Perhaps the oldest and certainly the most notable New World kite tradition is that of the Barriletes Gigantes of Guatemala. These kites, flown during the Day of the Dead (more accurately translated for Guatemalans as Day of the Spirits) are direct links to ancestors’ spirits. Kites are flown by families at ancestors’ gravesites and families come together to eat, drink, and reminisce.
Kites in Guatemala may have pre-dated the arrival of Europeans and the Mayan word Papalotl (butterfly) is used today as the word for kite: papalote. The tradition of giant kites is a somewhat recent phenomenon, but the giant tissue-paper-and-bamboo creations have become a showcase of teamwork, artistry, and political speech.