Kite Festival - Santiago Sacatepequez
Guatemala  - 2011

The Kite Festival is part of the Day of the Dead (Dia del Muerte) celebrations in Guatemala. The first event is for families to visit the graves of their loved ones where they clean them up and place various flowers and wreaths. The family then has lunch with the deceased, bringing all their favorite dishes to share as a family.

Marigolds were very popular and each family added their own touch to their family's grave.

I liked that it didn't matter what you brought or how you displayed it. It was sad though to see graves that were unattended or neglected, and interesting to see how many graves were just hills of dirt and not tombs or mausoleums.

On the way to another cemetery where the kites would actually be displayed and "flown" (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't) we passed lots of local food.

Steve's favorite is the chicharon, the pork belly treat that would never be on anyone's diet plan!

There were so many people in the streets from all walks of life, locals and foreigners alike, coming to experience the festivities of the day. The only real negative to the crowds besides the claustrophobia was that any rules of graveyard etiquette were thrown out the window for the day as people walked everywhere and anywhere in the cemetery.

The biggest kites were probably 40 - 50 feet tall and took about 50 people to set them up in the morning on display. What's cool about the kites is that they are all made by hand out of tissue paper. Some seemed to be able to catch a current and fly for hours, while others crashed and scattered the crowds regularly.

The smaller kites that were launched were probably between 12-15 feet across and designed by different families. There is a competition in kite design as well. This year's theme was peace and Mayan heritage.

You can see the crowds of people in the cemetery but I don't know if you can realize that it is hundreds, maybe a 1,000? people.

Many of the kites were launched right off the top of the buildings.


It's hard to believe that kites as big as these can be made out of tissue paper and then actually flown without totally falling apart. When one crashed into another one though, it does tend to leave a hole!

You have to remind yourself that the day is supposed to be about reconnecting with your deceased loved ones and "setting spirits free" in the middle of the chaos and crowds.


Of course, there has to be a festival queen to have a real celebration.

It was really fun to see all the different foods being made. I had not seen the blue tortillas before or the various types of corn being cooked. The corn was much better than the choclo in Ecuador, though not as good as sweet corn in New York in the summer!

A drink for the season is ponche, a hot cider type drink with all kinds of fruit cooked in it. It was pretty tasty. We also had fried bananas filled with beans - which may sound crazy - but was actually pretty good. Refried beans are the element to stuff or put in everything in Guatemala, like cheese for the Colombians.

I loved the colored baskets and whether I have a purpose for them or not, I bought some just because I enjoy helping the local economy and craftsman and love bright colors.

The day was definitely worth getting up early for and enjoying with friends!

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