Here in Albuquerque we are gearing up for one of our favorite local traditions, the 22nd Annual South Valley Dia De Los Muertos Marigold Parade and Celebration. The parade is a special celebration in which different groups within the community come together to honor those who have passed away. With this in mind, this week’s featured book is about a local tradition specific to a small village in Guatemala that takes place on Día de Los Muertos.
Barrilete: a Kite for the Day of the Dead/Un barrilete para el Día de los Muertos is written by Elisa Amado, and illustrated with photos by Joya Hairs (ages 5-9). It’s a bilingual children’s book illustrated with documentary photography. It is about the Guatemalan Day of the Dead tradition where people fly kites for ancestors who have passed away.
Here is a description of the book from Amazon:
In Guatemala, there is a village called Santiago Sacatepéquez. It is a very small but famous place because once a year, on the day of the Day of the Dead, the people of Santiago fly some of the biggest kites in the world. As large as seven meters (twenty-three feet) wide, they fill the sky over the cemetery with brilliant colors.
Juan and his brothers always helped their grandfather build the kite for the Day of the Dead. But their grandfather has recently died, and the boys must carry on the tradition on their own. This beautifully photographed book shows us the village of Santiago and tells us Juan’s story as he gathers the materials, builds the kite and, finally, flies it with this help of his friends.
We meet the protagonist, Juan, along with his family and friends as they prepare for Día de los Muertos. Juan wants to build a kite in honor of his grandfather who recently passed away, and he works to remember all the things his grandfather taught him about building a kite. We see the young boys go through each step of the process;: buying colored tissue paper from the market, cutting and pasting the paper to build upon a circular shape, choosing designs, testing the wind, building the frame, and attaching all the elements to make it fly.
On the morning of Día de los Muertos, Juan and his village carry their kites down to the cemetery where they will spend the day keeping their loved ones company. The time finally comes to fly the kites, and as Juan takes off running down the hill; his kite lifts up into the air.
The quote below is one of my favorites: “Juan can feel the wind in his hair and the kite’s flight in his hand. Abuelo must be up there soaring and dipping and turning, looking down on his village, his grandsons,flying the beautiful kite they have made.”
We get to see other Día de los Muertos preparations and traditions, including making tortillas from a fresh crop of corn and attending mass. The book is sporadically filled with images of natural landscape including an erupting volcano. These shots are accompanied by text that describes details of daily life, agriculture, and the change in season.
The use of photography in this book helps illustrate the narratives of children’s lives in Santiago. This book works as a great multicultural tool for students because it allows them to see into the daily lives of children in Guatemala. They get to see images from this village and watch how they prepare for their celebration. The book provides the means to broaden students’ awareness of local traditions and of life in Guatemala.
Check out these classroom resources for material handy for teaching about Guatemala’s local traditions of flying kites for Día de los Muertos:
–Learning about Guatemala through its kites: The giant kites of Guatemala– a lesson plan by the Drachen Foundation.
–Create Guatemalan kites for Day of the Dead!! -step by step instructions by The Living Arts and Science Center.
To learn more about Guatemalan local traditions of flying kites for Día de los Muertos, check out these references:
-An in-depth article from Cultural Survival.
-A first person account and blog post from Wandering Educators.
– For more beautiful images from the festival along with a video, check out this post from Oddity Central.
Images: Photos from Barrilete: a Kite for the Day of the Dead/Un barrilete para el Día de los Muertos. Photos by: Joya Hairs