School girl in Panajachel, Guatemala, selling fabrics. She says "Why don't you buy my stuff?" I gave her a little Australian flag.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Author:  Allan Taylor     This article was first added 19 years ago to the Travel site "BootsnAll"; now I have added it to my Travel Blog "Rolling Stone" 4th July 2018 as it has important political significance to Australia.

Burning Away Misfortunes…..Ecuador
By Allan Taylor
New Year’s Eve is always a night for celebration. In most countries people celebrate the coming of the New Year.  Ecuador is unique by having a ceremony to say goodbye to the Old Year.  All throughout the country on the 31st of December, young people and old go to extraordinary efforts to maintain one of the magical traditions of Ecuador.

Symbolism is rife. The Old Year, or “Ano Viejo” is represented by various creations. A model house is made of branches and burnt to ashes. Life-size dummies, akin to our Guy Fawkes, made of sawdust and dressed in old clothes, are sold in the streets. Ornate masks are sold for adornment of the dummies.

The idea is to represent some happening, activity, or person, that has resulted in a negative impact on the community, or your well-being. Often this is a politician, judge, army leader etc, whose actions you disapprove of. The appropriate mask is worn by the dummy. A controversial political happening may be the subject of a very elaborate construction, which is put to the torch at midnight. What a great idea for Australia!

The creativity of the people is encouraged by having a competition for the best effort. In Cuenca, where I was, the Amistad Club and Azuy Union of Journalists organise such competition. You have to register your creation and explain what or who it represents and detail why public notice should be focused thereon. A jury of Club members commences its tour of exhibits at 4pm and deliberates over events. Prizes are given. What a rich feed stock for newspapers the next day!

The final day of the Old Year is lots of fun. Young people dress up as widows, witches and skeletons, etc, symbolic of the Old Year. They stop cars in the street and beg for a donation, which I suspect goes to buy fireworks. I approached a group of kids in fancy dress on a Cuenca street and admired their dummy.

“This is the President of Ecuador” they inform me proudly. “Can I take a photo of him?” I ask, slipping a few thousand sucres into an outstretched hand.

I admired a fancy procession of floats with pretty girls on horseback, that stopped briefly at a church for a blessing. Towards dusk, the centre of town around San Francisco Church and the market is blocked off to vehicular traffic. From the balcony of my room in Hotel Milan, I watched in amazement as people stacked wood for bonfires in the middle of the street. The quantity of rockets and bangers available was enough to start a revolution. I pondered over events, safe in my hotel eyrie, camera at the ready, fortified with rum and Coke, watching all these preparations for who knows what?

Periodically I ventured down to street level for an empanada, and to see what was going on. Close to midnight the groups in the plaza below lit their bonfires. Sparks were flying from a particularly big construction one block away. I watched them beat the dummies with sticks and then hurl them onto the bonfire. There was great cheering and revelry as the dummies burst into flames and sky rockets soared into the night.

The outcome of the burning is that it releases a great euphoria. Misfortunes and bad memories of the past year are burned away. There is a purification of one’s thoughts. The path ahead is made clear for new hope and happiness. In this moment, resolutions for the New Year are made. The old year has gone. There is hugging and kissing and tears. The celebration of the Old Year in Ecuador is a wonderful tradition and truly a magical event not to be missed.
Regards from Allano

Handling the dummies for sale.

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