Burn, Baby, Burn

or “New Year’s Eve in Cuenca”

The post Christmas lull did not last long here in Cuenca.  Although the Pase del Niño parades continue, immediately after Christmas, Cuencanos turn their minds and preparations to the next big celebration:  Año Viejo (Old Year) or New Year’s Eve to the northern folk.  Vendors set up booths and rotate their stock from Christmas cards, decorations, and sweets to fireworks, yellow and red underwear, grapes, masks and Año Viejo dummies, also called monigotes.  All of Ecuador celebrates  Año Viejo but rumor has it Cuenca has developed the practice into a pyrotechnic, incendiary, cacophonous art form.

Hundreds of bodies and masks to mix and match your perfect monigote!
Hundreds of bodies and masks to mix and match your perfect monigote!
Recognize anyone?
Recognize anyone?







Tradition has it that burning masked papier mâché dummies depicting famous, infamous or anonymous characters on New Year’s Eve gives good luck to the one burned in effigy.  But it is also a way for the ones doing the burning to symbolically leave behind the regrets, bad relationships, and mistakes of the past year as one looks forward to the new.

We found these guys everywhere!  This one was in the Coral department store being constructed by employees.
We found these guys everywhere! This one was in the Coral department store being constructed by employees.

Whatever. . .it’s fire, explosions, and noise and Ecuadorians love those things!  Monigotes are filled with highly flammable materials such as paper, straw or hay, cardboard, manure (eeewww!) and sometimes fireworks.  Whole neighborhoods get together to shoot off fireworks, play music and dance and of course, burn their monigotes.  Extra luck to a participant is possible if s/he jumps over the burning effigy three times.  We think it would be lucky if said participant does not have an imbedded firecracker go off mid-jump!

Let’s go get marshmallows!
Never mind! Let’s get the fire extinguisher.






Here’s a short video clip of our neighbors jumping over their burning monigote:     Effigy Burning New Year’s Eve – Cuenca, Ecuador

As it was past midnight and a little cool, we enjoyed the monigote burning in our neighborhood from the comfort of our bedroom window.  Our bedroom view encompasses 180 degrees and we are up on the 4th floor, so watching the largest fireworks display we’d ever seen  was quite pleasant.  A question was posed in The GringoPost, an expat online newsletter, about whether there would be any public displays of fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  One response was “You’re joking, right?”  Another was “There is NO part of Cuenca that will NOT have fireworks going off on New Year’s Eve!”  And we will attest that is true.
















The wearing of yellow and red underwear on New Year’s Eve is a tradition meant to bring love in the new year.  Since we both have the loves of our lives already, we forewent the buying and wearing of these special garments.







Eating twelve grapes at midnight, one at each of the 12 clock chimes, is also supposed to bring good luck.  We were too busy gawking and taking pictures of the fireworks and monigotes to pay attention to the time.  So a few minutes after midnight, we nibbled on our twelve grapes.  It would have been our luck to choke on one of those twelve grapes by eating them so fast during the first 12 seconds of the new year.

12 grapesThe festivities in our neighborhood died down around 1 am but we’re sure the partying went on long after that in other parts of the city.  We walked to our friends’ apartment midafternoon on New Year’s Day and it was like a ghost town.  All we saw were a few cars, a single taxi, and the charred remains of a few Año Viejos.

No regrets here.

Many other expat bloggers have posted much better pictures and different perspectives of their Año Viejo celebrations so we would like to refer you to their sites if you would like more information.

BobnRox in Ecuador       http://bobnrox.squarespace.com/journal/

Oregon to Ecuador – Longoods’ Journey living in Cuenca Ecuador  http://boandlindainecuador.blogspot.com/

Rambling On  http://lance-kathy.blogspot.com/

Cuenca International Choir
Cuenca International Chorale

Now for the bonus section of our blog.  If you recall, we performed in the debut concert of the Cuenca International Chorale in the Old Cathedral of Cuenca back on December 22.  For those of you who want to hear and see any of the music we performed, we have the Vimeo link (excerpts of all the songs in the concert)   https://vimeo.com/115463314

and Youtube links to all the songs in their entirety.

And We Sing Gloria. <http://youtu.be/pXwl3IhWcdE>
Angels We Have Heard On High. <http://youtu.be/Mfn0shGHqXY>
Break Forth’ O Beauteous Heavenly Light. <http://youtu.be/7djtAOhhhzQ>
In The Bleak Midwinter. <http://youtu.be/y4IssZK7ONI>
Cherry Tree Carol. <http://youtu.be/ORPiXvU2OPQ>
Riu Riu Chiu. <http://youtu.be/nTMEOpzz8Gk>
Fum Fum Fum. <http://youtu.be/Rihxqe59700>
Gaudete. <http://youtu.be/a1NVOni61Jg>
Personet Hodie. <http://youtu.be/eH9Yb2KqBeE>
Pat-a-Pan. <http://youtu.be/BcpSMx4HfoI>
Silent Night (Long version shortened by 2/3) <http://youtu.be/f5TpD4n2Dxl>
Joy to the World. <http://youtu.be/MsjKEp1v4ZQ>
Silent Night (Ensemble). <http://youtu.be/pEhE9abveho>
The Coventry Carol. <http://youtu.be/Fvdos9Td3tE>
The First Noel. <http://youtu.be/0xEisMz2avA>

If you don’t plan to watch all the videos, we totally understand.  But you might want to check out Riu Riu Chiu (Glenn’s big solo all in Spanish) and Cherry Tree Carol and Gaudete (songs in which Mara had solos).

We have some travel plans to announce:  Los Ganos de Cuenca are traveling to Spain in February.  We are going to spend a week at a resort near the university town of Salamanca helping Spaniards improve their English.  Room and Board is free for the English speakers as our payment for spending 12 or more hours a day in conversation!  Airfare is on our dime.   We will do some sightseeing on our own for a few days afterward.  Some folks we have told this news to were curious about the program so we have two websites to share of the two companies (that we know of) who conduct these kinds of programs.map of Spain

Pueblo Ingles (the program we are attending):  www.diverbo.com     Diverbo has programs in several locations in Spain and in Germany.

VaughanTown  just has programs in Spain but they were the first company to do this kind of thing.  http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com

Next time, we’ll get some of the pictures posted from our road trips to Chordeleg, Sig Sig, San Bartoleme, and the Yungilla Valley unless something super exciting happens to pre-empt that.  You never know – we do live in Ecuador after all!

What we’ve learned:  Unregulated fireworks can be fun!

What we need to learn:  How to eat grapes very quickly.


4 thoughts on “Burn, Baby, Burn

  1. You and your choir sound wonderful. I listened to every song with a working link. Six of the 15 links were unavailable: Angels…, Break Forth…, In the Bleak…, Fum…, Silent Night (long), and Silent Night (ensemble). The Cherry Tree Carol was new to me. I’ll be teasing Mark Tanney about Joseph’s angry retort, “Let the father of the baby gather cherries for thee.” LOL!


    1. Hi Holly, I’m glad you enjoyed the links. Sorry about the ones that didn’t work. I had hoped that they had been fixed by this time by the person who posted them originally. Yeah, that’s about as “angry” as Mark can get!


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