Friday 1 November 2019

Día de Muertos

Sumpango hosts this most unusual annual celebration on All Saint's Day, a glorious celebration and remembrance service, with kite flying all rolled into one huge event, attracting over 120,000 visitors. The original purpose of the kite flying was to help the dead leave the underworld without pain or being disturbed by evil spirits.  For most though today, it is about building and displaying the enormous kites (Barriletes Gigantes) that are displayed at one end of a football ground. For some though it is a sombre day, particularly for newly bereaved families gathering around the grave of a loved grandparent or lost child.

The short messages on the kites, believed to be heard by dead have become more earth-centric over time,  this year the largely colourful messages urging conservation of the planet or environment as, on the road below, plumes of black smoke from tired old diesel engines wafted up towards the kite displays.

Arriving in Sumpango each car, minivan or bus has to deposit their passengers on the dual-carriageway of the Pan American highway, leading to long traffic jams and noisy whistles as vehicles are moved on as fast as they can disgorge their passengers.  Climbing a steep muddy road towards the centre of action ones senses are assaulted from all directions by food, more food and yet more colourful food. If only we had not had breakfast.  A conveniently placed football pitch with small stands provides the main arena for kite flying where the larger kites could be seen being lifted into position while smaller kites whirled around above our heads.

Lifting the kites was no mean feat and not always successful.

Each kite is prepared by a team. In this case, an all women’s team.

A terse announcement that 2-metre kites could not fly and from within the crowd these kites started flying above our heads.  From each kite bamboo poles were pointing out in every direction; not always with good results as the kites nose-dived into the crowd.  A family with small children came within inches of disaster as this kite took a sudden dive into the crowds.

Below the football field the scene was rather more traditional and, whilst colourful and musical, more sombre in nature with a few small kites fluttering above the crowds and small family groups gathered to respect their lost loved ones.

With the graveyard looking more like a village.

and family groups gathered to remember their relatives

Colourful food though seemed to be the most important part of the day.

So next year, why not start a local kite building tradition, its a lot more fun than trick or treat.

No comments: