One of my favorite Ecuadorian traditions is called Año Viejo as a way of saying good-bye to the old year. Families create effigies or dolls (muñecos) that represent a family member, famous person, or a character, and then burn it at midnight to let go of the previous year. They can be made of old clothes, wood, paper maché, cardboard, and stuffed with sawdust, paper, dried leaves, and fireworks.
I know that this happens in other Latin American countries like Colombia, where a piece of each family member’s clothing is used to create the mannequin, but this is the first time I have actually made one. There are various legends as to how this tradition was started way back in the 1700s or 1800s (although several sources agree that it started in Ecuador) from burning bodies after a yellow fever epidemic to melding Ecuadorian and Spanish traditions around the Feast of St. Joseph.
However it started, I am already looking forward to making a larger, more complicated muñeco next year and possibly participating in Palmar’s own contest for the best one. Besides bragging rights, first prize earns $150 and many entrants spend months working on their contributions. The images above are from the local contest, run by our friend **Luis** and his uncle **Xavier**, who is Vice President of our town. My in-laws, **Steve** and **Susie** had a lot of fun clapping and cheering for our favorite muñeco that ended up earning second place.
When we were visiting Cuenca over the holidays, we saw a bunch of stuffed dolls awaiting their special moment on a balcony near where we were staying. The above right image was taken by our friend and fellow PCV **Cherith** in Guayaquil where the muñecos are larger than life!
The folks at Fundación Neo Juventud make dolls every year. Above, **Braulio** poses next to his twin and **Marcelo** works on his 2012 creation.
Above are two more examples of dolls from around Palmar. I still regret not taking a photo of the enormous dog outside of our Vet’s office or of the horizontal soccer player scoring a goal bicycle style (kicking the ball backwards over his own head) but I’ll be more prepared next year. All that remains now of these works of art are the photos, reminding us of how temporary and fleeting, yet precious, our time here is.
Stay tuned tomorrow for images of our very own Max muñeco.
Feliz Año Nuevo!