November is the month of kites at Lake Atitlán. Each year at Escuela Caracol the children look forward to making and flying their kites all over the town. They make them using a reed that grows naturally in the mountains and crate paper of different colors. Sometimes they even cook jocotes (our local fruit) and then use their pulp as a glue. Kite making helps to develop their sense of symmetry (without which the kites won’t fly!) as well as skills in practical geometry.
Kites are a long-standing and treasured tradition in Guatemala. Many places even hold kite festivals where groups come together to make and fly kites that approximate the size of a small plane! It is also a tradition with deep spiritual roots.
The tradition of flying kites in the cemeteries of Guatemala on the Day of the Dead dates back at least 111 years. During this special time of year, when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead is believed to be most porous, people attach hand-written messages to the tails of the kites. These messages are intended to reach the heavenly spirits when the kites ascend to the sky, letting them know that they are wanted and guiding them on their journey from heaven to earth. The kites test the winds and signal the spirits until four in the afternoon, when they are lowered and families gather at home to await the arrival of the souls.