Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Saint's Day

Last weekend was another holiday here, the third in six weeks (so not complaining).  This was kind of a dual one, both Halloween and All Saint's Day (Dia de los Muertos).  I think the Halloween festivities are mostly recent additions brought in to the country, and mostly for adults.  There were some kids dressed up trying to trick or treat, but not many and I think the ones that did had questionable success.

The following day is the real holiday here.  A tradition arose from a combination of Mayan and Catholics belief that the spirits of dead relatives can be reached or communicated with by kite.  So many people go stand on their families graves and fly kites.  One place where this is most popular Santiago Sacatepequez.  A long, stretched out city up in the highlands, the cemetery is on the side of a cliff on the edge of town, and the winds are ideal for kite-flying. 

Giant kite flying over the cemetery at Santiago

Becky's organization has lots of service teams that come down and do work for a week or so, but these groups also like to get out and see the sites.  Since it was a holiday and no work, we went with one of these groups and some of her co-workers out to Santiago to be a part of the celebration.  It was crowded, but really fun.  Many of the kites are so large, the laws of physics must lay down and weep as the kites defiantly find some way to take to the skies.  It was kind of weird to be walking in a crowd over dead peoples.  Many of the graves had stone or cement tombs, but many also were nothing more than a pile of dirt.  Those were the really weird ones.

 Walking past the family style masoleum-type graves.
 Marigolds spread over some of the dirt graves.

An above ground tomb makes a good spot to view or fly kites
Another kite waiting to take flight.

Later that afternoon we went to another nearby town, Sumpango.  Not nearly as much walking to get the action here (thankfully).  Instead of a cliff side cemetery, the activities here were located in a large open arena, kind of looked like a rodeo.  There were stands for an audience along one side, and food vendors lined up along the opposite.  Here it was more like an exposition.  The kites were enormous, many over ten meters in diameter.  Most were made by groups of people over the course of the year, mainly from bamboo and paper.  An announcer would say who made each kite as they sent it flying into the air.  When it landed they would put it up on bracers, creating a kind of kite-forest, which was really interesting to walk through.  This place was even more like a festival, something akin to a state fair in the mid-west.

The Kite Forest

An ornate kite exhibited in Sumpango

Lots of the kites had Mayan themes (modern-day people, not the ancient ancestors who built the step pyramids), and messages of indigenous pride.

A fun day!


  1. Hi Ben and Becky,
    Just want you to know I am truly enjoying your blogs. your info is fascinating. I am amazed at how easily you gather your info on the culture and traditions of the people there, you must truly enjoy it. You seem so at ease with the way of life. are you having fun? what an adventure!! This is an easy history lesson for me at this end and would love to know more but your explanations and pictures paint a good picture. Keep up the good work and keep sending so we can keep reading. I love the pictures, the kites are awesome!! GOD BLESS AND BE SAFE.

  2. Hi Guys! It looks like you are really getting to know your area. I love the history and the pictures. If we come the 3rd week of March, will there be any festive holidays going on then? That would be really fun to see. Hope you two are really enjoying yourselves. We miss you!! Going to see Rachel tomorrow in LaCrosse. Should be a fun day. Talk to you soon!!

    Teri and Dad

  3. Greetings Ben and Becky! I am happy to hear the updates of your adventures. The celebration with the kites is really interesting. They look beautiful.
    I hope all continues to go well for you. We will miss you next week for Thanksgiving but will be thinking of you.
    Mom & Dad

  4. That's right. Thanksgiving!! Do they even celebrate Thanksgiving? You might have to buy a couple turkey breasts and make some mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing, and some sweet potatoes. We'll miss you this Thanksgiving!! Enjoy!!

    Spent the day with Rachel yesterday. Had a good time. She was just getting over a cold, so looked a little tired. We drove to Winona, aroudn Lax, shopped, went to the movies, shopped some more, watched Harry Potter at her apartment, and then out to eat!! Yummy!! Then dropped Rachel back off at her apartment and headed home. It was a great day.

    Love you!!
    Teri and Dave