Happy New Year from Quito!
Vietnam had some pretty strange moments, but it turns out the usually subdued Quito trumps Hanoi at New Year for sheer quirkiness. It began shortly after Christmas when I started spotting brightly coloured paper mache superheros and cartoon characters at street corners and being transported on cars. Tala was very perplexed about this….
As New Year approached, more and more life-sized stuffed effigies of men began to appear. Sometimes they just assumed the role where there should have been a real person e.g. the guard below.
The figures are called ‘monigotes’ and are part of the tradition of burning things from the previous year to symbolize a cleansing process for the New Year ahead. What is strange though is that the effigies range from cartoon characters to politicians to even the Pope. One person said that when he married into an Ecuadorean family they burned an effigy of him! Things can be good or bad – hence the Pope who visited last year (good) or Cotopaxi erupting (bad of course). People started burning the effigies in the streets in the afternoon. Jumping over the flames is said to bring good luck. Apparently this practice is unique to Ecuador.
As the sun began to set on New Year’s eve, ‘viudas’, or widows of the previous year, appeared in the form of young men dressed as women. They run around drunkenly in groups stopping traffic and demanding money to let the cars pass. It is quite an extraordinary sight!
There were of course chiva buses too. This is another Ecuadorean tradition, essentially open sided buses which drive around with very loud music while the people dance and drink – a mobile nightclub.
Happy New Year from Quito – a city that seems to love to party and I look forward to exploring more in 2016!