Flying High: Kids & Kites

Surely no one thinks of kid’s toys when they think of Brazil, but one in particular is omnipresent here. It’s called the pipa (kite) and it’s known by many other names which I’ll list at the bottom. Even in a global culture of television and video games, Brazilian kids go crazy for kite-flying.

Kites were being used as far back as 550AD in China where they served for military purposes such as sending covert messages depending on the kite’s color and movements. In Brazil, they arrived along with the Portuguese settlers and they’ve been really popular ever since.

Growing up in the States, I only have a faint memory or two of playing with kites. The best I remember, we’d buy a kite kit that included the kite, sticks, and string (on a roll). After a running start, the kite was airborne and the wind did the rest. There was pretty much nothing else to it. The fun was in making something fly and letting the wind unroll the string.

In Brazil, it’s a whole other thing entirely. Of course, there are kites that can be bought pre-assembled but most kids seem to put them together piece by piece, almost as if there were a science to it all (who knows, maybe there is). There are even those in the interior who make their own glue out of a mix of farinha and water.

Flying kites can either be a solo activity or a social activity. When it’s social, the ‘name of the game’ is to take out the other person’s kite by wrapping your line around their line and taking their kite down. One rather easy way of doing this is by spreading a glue and (broken) glass mixture called cerol onto the kite line while the other way is to put something sharp on the kite tail itself.

There are dangers that come with the cerol mix, though, most notably when the kite line falls across the path of motorcyclists, bicyclists or other such people. Motorcycles sometimes come with an antena just for the purpose of cutting kite lines before they cut the driver.

Dangers aside, I don’t see a time when kites will go out of fashion. I think the joy found in flying them is telling of Brazil and the general culture here. Life can be complicated enough and so when there’s a moment to be free from your troubles, you grab ahold of it and leave the rest to the wind.

Kite Names
•    Amazonas – Cangula, Guinador, Frade, Curica and Estrela
•    Ceará – Barril, Bolacha, Cangulo, Estrela and Pecapara
•    Rio de Janeiro – Cafifa, Laçadeira, Estilão, Gaivota, Marimba, Pião, Modelo, Quadrado and Carambola
•    Maranhão – Jamanta (large) and Curica (small)
•    Pernambuco – Camelo and Gamelo
•    Rio Grande do Norte – Coruja
•    Minas Gerais – Frecha, Catita, Quadra and Lampião
•    São Paulo – Rainha, Peixinho, Quadrado, Quadrada, Quadradinha and Índio
•    Pará – Maranhoto, Curica, Pote, Guinador and Cangula
•    Rio Grande do Sul – Pandorga, Churrasco, Barrilete, Arco, Estrela, Caixão, Bidê, Bandeja and Navio
•    Santa Catarina – Papagaio and Barrilote

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10 thoughts on “Flying High: Kids & Kites

  1. Hi Adam,
    I liked the post. It’s true that lost of kids fly kites here, but I sensed a tone of generalization here. Kites are flown by kids from the lower classes. Kids from middle and upper classes don’t fly kites. Not most of them. If the post were about soccer, that would be right. Brazilian kids play soccer, and there is no exception to it.
    Another thing that sounded a little strange to me was when you said that most kites are assembled together. Well, maybe it’s a regional thing. Not sure about this, but in Rio, at least, most kites are bought assembled. I did assembled one ot two kites when I was kid, but the norm was bying them ready to fly.

  2. Hi Adam,

    How nice that some Brazilian kids are still playing with pipas the same way I did in my childhood! Back then, I used to assemble my own “pipas” with the neighborhood friends using sticks, “cola de farinha” and “papel de seda”. I have noticed that the everyday folks in Brazil are the ones who are keeping Brazilian culture and folklore alive and well. Look at the richness of the Cultura Caipira of today for example.

    Bye now, abraço,

    • We have the name Arraia in Rio, too. Here arraia is a type of kite without the rabiola (no idea how to say that in English).

  3. Pingback: A Kite That Started it All | Hip Hop, Hutongs & Havaianas

  4. Great post, depicts a poetic form of the practice in Brazil Kite!
    Still has many places that prance kites here in Brazil, I’m from Sao Paulo, but I’ve been in Rio de Janeiro and Chile to cram Pipas, and I see that is a regional issue and according to the passing of the years for other Casks places but always surround the universe of Brazilians!

    Here in São Paulo, in many neighborhoods have Pipas, and weekends people from all walks of life gather in camps designed to cut barrels and make friends!

    Congratulations and would like to replicate the content on my blog with due credit, I do that?
    saopaulopipas.wordpress.com

    Hugs Caio

  5. Pingback: O Olhar de um gringo sobre as Pipas no Brasil « Blog de pipas

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