We began in colonial Antigua, where I lived for eight months in 2011 - 12. For several of those months I lived in a charming small hotel where I was able to house tour participants. The courtyard featured roses, there was a small kitchen and the balcony granted us views of Volcano Fuego puffing in the distance. From the ancient statures of the maya to the etching of Jade, to the cathedrals, to the labrynth of the renowned museum Casa Domingo, to sampling pepion and playing flutes with vendors, the streets and cuisine of Antigua are an endless discovery in the blue skys and pleasant temperatures of this “land of eternal spring.”
From Antigua we proceeded to Sumpango, for the Festival of the Giant Kites. The making of these enormous kites from tissue paper and glue for the Day of the Dead is a tradition in this Kachiquel Maya pueblo. The kites are believed to deliver messages to the ancestors as well as protect the pueblo from evil spirits. The artistry of these kites is amazing. Using fine brightly colored Chinese tissue paper (papel de china) and glue, the kites themselves look like giant painted murals and mandalas but are actually mosaics of cut paper that take months of volunteer labor. Around 600 people in Sumpango participate in the making of the kites. While many people visit Sumpango the day of the festival, enduring many hours of traffic to do so, this tour provides a “behind the scenes” look at the festival.
The mounting of each kite is a cause for applause and sometimes firecrackers. For most of the kitemakers this is the first time and the only day they will see the culmination of their months of labor.
The next day we got the chance to make our own kites with Julio and then to fly them in the cemetery in the traditional celebration of the Day of the Dead on November 2nd. We also joined Julio’s family in eating lunch in the cemetery, one of the traditional activities honoring the dead on Nov. 2nd.