In the Guatemalan cities of Sumpango and Santiago Sacatepéquez, mourners visiting loved ones in the cemetery during their Day of the Dead celebration aren’t content to bring flowers. They spend weeks creating elaborate, airborne kites and inflatables in honor of those who have died.
Every November 1, locals create buoyant tributes to the dead out of rice, bamboo support structures, and cloth tapestries, tying messages of tribute before holding them aloft. It can take up to 20 people to send one of the massive creations into the sky. The largest usually sit as monuments; others are able to catch wind and glide upward. Some who celebrate the day believe that when a kite is able to drift further away, the message it carries gets closer to Heaven.
Kite-building takes anywhere from 40 days to five months, with locals sourcing as much of the materials from nature as possible. To keep them light, tissue paper is used for exteriors. The largest can reach 57 feet in diameter, and groups who create the most inventive kite are awarded a monetary prize for their efforts.