On November 1st, about 20 Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV) traveled to the town of Sumpango for their annual Festival de Barriletes (Kite Festival). Because on November 1st, Guatemalans celebrate Todos Santos, (All Saints), a day on which families remember their deceased loved ones. Families adorn grave sites and fly kites to symbolize a connection to the spirit world.
To begin our field trip we gathered in Antigua for coffee and snacks before driving to the festival about 30 minutes away. I always love getting together with other PCVs, to share stories and catch up on each other’s lives.
Photos: (above) at the coffee shop; (below) at the Festival de Barriletes!
My phone camera’s limitations do not give the festival due awe! The crowd was massive and constantly in motion. To the right in the above photo, are bleachers which you have to pay to sit in. On the field below, people wandered in all directions with some people flying kites.
The largest kites are not meant to fly and the medium sized ones (still huge) were only rarely lifted into the air. They are there to be beautiful and to convey the messages of their artistic creators.
Below: In the distance were the huge kites set on poles.
I couldn’t get a whole photo of the above kite so I took two, above & below. The crowds prevented me from having distance & a clear shot. Unbelievably crowded at times. Early morning and later in the afternoon is less crowded.
Above: These two men are the creators of the kite, pictured above.
While walking through the crowds, I stumbled across the three young women in the photo below. They walked regally through the festival, preceded by a drummer.
I’m not great in groups, I admit. As soon as we arrived, I raced off with my camera (phone) and eventually, I left the main field to explore the town below the festival field. The town was full of festival visitors, vendors and places to eat. Suddenly I turned a corner and caught sight of the cemetery. I gasped, overwhelmed by the beauty of the people, flowers, colors and sounds. There was a mariachi band playing at one grave site. People everywhere were sitting at the grave sites and kites were flying. Children ran up and down in-between grave plots.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Festival de Barriletes in Sumpango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala! If you consider attending the kite festival, I suggest the following:
- wear sunscreen & a hat & sunglasses (the sun!)
- pack a picnic lunch and extra snacks
- pay to sit in the bleachers so you can take photos at a distance
- expect to be jostled by the crowds and to get tired (it’s still worth it)
- visit the town below and see the cemetery
- buy tourist items (it’s good for the vendors and they make good gifts)
- take a good camera!
For more information about the festival, read this article in the online magazine, Cultural Survival.