Sun 1 Nov 09 - Sun 1 Nov 09 70 °F
November 1st is known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls' Day in many Latin American countries. In Guatemala some cities hold major celebrations. Santiago is one of them. People gather in the main cemetery in the city, build giant kites and fly them in the cemetery. I headed to Santiago with a few friends early morning. And by early I mean early that I didn't even have a chance to grab breakfast. An hour later we're in Santiago. The driver stops right around the corner from the main street leading to the cemetery. We walk to the main street and the first thing I see was Fri-Pollo. I've had many discussions bout fried chicken with my teacher. All started when I asked about Pollo Campero which is everywhere in Guate. Turns out that Pollo Campero used to have the best fried chicken in Guate until they switched over from organic locally grown chicken to industrial hormone-grown ones. According to my teacher this is when Pollo Campero lost it's popularity with some people. The chicken tasted different. So now some people prefer Fri-Pollo and other smaller ones. Well for the sake of research I decided to have 2 pieces of fried chicken and fries for breakfast from Fri-Pollo. One of the best breakfasts I've had since I got there!
We continued up the street and saw tons of arts and crafts vendors on the side and many food stands. Some looked very good and some looked pretty dirty with flies everywhere. And just as we reached the cemetery there were guys dressed in blue and red, Domino's Pizza! It was very strange seeing Domino's there. It just didn't fit in with the rest.
Just outside the cemetery entrance there was a large kite propped up where you can stand in front of it and take a picture with it. The kite was so beautifully decorated with many colors, images and symbols. This is me pretending to fly one.
As we stepped in we saw a ton of people in the cemetery. There were so many kites in all different sizes. There were six gigantic kites made out of bamboo frame. We got there when they were making them. Once they were done making them they hoisted them up and the sight of these kites standing up was amazing.
Throughout the day baby kites and bigger kites were flying everywhere. The bigger ones were more of a challenge. A few kids hold the kite up and others run with the rope through the crowd and stepping on tombs along the way. It didn't seem quite respectful of the dead but I suppose the entire celebration was to honor the dead. Some of these tombs were beautifully decorated with yellow flowers. And some were used as diaper trays!
Some of these kites take off and a minute or two later come crashing down onto people. You can always tell there's a kite that's about to crash the minute you hear everyone hold their breath and then you hear and see a scurry of people running for dear life. I decided to go near where the action was happening and as expected one kite almost crashed onto us and I had to run for dear life. FUN!
Unfortunately the wind wasn't strong enough to fly the giant kites. It was kinda confusing because once you see these kites in real life you cannot imagine how they could fly. We weren't sure if they actually fly them or not but then some people were saying that they have seen them flown on TV so who knows!
We then decided to do what the locals do. Climb one of those tomb structures and hang out at the top to watch everything that's going on. A Guatemalan was having a difficult time flying her kite so she decided to give it to me. After a few failed attempts I managed to fly it so I joined in on the action.
A few hours later we were all hungry so we called it a day and headed back to the main street. The street was so packed with people and it was pretty difficult to get through. We found a place on the side with a grill facing the street so you can see what they're serving. Grilled meat, SOLD! At that point the flies covering the meat didn't even matter. I went to the bathroom before we got our food and right next to the bathroom there was the sink where they wash the dishes. Two big buckets; a sink with soap water and a second with "clean" water. Dunk, dunk, wipe and the plate is good to go!