Every year, on November 1st, el Día de Todos Santos (All-Saints Day), a festival is held in the town of Sumpango, Sacatepéquez, located between San Lucas Sacatepéquez and Chimaltenango on the Pan-merican highway. People from all over the Guatemala, in addition to countries around the world, flock to Sumpango to behold the spectacle that is the Festival de Barriletes Gigantes (Giant Kite Festival). People gather in a field beside the cemetery to see hundreds of massive kites, ranging in diameter from 1 to 30 meters, made entirely from colored crepe paper, bamboo, and string. Barrileteros, or kite makers, spend months preparing for the festival, and receive no monetary compensation for their work. These groups are incredibly secretive, revealing each year’s design to no one outside their team. Often times only a select few team members are let in on the entire design – the rest simply follow orders.
The kites on display at this festival are incredible works of art. At the end of the afternoon, participants attempt to fly the smaller kites over a large field crammed with people. While the 30-meter monsters stay put, the bamboo-lined kites that take flight usually only stay airborne briefly. When they come back to earth, onlookers scamper to get out of the way. The sun setting behind the kites’ brilliant colors never fails to be an incredible sight.
If you are in the area on November 1st, you won’t forgive yourself if you miss this incredible event. Both Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez participate in the kite-making, but Sumpango’s festivities are usually larger and more organized. To get here from Antigua, take a bus from the Antigua terminal to Chimaltenango. From there, you can take any capital-bound bus back east and get off at the turn-off for Sumpango or Santiago. Don’t worry, so many people will be heading to Sumpango that you can just follow the crowd. Check out the guide for more information on this spectacular event!
Photo Credit: Luis Llovera Ramirez