Friday, November 8, 2013

Day of the Dead Kite Festival of Sumpango Sacatepéquez, Antigua Guatemala

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We are in a group on Facebook that is for Families that permanently travel, or who spend much of their time traveling and living overseas.
One of the lovely members is currently based in Guatemala, and has organised all the people passing through this way to get together.
So 3 families including us, get together and hire a van to take us there.
November 1 is this special day.
There are strangely 2 festivals on in 2 different places.
Mayans have a very mixed faith, but part of their faith is a day to remember the dead.
They spend much of the year cutting and pasting tissue paper onto a firmer backing and then sticking and stringing it to large bamboo poles.
They gather on the graves at the cemetery, or next to the cemetery to raise their kites to the sky in order to be closers to the dead.  This is something to do with getting closer to the heavens, but the exact meaning is sketchy as I heard 3 different stories.  Some jump around on the graves and run through the cemetery.
We were dropped in the town streets.
Local folk were friendly and happy for us to try to talk to them.
We parked the mini-van nearby - strangely this lady thought her serious face was better for a photo, but instantly would smile as soon as the photo was taken?!
As we walked through the markets the crowd was thick.  Locals, ex-pats and tourists thronged together for this festival.
The one we had chosen was on the oval – next to the cemetery and it was the bigger of the two.
In the streets all sorts were being sold. You can see a baby iguana on the man's hand, and chickens and rabbits below.
Explorason and his friend Jack enjoyed their mate-ship as they walked along, joking and having fun.
We ate local pizza which was good and cheap.  We bought taco chips and munched on those. The kids bought small kites to fly.  It was a happy day.
We first stood on a hill and watched as some tried to get their kites in the air.
 Then it was time to go down and look closely at the giant kites.

These were either on the ground, or laced to poles.
They were trying to raise one of the smaller ones in the air, so the kids (unwontedly) jumped in to help.
We had a bit of a time trying to fly the kites, but there were so many people it was risky business and I was worried the bamboo skewers that held them together could poke an eye out.
 You can see here the men working on lacing the bamboo to the tissue paper.
I loved this one. It was a giant kite made of mini kites, and you can see it represents the tradition of the Mayan people, with the top kite looking like hand stitched flowers.
This one was like a lead-light window. Layers of coloured tissue are meticulously glued together to form the pattern.
 Local Mayans are dressed in all their glorious coloured clothing. Much of it is textured and hand stitched and is just beautiful.
As we came near one, the men had ropes, poles and pulleys and were trying to raise it.
As they slowly worked to raise it, there was a mighty crack and the bamboo snapped, so down it came.
They tried again and it cracked again, but they managed to raise it.

Shortly after it started to rip.  We stood aghast as it slowly shredded from the bamboo and wafted down.  Over the hour 4 giant kites fell apart.  Apparently this is really rare.
This was a bit of a sad moment, so the group wandered off to see the larger kites.
Here is our happy throng.
The large kites were amazing.   Many had themes depicting local life, and ecology.
I think this peacock kites was one of the biggest there. And to me it was my favourite.
So it was a sad moment when we saw the wind rip it near the time we left.
Here are a few of the fabulous kites they made.
The interesting thing is the Mayan faith is quite evangelical these days, so it is more a day about art these days I believe.
 We then had a couple of hours to go before we were collected by the driver, so we found the equivalent of a ‘beer garden’.  Quite grotty, but it had table service from a boy who seemed about 14 years old.  The adults sat and rested our quite tired legs, while the kids climbed a tree at the base of the hill nearby.
As time drew to a close we slowly headed back down the market cobblestone street to the van.
I spied an unusual runner.  The family assured me it was sewn by his mother.  At the time I doubted it, but in fact on closer inspection it is actually handmade and not machine made, so it is quite probably true. $23 well spent.  He told me it took her a month to make!  the work and detail is incredible and the back is all hand knotted.
Stopping to take my son to the bank I spied a lady in a back lot breaking into a car with a machete. I do hope the car was hers, as she hacked quite quickly into the rubber window seals.
 We drove back to town all quite exhausted.  We all went for crepes which was nice, then had an early night.

I thoroughly recommend going to the Kite Festival. This is a yearly event if you get a chance.  If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, then maybe try to schedule it for November.


  1. This looks like so much fun! The colors, the designs - beautiful.

    I hope that lady was able to get into her car.

  2. Thanks Marcia for reading our blog. I am sure to was her car - hope she got in too! Appreciate your support. Remember to follow your dreams.


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