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Monday, 30 April 2012

Sumpango Festival, Guatemala - Page 2

Written by Sophia Efthymiou
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In the main show, starting with the small kites, the crowd awaits anxiously to see them fly. Steady hums of cheer from the audience fill the silence as hopefuls are given three attempts to get their kite soaring. The ambience is thrilling, especially as the kites get larger and heavier. Many of the giant kites are made for the design competition rather than for flying, that is if they survive the forces of Mother Nature throughout the evening.

The other tradition that differentiates the Guatemalan celebration from any other is the dish ‘Fiambre’. The belief is that we must keep the dead satisfied. Family devotion is sustained in the form of cooking Fiambre, a cold salad combining many ingredients of their choice and leaving it by the loved one’s grave. Originally they used the relative’s favorite foods but common ones are maize corn, eggs and cold meats. Tread carefully if you visit the cemetery, which is a short but stimulating walk from the kite field. After you turn the first corner, immediately space is at a premium down the narrow cobbled streets. Lined with market stalls, the pace slows down but this allows you to marvel at the trinkets, the fabrics and the distinctive handmade jewelry on offer. If spending more money doesn’t interest you, the sound of the sellers’ cries or the rugged but also quite angelic busking music will. I’m pretty sure the acoustic guitar duo that I heard were just jamming in their front yard, to the visitors’ content.

In the cemetery some graves are small yet colorful, while others are embellished to the point of resembling small houses with larger crosses, more flowers and even patio features. Families bring feasts and spend the day picnic-style celebrating the lives of the dead together.

The festival has a positive atmosphere and is carnival-esque at times, nonetheless it’s still a sensitive occasion. It is a day for the locals (and thankfully hasn't been developed into a tourist trap!); one that is a very important part of their religion and ancient tradition. It will certainly enrich anyone’s visit should they have the chance to witness it.

©Sophia Efthymiou

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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