On November 1st of every year the people of both Santiago Sacatepéquez, and Sumpango, Guatemala, put together giant kites to fly during the Day of the Dead during the All Saints Day Kite Festival.
The vibrantly colored designs on the kites, made of cloth and paper with bamboo frames, depict religious or folkloric themes and they are flown in the nearby Sacatepéquez cemetery to honor the dead. The locals in this small municipality dress up in colorful clothing and head to the cemetery to spend the day cleaning up the graves and decorating them with flowers while they have picnics right next to their departed family members.
Traditionally, the building of the kites takes 40 days, the first day marked by the village’s unmarried men heading out to the coast at 4:00 am to laboriously collect bamboo for the kite frames. Every part of the kite is made using nature’s bounty; the glue is a mixture of yucca flower, lemon peel, and water, ropes are made of the maguey plant (the plant that also brings us tequila), and the tails are made from woven cloth.
The practice of flying colorful kites during the Day of the Dead celebrations has been around for 3,000 years and is recognized by various religious sects, and locals believe it is a tool for communicating with the beyond.