In Guatemala, Giant Kites Honor the Dead During Día de Los Muertos

By Michaela Trimble in Vogue

“It’s late afternoon on October 31st, and a crowd is gathered at Sumpango Cemetery in the Sacatepequez state of Guatemala to arrange flowers and clean the tombs of their dead loved ones. The air is thick with palo santo, and only the sound of children’s laughter permeates as they fly kites ahead of the Festival de Barriletes Gigantes, or Giant Kite Festival that will take place the following day, during All Saints’ Day on the Catholic calendar.

One of the world’s most unique Día de Los Muertos celebrations, this year’s festival attracted nearly 90,000 participants to Sumpango, a town of only 38,000 residents. Around 50 official groups formed the bedrock of the event, with each coalition gathered to showcase their larger-than-life kites during the day’s festivities. Made of paper and adorned with colorful patterns that often depict ancestral symbology or contemporary social issues—from the folkloric owl, which represents the messenger of death in Maya cosmology, to motifs urging suicide prevention—the kites are divided by the age group of their fliers. Children fly their smaller versions by hand, while teenagers and adults accompany bigger kites, including those that aren’t airborne—they can range up to 60 feet in diameter.”

You can read the full piece by Michaela, here, alongside some fine, as usual, photographs by James Rodríguez.

Categories: Culture, Indigenous peoples


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