RIDING THE WIND in SAN PEDRO LA LAGUNA
In the afternoon, since about the middle of September, the winds rise. The cloud gathering sky becomes a backdrop for streaming colors which swoop and dash and sometimes fly higher than the tops of the volcanos, the kites like brilliantly colored dragons in their length and sinuous movements.
There is disagreement about the origins of kiting in Guatemala – some think it was introduced to the Maya thousands of years ago by Chinese traders. Others maintain that like the rubber ball and the sacred ball game, the Guatemalan kite was a Mayan invention. Certainly the octagonal shape of their kites is unique. The obvious skill with design and the ability to harmoniously combine a wide array of colors evidenced in the larger kites – again all from colored tissue paper and glue -- is reminiscent of the complexity of the woven huipiles of the Maya women. Indeed, one of my Maya friends called it, “weaving for men.”
I have written before of the lack of consumerism among the Maya. Partly of course, this is due to poverty. When eating takes most of your money there is not money for toys. Yet even when an indulgence with toys is possible, the children play primarily with the bottle caps in the road, soccer with their beloved plastic balls and kid games which don’t require props but simply other kids. And so kites in Guatemala number among the few toys that a child will experience.
One recent afternoon several of Chema’s grandsons came up to the terrace below my window with their kites and I was able to catch some photos of the kites and their flyers. And as Chema and Julio both demonstrate, we’re never too old for kites.