Giant "Mandala" Kites of Guatemala, FERIA DEL BARRILETE GIGANTE, created from tissue paper

During our recent stopover in Guatemala we visited Antigua, the UNESCO World Heritage city. We were introduced to a cultural representative of Mayan descent. Our guide told her I am an artist, so when we asked for suggestions of interesting cultural experiences (other than Lake Atitlan, the Mayan pyramids and the ancient city of Antigua), right away she mentioned the “Feria del Barrilete Gigante”.
“It takes place some 15 kilometres north of Antigua, in Sumpango and in Santiago Sacatepequez every November 1. (In the Western tradition, All Saints Day, in Central America, it is the Dia de los Meurtos or Day of the Dead
People of Santiago Sacatepequez at tombs of loved ones

It’s a unique event where you see very colourful, spherical kites.  A special way of remembering loved ones who have gone, and ancestors.  Months of work go into the creation of the kites, constructed from vibrantly-coloured tissue paper and glued onto bamboo rods. Some of the kites are 3-4 metres in diameter.   
Segment of kite made from tissue paper - a "Mayan Kandinsky"
The images have a spiritual meaning with messages the villagers send to the departed ones. It’s taken very seriously and although most are adults, some even cry when their kite tumbles down, failing to deliver its message.”
It takes a whole village to build these kites. Men travel to the south coast of Guatemala to collect canes for spars; wire and rope hold the kites together. Groups of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepequez residents collaborate to make each kite. 
"The standard-size 3 metre in diameter kite takes up to 15 people months to design, create, and assemble, depending on how complicated the design is.
Segment of a 'spirit kite', another example of how these Mayan creations evoke the work of Kandinsky

The kites serve as a means to communicate with the spirit of the deceased, while at the same time also operating as a filter – removing any bad vibes that might exist in the cemeteries and in the sky.”  Houston Museum of Natural Science  
Upwards to visit the spirits of the ancestors
While families gather amongst the tombstones of their loved ones, high above the cemeteries, dashing through the sky, are the gigantic kites with their messages in vibrant colours.

Henri van Bentum