Happy New Year From Loja

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24In Ecuador they celebrate the new year by burning effigies and dressing up with costumes and masks. The most popular costume is young men dressing as old women akin to Mardi Gras and Halloween in the US. The effigies are made from cardboard and paper mâché. They are then dressed in old clothes and placed in doorways and in front of businesses throughout the city.

The effigy dolls or “munecos” all wait patiently to be burned at midnight. Some are as tall as fifteen feet. The celebration is a smaller version of the Burning Man celebration in the United States. I would wager this is where the concept of the burning man came from. The muneocs are sometimes made of political figures or people you do not like but most buy dolls of cartoon characters to burn if they have no enemies. The dolls are filled with sawdust and fire crackers and are burned in the streets at midnight or before once the partying gets started. The term “años viejos” is used to represent the old year. The burning of the munecos is representative of burning the bad and misfortune of the previous year.

Another tradition, I learned rather embarrassingly at the market today. You are to wear yellow underwear if you want prosperity and money to come into your life and red if you want to bring sex and love into your life. So when the young lady at the market asked me “qué color vas vestida?” following a conversation she had with the lady in front of me at which I laughed. I responded in my best broken Spanish, “No uso ropa interior de color.” She started laughing out loud and told the other checkout people what I said. Then they and the customers within earshot all started laughing and pointing to that crazy gringo in the checkout lane. Well, at least I will be remembered now whenever I go to the SuperMaxi market.

It is early in the afternoon and the celebrations have already started.The fireworks are going off. The dogs are going crazy and the music can be heard all across town. I can’t wait for the burning of the munecos to start. I hope I can stay up till  midnight.

“Feliz Años Viejo”