Cuban Kites

Report and Photos from Will Tefft's Trip to Cuba in 1998
I had the good fortune to visit Havana after Thanksgiving last year and met up with a number of kite flyer/fighters there. During one of our walks around the old part of the city we met up with several small boys flying fighter kites.

These kites, or papalotes as they call them, are small, 12 1/2 inch high by 8 inch wide paper and wood fighters. 

These kites are six sided (almost rectangular) and are flown with a ten to twelve yard string tail with strips of cloth tied at one foot intervals.


I watched and helped these boys fly and after winning their trust, or attention, they led me off to visit a local kite maker. After winding our way through many streets, we ascended a flight of stone steps, then a substantial staircase, and finally a set of rickety wooden steps up to the home of the kite maker: Alexandro.

The boys introduced me to him and he brought out three of his best kites to sell. They are extremely well made, considering the materials that are available. After meeting his
family I invited him out to fly, but he didn't have any string!

String is apparently very hard to come by. The boys that I flew with jealouly guarded their's (usually thick cotton string like the kind newspapers are tied up with). Oh well!

Several days later I met up with some more kids flying in a local park. They let me fly and take photos. They instructed me in the art of adjusting the tail and bridle. Adjustments are made VERY subtly.  Any small change will alter the flight characteristics. These kites take a lot of practice. I managed to return to Santa Barbara with these fragile
beauties intact.

Will Tefft
Feb. 1999

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