November 1 is one of the most important dates in Guatemala. On November 1 Guatemalans go to the cemeteries to remember and honor their dead. Interesting enough by going to the cemeteries to engage with the departed ones, Guatemalans forge stronger relationships with the living ones and transmit the importance of remembering and honouring their dead.
In Guatemala we celebrate our dead on November 1 and 2 with food such as fiambre, sweets such as dulces de cabecera or header candies which are mostly fruits and vegetables boiled into a brown sugar syrup. Some of these sweets for these dates include ayote en dulce, chilacayote en miel, higos, et cetera. Kites and giant kites and flying them over the cemeteries are also part of the traditions.
If you’re not in Guatemala now, but would like to have some Guatemalan comfort foods, please pay a visit to AntiguaFC.com where Amanda can prepare a sweet combo and ship it to your home or office.
We are so very lucky to have the photographs taken by Nelo Mijangos and Geovin Morales in the cemetery today which give us an amazing overview of Día de Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day) and how Guatemalans also spent time with the family at the cemetery remembering their dead.
The two most important towns that have giant kite flying on Todos los santos, All Saints’ Day and Día de los difuntos, Day of the Dead, are Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez. However, both days are celebrated throughout Guatemala by going to the cemetery to remember the dead, to take flowers, to clean and paint the burial sites and crypts and to feast at the graves. That’s where the colorful fiambre chapin plays an important role since it is food that you can take already prepared to the cemetery and does not go bad for a long time. In the fiambre dish most of the vegetables are pickled and the meats are cold-cuts.
In the picture above, you can have a panoramic view of the cemetery of Sumpango. Below, there’s another video that shows what happens when a giant kite is not able to take off and fly. Enjoy!
Those of you, who have followed the daily updates of La Antigua Guatemala Daily Photo for a while, would know already how much I like to name certain entries with titles of films. If you look in the past 930 days, you would find the titles of some of my favorite films. Can you name some of the film titles I have borrow in the past?
Today, I was tempted to call the entry The Dark Knight, but I decided that The Kite Runner was a better fit. For those who have not seen The Kite Runner film yet, please do yourself a favor and get online right away and order it for your next netflix/blockbuster delivery. You will not regret it. Besides, watching the film The Kite Runner is much faster than actually reading the book (although, not as rewarding).
Answers to the questions in previous comments:
Cemeteries should be one of the monthly topics on the daily photo team, or has it been already?
No, I don’t think cemeteries has been a theme day. Thanks for suggesting it Manolo, I have already passed your request to the proper authorities .
There was a big procession through town [La Antigua] last night. Did you take pictures?
No, I did not take any pictures of it. We did see it from two blocks away though. Because of this procession, it took us the same amount of time to cross La Antigua Guatemala as it did to drive from Santiago Sacatepéquez to La Antigua. Go figure.
I’m curious about that graveyard, though. Why is it all bare earth, with no grass or plants?
Disparity and inequity follow Guatemalans to their resting grounds. The bare ground graves belong to the poor.
Looking hard at the pictures, it was hard to pick much detail about what type of materials were used, and construction methods?
All kite materials are natural. The glue is made from yucca flour mixed with pieces of lemon peel and water. Ropes used for kite strings are made from maguey, the plant from which tequila is extracted. Kite tails are made from woven cloth (to which people often attach hand-written messages to guide the spirits in their journey from heaven to earth). Woven stalks of castilla, a plant similar to wheat, form the frames of smaller kites, while the largest frames are made from the bamboo gathered on the coast.
Below, I decided to share with you, my dear visitors and commenters, other photos and a video clip as way to expand on the answers and to get a better idea about the celebrations around the Day of the Dead in Guatemala. Perhaps next year we will decide to take a trip to Todos los Santos Cuchumatán to learn about another way of celebrating the Día de todos los Santos (All Saints Day); please reserve your seats ahead of time, especially MO since the road this town would really make car-sick.
As always, click on the thumbnails to load a larger photograph:
Below a short video clip of some young Santiagueros running around to pull the Giant kite line (rope) to raise the kite higher and higher.
Here’s another quote taken from the article written by Ignacio Ochoa and published in Revue Magazine about the history of kite making in Santiago Sacatepéquez under the name of Messenges in the Wind.
At 4 a.m. on November 2, everyone moves toward the cemetery with candles so the spirits can return to their celestial home. The townspeople raise the giant kites one final time to guide the spirits back to heaven. Later that evening, the kites that were torn by the winds are burned inside the cemetery, the smoke showing the way back to heaven for any vagabond spirits. The surviving kites are exhibited in the local Catholic Church during a novena for the deceased, after that they are burned, and the ashes are buried in the cemetery, completing the annual ritual for the Day of the Dead in Santiago Sacatepéquez. (continue reading… )
Hello, hello is there anybody out there? Are there any comments or feedback regarding the giants kites?
Ignacio Ochoa has published a recent article about the history of kite making in Santiago Sacatepéquez under the name of Messenges in the Wind. Below the first paragraph of this wonderful article:
On November 1 and 2, a powerful force stirs in all the towns of Guatemala. Traditional markets are filled with flowers of sempa (orange marigolds), chrysanthemums, wild daisies and the smell of copal—a pre-Columbian incense made from pine resin. People clean family graves and adorn them with cut-out tissue paper called papel picado, wreaths of fresh flowers and candles. They also honor the dead with festive foods such as candied fruits, tamales and fiambre (a cold meat and vegetable dish prepared only at this time of year). These days mark the celebration of El día de los difuntos or the Day of the Dead, a very important festival throughout Guatemala, especially in the predominantly indigenous town of Santiago Sacatépequez, where it is the occasion for a unique kite-flying ritual of the Kakchiquel people, integrating the Catholic feast of All Saints with pre-Columbian Mayan practices of remembering the dead. The kites are made as a way to communicate with the dead, symbolically attracting the spirits to earth at this special time of the year, when family members, living and dead, are reunited. (continue reading… )
If you would like to have the following giant kite flying image as a wallpaper for you desktop or laptop computer, as always, just download the following photo (1200×900). You can click to thumbnail below to get a larger preview. Enjoy!
It is so peaceful to walk on the tree-lined cobblestone street with benches on the side in your way in or out of the San Lázaro Cemetery. I guess a visit to this cemetery could be a much needed break from the ‘hectic’ strolls around La Antigua Guatemala.
I want to thank Sompopo, Patsy Poor and MarieMc for suggesting a visit to the cemetery. It is time to wave goodbye to our dead and continue to document the lives of the living.
I better start saving... You advertise the country so well, ad I hope the Tourism Ministry pays you well! I have never been to your continent, but I know many Norwegians who are going there again and again. —Gunn
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