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Heaps of burning bodies, the smell of gun powder, men in drag, rockets in air: It’s Happy New Year’s in Cuenca

After about the two o’clock this morning, the streets of Cuenca were still full of people but the party-goers of a few hours earlier had mostly been replaced by a thousand sanitation workers. As has been the case following other recent New Year’s mornings, it’s all hands on board for the city in cleaning up the aftermath of the night before.

“Widows” (men in drag) begged for change.

Only hours before, the streets of Cuenca thronged with last-minute shoppers buying monigotes, or New Year’s dummies, and masks at formal and informal sales stations all over town. There were the traditional “widows,” or men in drag, manning rope lines, stopping cars on city streets, begging for spare change.

There were new entries in this year’s monigote masks, including Donald Trump and Lenin Moreno, heir apparent to President Rafael Correa being the most prominent. And there were plenty of the old standards such as Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, Correa and Vice President Jorge Glas.

Ready to party.

After dark, the streets, many of them blocked off for neighborhood parties, were will filled with revelers. A few daring revelers jumped over burning dummies three times for good luck in 2017. Those who didn’t clear the flames will not have good luck.

As the clock approached and passed midnight, all hell broke loose. The sky was filled with rockets and the streets with fire, as piles of dummies incinerated. Everywhere, the smoke smoke hung thick and acrid. Everywhere there was chaos. Friends and strangers embraced.

Think Danté’s hell. Think Mad Max. Think Happy New Year in Cuenca!

The scene at midnight.

8 thoughts on “Heaps of burning bodies, the smell of gun powder, men in drag, rockets in air: It’s Happy New Year’s in Cuenca

  1. Our nietas would be horrified and cry if they had seen Minnie Mouse, a favorite, being burned. What is the point of this, and the widow thing?

    1. The history is this:

      The year that is about to end was represented as an ” poor old man” about to pass. The wife, who could not afford the funeral would go out to the streets and beg people to help bury her husband.

      People would make a “house” for the ”old man” to come visit, say good bye and contribute to the burial.

      Also the “old man” “dummie” “monigote” represents the bad things that happened in the year. People would take their stress out on him: Kicking him, burning him. The monigote could be made with almost anything that burns, from wood to fabric (old clothes)

        1. Those are for the kids and sometimes they are not burned. Sometimes kids keeps them for long time and sometimes they use them as piggy banks.

  2. Thank you CHL (& Virginia W) for explaining the basic concepts behind the “fiestas del fin de ano” (as our condo bldg phrased it). As we walked from Tres Puentes to downtown to see festivities, we saw young men dressed as women and just smiled. Nice to have the cultural context.

    I wish you had reported on the display of art & commentary in Barrio El Vado. Wonderfully expressive artwork — mostly of animals commenting on their relationship with humans — and political commentary. Perhaps next year?

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