorary title. This cultural festival attracts foreign and national tourists who travel to these villages from very early in the morning of November 1st to see the giant kites.

The elaboration and design of these kites is basically a work of art made of Chinese paper (Chinese paper is basically a very thin and light sheet of paper). We will share here how these giant kites are made, but if you want to know more about the meaning of this tradition and cultural festival, click here for the article Barriletes Gigantes de Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepequez

giant kites guatemala

Unfortunately, the tradition of creating handmade paper kegs has been lost over the years. Nowadays, it is easy to find kites in local stores made of plastic and produced in an industrial way. But we can assure you that there is no comparison in the experience of flying a handmade kite (especially if you have done it yourself) to flying an industrial one.

The giant kites are basically made up of 5 essential pieces.

giant kits parts

1 :  FRAME :

or the skeleton, this frame is made of light wood rods (long wooden sticks), such as bamboo for example. Chinese paper is placed on this frame.

2 : FRINGES :

these are called “flecos” in Spanish. These are usually located all around the kite; made of chinese paper and are usually placed all around the kite. Fringes help the kite rise more easily as well as give stability to it.

3 : THE TAIL :

This piece is very important for the kite, because it gives balance. As simple as it may seem, making a tail is not an easy task, especially when it comes to the "Giant Kegs", the weight of it must be balanced with the weight of the kite itself. The length of the tail should be a minimum of 20 percent longer than the length of the kite size. A kite tail is regularly made of pieces of cloth tied to a rope made of maguey.

4 : ZUMBADORA (BUZZER) :

This buzzer is basically a piece of Chinese paper stuck with a rope and placed on top of the kite and supported by two small cane rods that are attached to the main frame. Some of these buzzers are similar to small flags. The purpose is to generate a very particular sound when the kite is raised up through the air. Not all kites have them.

5 : KITE BODY :

Made with Chinese paper, it is the fundamental basis of the kite. To form this layer of paper, artisans use large amounts of multicolored sheets of paper, glue and even sometimes they use fabrics.

The construction of these kites, although basically simple, takes a lot of work, for weeks the artisans work day and night to build it. Not to mention that there is a pre-production process to design it and obtain the right materials.

After making a production plan and the design of the kite, the artisans begin to build the kite frame, it is almost an engineering job, since the frame has to be solid and strong to resist the winds, but also with a weight balanced to maintain control before and during the kite flight. Bamboo rods have to be tightly tied, setting everything up from the center.

Separately, the artisans begin to join the sheets of paper using as a base the color white. Making sure to have the measures for the size and shape of the kite, they join the sheets of paper and begin to glue the pieces of Chinese paper with colors to shape the final design, as shown in the picture below.

giant kites guatemala

The body of the kite is assembled in portions and then assembled as if they were pieces of a giant puzzle on the kite frame.

Differences between the kites of Sumpango and those of Santiago

santiago and sumpango kits

Santiago :

These kites are highlighted by the flags at the top of the kite, these flags work as buzzers. These kites also use many geometric figures in their designs, the triangles that frame the vast majority of designs around the kites are the hallmark of the villa. The shape of the kites is geometric.

Sumpango:

The main shape of these kites is not geometric and therefore, they do not include geometric figures in their designs. The buzzers go through the kite through the front.

Dont miss the opportunity to see this giant kites take flight !!



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