Sumpango Giant Kite Festival: How To Spend An Unconventional Day Of The Death

Sumpango giant kite festival is a holiday celebrated in Guatemala as a demonstration of respect for the dead loved one. This special festival occurs yearly on the 1st of November in the small village of Sumpango, close to Antigua, Guatemala.

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During that period of the year, we were in Mexico and we were looking for an alternative to the very popular Mexican Day of the Death. Sumpango sounded like the best alternative to us.

While Mexicans celebrate with colorful skulls and skeletons, in Sumpango, people use giant kites to celebrate life over death.

According to Guatemalan culture, flying a kite is a way to honor and get closer to your lost loved ones. A way of communication between the living and the dead.
These huge and unique kites are made months in advance, cutting and pasting different colored paper to create priceless pieces of art, tied onto a bamboo frame. The kites often display important messages regarding love, caring for the environment and women’s rights. The kites vary in size from 2 to over 20 meters in diameter.

Sumpango giant kite festival is a competition. Kites are slotted into categories, according to their size. The smaller kites, up to 2/3 meters, get to fly first and are graded on design and actual flight time. The biggest kites are way too heavy to fly, they are just assembled on the ground and raised in a vertical position.

SUMPANGO GIANT FESTIVAL: HOW TO SPEND AN UNCONVENTIONAL DAY OF THE DEATH

WHERE IT IS

Sumpango is located just a few km away from Antigua. During the year it doesn’t have a lot to offer, but for this special occasion, it gets invaded by people. The first of November the town gathers together at the soccer field near the cemetery, to take part in the Sumpango giant kite festival.

HOW TO GET THERE

We had the opportunity to go to Sumpango by car. From Antigua is only a 35 minutes ride. Some buses are leaving from Antigua in direction to Sumpango, but we don’t have much information about it. Generally speaking, local buses leave from the main market in Antigua, so better ask around a couple of days before to schedule your trip.

WHAT TO EXPECT

First of all, probably you will see something very unique. The giant colorful kites of more than 20 mt high will brighten the view. It is really hard to express with words how beautiful these kites are.
Expect to find lots of people, be squeezed among the others and spend a lot of time queueing.
There is no entrance fee, so don’t trust people asking you money.
As always in South America food is not a problem. Street vendors are all around the soccer field and along the town’s road so it won’t be a problem to find something good to eat.

WHEN TO GO

To avoid the traffic jam and all the crowd we decided to leave Antigua in the morning. Of course, we weren’t the only ones there, but the morning is definitely the quietest moment of the day. Most of the crowd arrived in the afternoon around 3 pm, when we were ready to leave.
If you decide to go in the afternoon, consider to be stuck in the traffic for a while. Find a parking spot could be another issue.
Arriving too early is also not recommended too since it takes a while to lift all the giant kites.

WHAT TO BRING

November is the beginning of the dry season in Guatemala, so expect to find a sunny day. We suggest bringing a hat, sunblock, sunglasses and lots of water. Most of the time you will standstill, so we strongly recommend wearing comfy shoes.
Sumpango giant kite festival is unique, so don’t forget to bring your camera and snap as many pictures as possible.

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10 Replies to “Sumpango Giant Kite Festival: How To Spend An Unconventional Day Of The Death

  1. What a unique event. We have spent time in Europe watching how people honour the dead on 1 November in Italy and France, although its always a very dark day as opposed to a celebration. I love this approach and think it’s a great way to remember those who have died. Kx

    1. Latin Americans have a different perception of the death that is for us so fascinating. We really loved this celebration.

  2. What a unique and memorable event. The time and attention to detail it took to create such beautiful and massive kits is amazing. It reminds me of the floats in the Rose Parade here in the states. So much time taken to make something so beautiful for others to enjoy. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post.

    1. Thanks Lynnette for your comment, these people spend ove a year to create those amazing pieces. So incredible

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