Heidi McKinnon

Heidi McKinnon (Association for the Integral Development of the Victims of Violence in the Verapaces, Maya Achí - ADIVIMA): Heidi holds a BA in anthropology and Spanish from the University of New Mexico and has worked with indigenous communities throughout Latin America since1997. Heidi worked at Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in the late 1990s. Heidi researched human rights and sovereignty issues in every region of Latin America as she was developing content for the permanent exhibits at NMAI. Her research led her to ADIVIMA and the Chixoy Dam, which she recommended for inclusion at the Museum.

Flying Kites for the Dead

14 Nov

When I arrived in Rabinal this September, I noticed that kite season had arrived along with me. It is no windier in September than any other time of the year, so I started asking questions and learned the poetic truth behind an innocent phenomenon.

All the children playing with their ‘barilletes’ in the afternoon these past two months have been calling in the spirits of their ancestors for All Saints Day. In the field near the cemetery on All Saints Day two weekends ago, kites were everywhere: big and small, ragged and plain, multicolored and fanciful. People spent the day praying, visiting and eating graveside in the cemetery in remembrance of their family members who have passed away. I will post a separate blog about Dia de Todos los Santos.

As I traveled to other affected communities, the kite story unfolded. Children everywhere know that September to November is kite season, but they don’t always have a sense of its significance. Boys and girls make their own kites out of flimsy, ripped plastic bags, papers or whatever is lying around. If they are lucky, they can purchase a really colorful paper kite at the local tienda.

Most afternoons in the villages, kids were running in front of me, toward me, and whizzing back and forth with valiant but rather dubious attempts at aeronautical engineering. It is clearly the thing to do before dark this season. I have often seen them floating about the neighborhood from the roof of my home in Rabinal.

In a Mayan community where death and life have such a fluid relationship, examples of the relevance of the years of genocide can be found often and unexpectedly. I now include kite flying on that list. Other towns in Guatemala, like Santiago Sacatepequez, have spectacular kite flying celebrations, but here in Rabinal, the tradition is far from being a spectacle, and is all the more ingratiating for its informality and simplicity.

Following are a few photos taken over the weeks leading up to All Saints Day. I only include a few because, even when one has a camera in hand, it is not so easy for me to capture a kite, or a child with a kite, in motion.

Areceli’s Son in Pacux

Two Friends near the Chixoy Dam

Kite Flying over a Church near the Chixoy River

Kite Flying near the Rabinal Cemetery on All Saints Day

Posted By Heidi McKinnon

Posted Nov 14th, 2008

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