Kite-flying is central aspect of many different cultural celebrations across the Caribbean and Latin America. While most of the high-flying fun tends to center around Easter (see Grenada and Guyana), you also have vibrant kite-filled celebrations during the Christmas holidays in Tobago.
All of these celebrations, though well-worth experiencing, pale in comparison to Guatemala’s Dia de Todos Los Santos.
Held annually on November 1st in the ancient Catholic tradition commemorating all saints and the dearly departed, the festival presents what must surely be one of the most extravagant exhibitions of kites and kite-flying in the world.
The spectacle is most prominent in the towns of Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango. Here, locals craft elaborate, and oftentimes enormous, kites made of rice, bamboo, and woven tapestries. Some kites are as small as a dinner plate. The biggest tower up to two-stories high!
The tradition, which dates back more than 100 years to Mayan times, serves as something of rite of passage for the men of the town, who trek to the coast a good 40 days before the festival to collect the bamboo required to build the kites.
There’s a lot of beautifully poignant symbolism in the event. Kites soaring to the heavens are said to collect the spirits of loved ones, bringing them back down to earth for celebrations held in and around local cemeteries. The following day, November 2nd, the kites are set aloft again, the spirits returning to the heavens above… until next year.