Bags of labor, love and elbow grease went into the creation of the giant barriletes in Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala during the months leading up to and on All Saints Day or El Dia de Todos Los Santos on the first of November. Here are a few photos of the workers on the day.
Santiago Sacatepequez Cemetery
Carrying a folded barrilete to the cemetery.
Waiting for flight.
Boys with a barrilete line.
Man and machete.
Holding the lines and waiting.
Raising a giant barrilete.
Checking out the work.
Holding the lines. Close-up.
On a tomb top preparing to fly a barrilete.
More elbow grease.
Working together to raise a giant barrilete.
In Guatemala, All Saints Day or El Dia de Todos Los Santos on the first of November, is a festive day to visit, celebrate and honor the dead. People arrive early at cemeteries to clean family tombs then repaint and decorate them with flowers. They picnic by the graves, fly their handmade barriletes and in Santiago Sacatepequez, watch and cheer or join in the raising of the giants.
Santiago Sacatepequez Cemetery
People climb to the top of family tombs for a view of the cemetery and to fly their barriletes. This is the one day of the year when clambering over, sitting and standing on the graves and tombstones doesn’t offend.
Perched on a grave flying a barrilete.
A huge ball of string to fly a barrilete.
Families sitting on tombs eating ice cream with rows of newly dug graves behind them.
Flying barriletes from the tomb tops.
Trash amidst the trampled graves.
Ice cream seller.
Raising a giant barrilete among the graves.
Heavily armed police patrol the cemetery.
The first of November in Guatemala is El Dia de Todos Los Santos or All Saints Day and is the official festival of kites. They believe that the barriletes soar up to the spirits of deceased relatives and deliver messages from the living and that the sound of the wind blowing against the airborne kites keeps the evil spirits away allowing the deceased to rest in peace.
Santiago Sacatepequez is one of the places where it’s celebrated on a truly grand scale and thousands flood into the cemetery on this day to watch the exhibition unfold.
Giant barrilete bearing the name Santiago Sacatepequez.
Here, the barriletes are a super race of kites, like something from a fantasy land. They are brightly colored, oversized, circular giants of elaborate tissue paper mosaics on a bamboo framework, bound together with rope and wire and up to 20 meters across.
Rear view of the barriletes showing bamboo framework.
Groups compete to produce the most incredible works of art and judges assess them on size, color, creativity and originality. These jumbo kites usually depict religious, cultural, social, political or ecological themes.
Another with ecological theme.
Close-up of a barrilete with a folkloric theme based on Guatemalan legends. El Cadejo is a mythical dog that is said to protect drunkards and wanderers at night.
Barriletes are expensive to produce and the workmanship is painstaking and time-consuming, taking months to dream up and create.
A smaller barrilete.
Trying to resurrect a fallen giant using ropes and bamboo poles.
This one didn’t make it.
Raising another giant.
Close-up of bamboo framework.
Team working together to raise a jumbo barrilete using ropes.
Everyone running to avoid the falling barrilete. One crashed down on stone graves trapping people under it but everyone rushed to frantically raise it and help those beneath. Miraculously no-one was hurt.
Crashed and destroyed, dashing the hopes of the team.
Another being raised.
The top of a barrilete before it’s raised.
A team takes a break on the bamboo framework. Thousands of people swamp the cemetery, perching on family tombs to fly kites or get a good view of the spectacle. This is the one day of the year when people climb, sit or stand on graves without causing offense.
Working together. Most of the teams are made up of young men.
The triumphant and the fallen.
Trying to fly a smaller barrilete from the roof of a family tomb.
Looking through the wreckage at a family sitting on a grave.
Completely broken. Barrilete and team.