Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Ringing out the old year

After wandering around Cuenca to see the Ano Viejo displays, we ended up back at the Molina's for New Year's Eve. The family began to gather. At one point, Cayo's brother Pedro arrived with the family's Ano Viejo figure. Many of the figures we had seen around town were made by stuffing old clothes with sawdust, but the figure Pedro brought in was made of papier mache and was a dapper fellow dressed in suit and tie. His face was that of a singer who I was not familiar with. It was never really clear to me why he was the personality chosen, except that Emily said that his music was played a lot at the cafe Pedro owns and Ellie works at. Maybe they were tired of hearing him and were putting an end to it by burning his effigy. Maybe it was an acknowledgement of how much they liked the music. I wasn't sure, but he was definitely a smart-looking Ano Viejo and early in the evening I had a little dance with him.

Around 10:30 we gathered in the diningroom for a big dinner. You can see the tamales we had made earlier, set out as our appetizer course. They were followed by soup, roast pork, potatoes, avocados, salad, broccoli, corn and dessert of preserved figs and confections.

As midnight approached, Chela hustled everyone away from the table and out into the street with our figure.

As the new year approached, the figure was set on fire and everyone gathered around to watch it burn. We could see similar fires up and down the street and there was music and fireworks as well.

At the stroke of midnight Chela circulated with a bowl of grapes and urged everyone to quickly eat 12 grapes to ensure good luck in the new year. As the fire burned down, everyone took turns jumping over it, signifying leaving the old year behind and jumping into the new.

Little Lobo appeared dressed like the widow of the old year, another custom carried out by children, and went around begging for coins.

Once the fire burned out, we went back in the house for dancing. Emily and Cayo, on the left, love to dance together and are fun to watch. Even Andy, who had earlier declared he did not dance, was up dancing with Cayo's sister, Paola. The party was still in full swing an hour or so later, when we headed back to our hotel. The next morning the streets were littered with the burned remains of many, many Ano Viejos.

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