Cuenca is a beautiful colonial town in Ecuador. We decided to celebrate New Years Eve here and we didn't regret it - we actually had a blast!
We got drunk with some locals, burned lots of rag dolls on the streets, jumped over the fire and danced around it with lots of drunk Ecuadorians in a crazy pandemonium.
The tradition in Ecuador obviously is different to Europe or the US.
For one, there is the tradition of burning rag dolls on the streets. The custom is alive in many countries of Latin America, from Mexico to Uruguay, but it seems to be deep-rooted in Ecuador and some regions of Colombia and Venezuela.
In Ecuador the tradition goes back to 1895, when an epidemic of yellow fever raged in the country. On the last day of the year the clothes of dead family members were stuffed with straw and the puppet was burned to scare off the plaque.
Weeks before New Years Eve people create their rag dolls - called Año Viejo, old year - using card board, paint, clothes - and fireworks as a surprise.
They caricature specific events in the old year, especially negative ones related to politics or sports and they often resemble persons like politicians, celebrities, superheroes or ...yourself.
The dolls accompany their creators for a few weeks - some even fix them on their car.
On New Years Eve the rag dolls are burned on the streets and with it all bad things, that happened in the old year end up in smoke. To forget those things, people write them on a piece of paper and burn it with the dolls.
We joined the party on a market place in Cuenca. A band was playing and large groups of people had gathered. They all had come well equipped with home-made hot liquor and wagon loads of beer and the effects were already noticeable.
Then they counted down the seconds, lead by the band.
The rag dolls were dragged to the streets and soon fires were surging.
Spontaneously we also wrote down the things we wanted to forget and let them go up in flames. Then we jumped over the fire, happy that no hidden fireworks exploded that minute. :-D It is said, that your wishes for the new year will come true, if you land safely and unburnt on the other side. If not, well…
And yes, that's me. Really.
Later we got to know 2 guys that proudly told us that they are the uncle and cousin of Leo Rojas, who won the TV Show Supertalent 2011 in Germany with a great lead, released many records already and lives in Berlin. It’s a small world. They shared their wagon load of beer with us and we talked and laughed a lot.
We passed the time dancing around the fire with all the other maniacs. 3 lines moving in opposite directions. And if anyone turns around, the whole line needs to turn around according to an unwritten law - resulting in a pandemonium of confused, laughing, drunk people.
As we went home through dark alleys stepping over the ashes of to-be-forgotten things we got pretty silent, letting the events of the evening and the last year pass our minds once more and taking in the peaceful atmosphere.
We fell into bed, slept too short and woke up with a hell of a hangover but a smile on our faces.
That’s how it should be, I guess.