Thursday, January 05, 2006

Goodbye to the old year

I am home from Ecuador. I had thought I might be able to keep up the blog from there, but slow, and hard-to-find, internet connections made it more frustrating than it was worth. There is so much to talk about and we took so many pictures that I think we will set up a separate blog about our trip.

We ended one year and started another on another continent, in another hemisphere. I like the way they do it in Ecuador.

On New Year's Eve each family gathers and they have made or bought an "ano viejo" which is a life-size doll that represents the old year. Some are made of paper mache, some are created by stuffing old clothes with sawdust. Paper mache masks, many of political figures, are sold to finish off the dolls. On New Years Eve day we saw them all over Cuenca, where we were visiting my son-in-law's family. Taxis had dolls tied onto their roofs, stores had them displayed on the sidewalks, homes displayed them in doorways or on balconies.

At the Molina home the figure was a dapper fellow, made of paper mache, with the face of a popular singer, who I think they had heard perhaps a little too much of in the past year. Many of the figures we saw around town had the face of Lucio Gutierrez, the past president of Ecuador that was forced out of office and sent packing earlier last year.

Just before midnight, we carried him out into the street where he was lighted on fire.

As the "old year" burned, fireworks were going off, loud music playing and folks were drinking, dancing and celebrating up and down the streets. At one point several children came running by carrying suitcases. The tradition says that if you wish to travel in the coming year, you pack a suitcase and run around the block with it as the New Year arrives. As the "old year" burns away, you can be sure to leave all that it represents behind by jumping over the burning "body".

And so you start the new year fresh, having destroyed the memory all the bad things that happened in the old year. I don't imagine that little bonfires up and down the streets and neighborhoods of American cities would be tolerated, but I have to tell you it was pretty cathartic.

P.S. Before I left I created my Christmas greeting and saved it as a draft to be published at just the right time. What I didn't realize is that when I published it, it would not appear at the top of the page, but in the order below, that it was first written, so you probably didn't see it. Sarah did see it and commented on the photo. My Dad took the photo of me on my first Christmas. I love the picture. I still have the doll.


  1. That's a GREAT New Year's tradition! How cool!!

    And you're right - I'd missed the Christmas photo and I'm glad you pointed it out. It's wonderful! can change the date something will appear by clicking at the bottom of your post create/edit page to show a drop-down menu where you can change the date.

  2. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Welcome home!! I saw that photo and thought "Where did that come from?" Now I know. It is a great photo.

  3. On the Bicentennial 4th of July, I climbed to the refugio on Cotopaxi (that's a volcano just outside of Quito) with my summer classmates and signed the register there. There was no coverage of the summer Olympics in Ecuador, so we basically missed them, but it was a fun summer. Visited Mitad del Mundo--the center of the earth, and stood with one foot in each hemisphere, and Cuenca, which is still one of the most lovely colonial cities I've seen anywhere on the earth. Went to Otavalo, famous for their textiles, arrived before dawn when the world was shades of gray and saw color come to the garments as the sun rose.

    In '88-90 we lived in La Paz, which is even higher than Quito---and where I was diagnosed with epilepsy, which in my case did *not* appreciate the altitude, so I won't be returning to either alas. There, they have a celebration called Alacitas that reminds me of your Ano Nuevo, and give offerings to Pacha Mama, the earth Mother. Folks buy small representations of whatever they hope for in the coming year...Bolivianos (local currency), US greenbacks (preferred, a more stable currency!), silver, babies, a truck, whatever.

    At any party, year round, when you are outside your first sip is offered to Pacha Mama (who comes from the Aymara culture, which pre-dates the Incas), so you tip your glass and drip beer, wine, whatever, to the earth.

    Now, time to crash for the night!