Ecuador has many interesting traditions that are much different from our traditions in North America; but some of my favorites occur during New Years.
The weirdness all started when Larry stopped off at a store to buy what was, for all practical purposes, a doll. The girls thought, “what the hell? Larry seemed so manly and normal before, but now he’s out shopping for a doll.”
Then then started seeing dolls all over Tena. They were tied to people’s cars, sitting on people’s front step, and seemingly normal people were carrying them around. So then the girls thought, “what the hell? I thought Ecuador was in Latin America were Machismo rules, and now almost EVERYONE is playing with dolls.”
Then it became clear–these weren’t dolls, they were Ano Viejos. An Ano Viejo is, bascially, a doll made out of regular clothes and stuffed with either saw dust or newspaper. They range in size from 2 feet tall, to 10 feet tall, and sport a variety of personalities.
People sell masks on the streets for the Ano Viejos and you can have your doll represent the likeness of a wide range of characters. For some reason, this year the smurfs and Bart Simpson seemed to be the most popular. In past years, George Bush has been a big hit. So, people start displaying their Ano Viejos usually around Jan. 30th. Then, on New Year’s Eve at midnight, the tradition is to burn your doll, with the idea that you are burning away the old year and starting fresh with the new year.
The next crazy tradition the girls (and JP) witnessed was the Viudas (or widows to those of us who speak English). This is a really funny custom and makes for some great laughs around town on New Year’s Eve.
The Viudas–Widows–are supposed to be the widows of the old year, so the widows of 2011. The idea is that, their husband–2011–has died and has left them penniless. With no pennies, a proper widow can’t have a proper New Year’s Eve celebration. So these widows block traffic and dance in the streets for the passing cars asking each of them to give money to the cause (yes, to the cause of a nice party on New Year’s Eve).
The best part about the whole thing is that we all paddled the Upper Misahualli River on New Year’s Eve. It was a fun and challenging creek for the crew and a perfect way to end 2011.
Hopefully it was a New Year’s that everyone will remember for a long time.
Enjoy the rest of the photos, and thanks to the Camp Merrie-Wood crew for giving SWA a fun end of the year!