Dia de Todos los Sants, Part 2: The Giant Kites of Sumpango, and Fiambre.

I cant seem to make my mind up about the weather these days. The rainy season this year was quite pathetic. I can’t remember even a handful of days with the torrential downpours which are characteristic Guate between June and October. This dry spout made things quite hot and steamy in the country, not to mention what it did to the poor agro workers. But it has been wanting to rain. You can feel it hanging in the air. Your clothes become damp and uncomfortably stick to you back. Anyway, I have been whining about the weather, that its too hot, that I want the winter to come so I can use my sweaters again.

Last week I sorta got my wish. It started raining, and there were rumors of global warming pushing back the raining season until November and that this was just the start. (Lies… I looked on the map and saw it was spin off from Hurricane Ida.) Now she’s died down a bit and its hot again. But for a few sweet days it was actually cold. One night I was miserably cold and wondered what I had been thinking. The cold brought on a new predicament for me: I can’t sleep without my industrial-strength fan. We live in a big city, so I need the fan to put me to sleep, and to drown out the noises of the cars passing at night, and the 3am deliveries at the gas station next door. So…the first night of cold — which required long pants, three layers of shirts, and an extra blanket to take the chill off — I unsuccessfully attempted to sleep without my fan. After two hours of tossing and turning and unable to ignore the speeding trucks, or the clanks over at the gas station, I ventured out of my covers into the crisp apartment to turn the fan on. I had to put the space heater on for an hour or so just to bring my body temperature back to 98.6ºF.

The next night was chilly but not as cold, and those following have started climbing back into the uncomfortably warm temperatures, where I barely can use a sheet.

So…I’ve bored you with discussions on the weather…but it’s all going to tie together now. November 1st, All Saints Day in Guatemala, was a perfect fall day by my standards. In the morning it was quite brisk, sweater worthy, but the sun was out and the sky was so blue it hurt your eyes. It was a very pleasant temperature. I was pleased to finally break out my sweaters for the first time of the year. I wore one that Hec refers to as my Grandma Sweater, which doesn’t deter me from wearing it because it is warm, fuzzy, and in my opinion cute. And on this fall-like day (which are rather few in Guate, so a rare treasure) we drove an hour and some west of the city, just far enough to reach the rolling hills, but not too far of a drive to make it tiring. The destination? The town of Sumpango.

On November 1st this tiny pueblo holds a famous a giant kite festival. People in this community spend months and thousands of dollars in materials and man labor building beautifully decorated kites more than 10 meters wide. The frame is constructed of giant bamboo branches thicker than my arm, and the face is made of colorful tissue paper. Each kite has its own theme, sometimes religious, somethings social criticizms, sometimes just really pretty.

We departed from our apartment around 7am and arrived a little after 8. The traffic was light on the highways, but even at this early time the parking space in the town was filling up rapidly. We parked in a basketball court, watching the attendants instructing cars to double park…we knew leaving might be a little difficult come the afternoon. But oh well…

We wandered around looking for giant kites soaring in the sky to guide us to the activities, but it was too early. We followed the crowds of people until we arrived at the cemetery. Indigenous families, ladino families, and tourists packed into the small cemetery. Families were painting the graves, sculpting mounds of dirt where there lacked a stone, carefully arranged flowers, and burned incense as they prayed. It was a spectacular sight.

Further into the village the streets were lined with vendors selling handicrafts, kites, and food.

Finally we arrived to the soccer field where teams were assembling their kites. While they had spent months working on the face, they would carry the materials to the camp and put it together on the morning. Watching the teams tie together the gargantuan branches, and then at the end hoisting the giant disk up for display, was quite an attraction. In a nearby field families were camped out, having bbqs, and flying their kites.

We only stayed to watch the first round of flying due to the intense heat of the unexpected afternoon sun. While they were the children’s kites, they were still larger than anything I’d seen in the US: on average they were 2 meters wide! It was quite a spectacle watching the kites soar, and sometimes dive into the crowds below.

Before we left, you better believe it, we had some yummy food. Abodado asado (grilled marinated steak) with beans, rice, and blue corn toritllas. These tortillas can’t be beat. I’m not crazy about meat, but this was spectacular…even if it made me a little sick the next day.

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