Saturday, November 15, 2008

barrilettes gigantes

Being in Central America long enough to see giant kites twice is pretty amazing. On 1 November, Dia De Los Santos the sky is filled with huge kites calling the souls of the dead back to earth. Though other pueblos also celebrate in this way the two best known places are Sumptango and Santiago Sacatepequez.
Last year I went to Sumptango and had my first taste of pollo pibil sitting near the kites in a dusty field. This year after a crazy morning of yelling at shady tour operators in spanish (no I won't pay $7 to be crammed on a chicken bus full of gringos) Alaina, Erica (alaina's mom) and I made it to Santiago. Unlike in Sumptango the festival itself takes place in the middle of the village cemetary. People walk on top of freshly dug graves of dirt, decorated by marigolds, families eat picnic on top of cement crypts painted garish turquoise, little boys pee on the backs of grave stones with their abuelos standing near by, cerveza Gallo is left below the wooden crosses as an offering. It is classic highlands Guatemala, busy, loud, chaotic, and gorgeous.
Families with 4 generations present watch the kites launch into the air. The crowds suck in a collective breath as the kite takes flight, exhales the same "ahh" or "ohh" as it suceeds or fails. Children fly smaller kites, running across the uneven dirt to get them started.
Some of the kites aren't finished until the late afternoon, all morning crews stand there glueing together the tissue paper to the thick bamboo skeleton. It is a thing of beauty, months of planning, thousands of dollars spent, all for one day.
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