New Year’s Eve in Quito, Ecuador

Life-size Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the cast of Star Wars and Captain America burning in the street—that’s who I spent my New Year’s Eve with in 2015.

I’ve never seen anything like January 31st in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. Much of the city dresses up in crazy costume. I met the Grim Reaper, clowns, and devils just to name a few. There were also several men dressed wearing wigs and dressed as women. A local explains they are the men whose wishes did not come true.  They can get pretty over-the-top and aggressive, so give them a tip and they’ll leave you alone.

The streets are lined with people selling dolls, called effigies, that appear to be made out of some sort of paper machete starting before noon.  The small ones are about a foot tall, and the big ones can be more than ten feet! They are hand painted to represent fictional characters most Americans know like Papa Smurf, Spiderman, and Shrek.  The owners of the dolls treat effigies the way the current year treated them.  If the person had a bad year, they beat the dolls and drag them through the streets, but no matter how the year was, everyone burns the dolls.

Throughout the evening and culminating at midnight there are bonfires across the city where people burn their dolls to smoke out the bad luck and bring them good luck in the upcoming year.  Once the fire is lit expect to see people (mostly men) jumping over the raring fires.

I joined thousands of others to count into 2015 in Foch Square where the fires were flaring on the ground and between lovers kissing in the streets.

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