Every year on November 1st, Guatemala celebrates Dia de Todos Los Santos, or “All Saint’s Day”. It’s a day to gather as a family and celebrate the lives of one's ancestors, while partaking in all sorts of feasting and fiesta-ing. Families typically spend their day around the cemetery, cleaning the gravesites, bringing new flowers, and flying ornate kites to send messages to their ancestors. Throughout time, these kites slowly became larger and more detailed to the point that a festival began solely for people to enjoy these enormous kites, called “Barriletes Gigantes”.
The festival takes place on November 1st as well, and is located on a soccer field right next to the local cemetery in Sumpango. Hundreds of vendors line up on the walkways, selling food, artisan goods, and all the kites you could ever dream of, yet the real focus of the festival is the giant kite competition! Teams work on their kite designs for months leading up to the festival, where they’ll be judged on size, materials, design, and flight (if the kite can even make it off the ground!). Kites are designed entirely in tissue paper with huge bamboo frames, some kites getting as large as 30 meters in diameter. Every year, the kites are getting bigger and the designs more intricate, so you never know what the new biggest kite is going to be – though we can assure you with complete confidence that it will be HUGE.
Even though size is clearly a factor in creating these kites, the teams don’t let that stop them from still wowing in the design department. It’s the kind of beauty that made us say over and over again “There’s no way that’s made out of tissue paper”, just to be proved wrong every. single. time.
The field is filled to the brim with people either appreciating the art or flying their own, much smaller, kites. With kites whirling around you at every step and families joyfully celebrating together, the colorful and unique atmosphere is impossible to find anywhere else. This is one of those traditions that everyone needs to experience at least once, to learn about the joy of celebrating ancestors as well as the pure fun that can be found in Guatemala.
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