In August the winds blow in Cuzco. It is known as the month of wind and brings lots of fun. People fly kites. Flying them is a tradition and is a lot of fun. There are even competitions. Kids love the month of August. All we need are some bags, string, and scissors to make a kite or two and join with everyone else in the excitement and joy.
People have been flying kites during August in Cuzco for a long time. Parents take their kids to teach them to fly the kites and enjoy the wind in the afternoons just as their parents taught them.
Every year the winds come. In their whoosh and rush they not only bring this fun custom, they also remind us of our memories and lived experiences.
In indigenous Andean culture the wind, wayra, is very important. It comes from the sky like the energy of the world and even has been known to bring the rains which we need for crops to go. By flying kites, without overwhelming it with heavy thoughts, people are learning about this important force that circulates through the world and brings us so much good. And, in true indigenous form, they have a lot of fun.
Many people are forgetting about our traditional games at this time when video games and computer games are ever more important and keep so many kids inside glued to the screen. Games such as tops, toss, and other games are disappearing as kids no longer play them. It is sad.
But flying kites in August continues.
One of the best places to fly them is in the park around Sacsayhuaman, the great temple fortress complex above the city of Cuzco. From up there, where the walls zig zag like enormous bolts of lightning flashing in heavy stone across the land, you look out and see the whole city of Cuzco before you.
The great majority of Cusqueños prefer the open land of Sacsayhuaman by the ruins since it permits children to get their kites to take off and fly with out worry.
Children, teenagers, and adults all come together and practice sailing kites up to great heights in the wind. In fact, the goal is to get your kite to fly as high as you can. To do this people prepare beforehand. They bring with themselves everything that is important for the task. The more string they have the higher they can get their kite to fly.
When I asked a bunch of kids who had spent hours making their kites fly how high they had gotten, they responded with laughter that their kites had flown so high they had already arrived at Arequipa or Lima. All the other kids broke out in laughter. Then others said they lost their kites when they had gotten to such great heights and their cords broke due to the force of the wind at that altitude.
Besides making their own, people can also buy kites in the market or in toy stores or plastic stores in the City.
Brayan told us that when he would fly his kite, he would measure the direction of the wind by throwing a little dust in the air. The way the dust would blow told him in which direction he should start his kite flying.
Not only parents, but also all the schools of Cuzco spread this fun custom in the kids of Cuzco as a recreational activity. The teachers choose a weekend in August to take their students to open places where there are no electric wires nor posts so the kids can practice without any problems. Otherwise the kites would get all tangled up in the wires.
Playing with kites is so much fun for both kids and grown ups that each year it seems more people practice it.
Today’s kites are made of plastic and some sticks to stretch and hold them as if a bat. Then a long string is attached to the kite so that with the force of the wind it can rise up and gain a good height.
The best kites are not the store bought kind but the ones that kids make by hand, in my opinion. When we make our own kites we pay a lot of attention to detail, even though it is relatively easy to make a kite. One just has to have imagination.
There are many ways to make a kite. Among the most common are the kites in the form of an “h”, in the shape of a cross, and others. The important thing is that the kite have the least amount of wight possible so that it can rise high with the wind.
The material used is generally plastic, although some people make the kites of paper. Once you have the basic material for the kite you need some niwa, a plant with thin but strong sticks that can serve to stretch and sustain the plastic. Niwa hardly has any weight at all and it grows on the edges of the city. One also needs the plastic bags tied together that serve as a tail so that the kite can keep its equilibrium and soar high up.
Flying kites is a game that kids enjoy. It draws them and makes them feel lots of emotions. Let’s hope that in what is left of this years August, and next year, with its winds, that we can keep alive and have a lot of fun with this tradition that means so much to Cuzco.