We drove down a small side street in Guayaquil, the sidewalks littered with headless bodies and limbless torsos. Workshops on both sides of the street are dedicated to the construction of effigies, ordered up to a year in advance to be burned New Years Eve.
In most countries, New Year’s Eve is a night for celebration. Ecuador is unique by having a ceremony to say goodbye to the Old Year. Años Viejos (Old Years) is represented by various elaborate effigies. The idea is to represent some happening, activity or person that has resulted in a negative impact on the community or your own well being. If the current president isn’t popular, there will be many effigies. Smurfs, dinosaurs, and even movies such as Avatar have effigies representing them. If you are trying to improve your own life, the dummies are filled with letters or names of old boyfriends or girlfriends then burned to rid of evil or negative energy.
The effigies are beaten with sticks then hurled onto an enormous bonfire. There is loud cheering as the dummies burst into flames and sky rockets soar into the dark night tinged with red. So many effigies are being burned at midnight it appears as if the entire city of Guayaquil is burning.
Other rituals are performed for the health, wealth, prosperity and protection. Traditionally each person eats twelve grapes before midnight, making a wish with each grape. Yellow underwear is said to attract positive energies for the New Year. Finally, walking around the block with one’s suitcase will bring the person the journey of their dreams.
Misfortunes and bad memories of the past year are burned away, and the path clears for new hope and happiness. In this moment, resolutions for the New Year are made.
My trip was sponsored by Ecoventura, http://www.ecoventura.com and Hotel Oro Verde, Guayaquil, Ecuador.