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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Christmas, New Years Eve, and Dummies

This year seemed to be a lot different than last.  For some reason, there seemed to be more festivities and just more of everything than 2011.

Here, Christmas is a wee different than where I’m from.   Yes, there’s the commercialization of it all.   For example, Christmas displays in stores were popping up as early as September.   Sound familiar?  It USED to be after Thanksgiving, then it slid forward to after Halloween, now it’s as far as Back to School!!!

We don’t have fir or cedar trees here….we have a lot of eucalyptus and a smattering of pine.  Therefore, there are no Christmas tree lots selling fresh cut trees.  For those who even put up a tree, they are fake.  The malls have towering plastic trees decorated with plastic baubles.

Decorating houses with lights is not done much either, though you can find a few balconies draped with lights.  Nor are streets bedazzled with swags of lighting.   In the old centro, there were a few street decorations but not very noticeable.   Though, along the river Tomebamba was a great display of lighting that I posted in my last blog.   It wasn’t there last year.

With our mild weather and me wearing shorts all the time, the atmosphere doesn’t seem Christmasy either.  It’s not cccccold and there’s no possibility of snow.   Of course, I’m comparing to where I used to live in the Pacific Northwest.   I remember living in San Diego and I’d be in shorts and a tank-top in warm, sunny weather singing outside a mall about snow.   Just didn’t seem right.

I wondered what Christmas music might be like in South America.   There’s always that popular latin song ‘Feliz Navidad’.  I was surprised to hear many of the traditional Christmas songs I’m familiar with being played in shopping centers…in English!  Once in awhile I heard a Spanish version of songs I knew, such as ‘Silent Night’.  Never did hear ‘Grandma got run over by a Reindeer’.

Here, Christmas is really focused on the child.   Stores convert large sections from regular goods to toys, toys, toys.   One 2-level store cleared out its entire first level and converted it to nothing but toys.   Parades are all about the kids.   And, it’s not just ONE gigantic parade, there were parades all over town…even down the highway.  Children are dressed up as angels, shepherds, kings, etc in intricate outfits.   Horses are not just for riding.  They are decorated, too, with some very strange things….strands of candy, fruits, vegetables, beer bottles, flowers, you name it.

Last year, Christmas was deader than a doornail as everything was closed.  Streets were barren.   Oddly, this year the streets were fairly active with traffic and quite a few businesses were OPEN!!!    WEIRD!

I spent the vast part of Christmas day….moving.   Then, I got cleaned up and went to a party, stuffed myself with food, and enjoyed some al-key-hall.   Late into the night, I puked.   Something I ate didn’t set well with me.   Lovely, eh?

Again, this year seemed to be far more active in the lead-up to New Years Eve.   All over the city, streets were lined with dummies.   No, I’m not insulting the people of Ecuador!!    There is a tradition here…the burning of effigies…also known as Ano Viejos to get rid of the bad from the old year and bring good luck to the new year.   The dummies are generally made to look like human beings.   People take clothing and stuff them full of waste paper, cardboard, and/or straw to fill out the clothing and take on a shape.   Legs and sleeves are sewn shut to keep the stuffing inside.   I was amazed at some of the clothing…what good condition they were in!   Some dummies only have a neck stub, but some have a head and people purchase masks to place on the head to give it a character.  Many of the masks are of well-known people such as the President, the devil, Hillary Clinton, etc, whereas others might simply represent a woman or a man.  Some are life-size (ie; 6ft tall) and some were as small as 3 ft tall.

Also, there were scads of dummies made up to look like comic book characters (Spiderman, Captain America, etc) and cartoon celebrities such as Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner, Tweetie, etc.  Who’d want to burn TWEETIE???!!!!!   Most of these were made out of paper mache….a lot of work to simply burn up!

Many people even had dummies made to represent themselves or their business.  For example, one gas station had a dummy of a gas station attendant wearing their company uniform.   Dummies were strapped to the fronts of cars and pickups.   One of the city busses had a dummy strapped to the front of it.  The driver had a string attached to one of the dummy’s arms and he would manipulate it from inside the bus to make the dummy ‘wave’ to people on the street.

I’ve had a series of crappy things happen to me in the past several years, instigated by some really sh_tty people.    I decided I was going to participate in this Ecuadorian ritual.    I purchased THREE dummies from two cute young boys who kept shouting THREE DOLLARS, THREE DOLLARS!!! every time I walked by them.   After looking at several stalls of dummies, I decided to buy mine from them and they helped me haul them to the car.  I don’t know how they could make a profit given the clothes they used, the stuffing, sewing, transportation to selling site, etc.  I swear one of my dummies had a brand new pair of jeans on it!

One was dressed sort of Corporately.   I used a black felt pen to write names of specific companies I wished to have burn in Hell.   In some cases, I wrote the names in specific places on the dummy…such as the ass.   I won’t tell you which companies I wrote, but one of them goes by the initials BofA.

Another was a female dummy.   Again, I had a handful of names that deserved to suffer a fiery demise.   One, was of an attorney who sued me to take property away from me, lied in front of the judge which caused her to win the judgment and me $15,000 poorer for the lousy representation I got from my attorney.  Now that I think of it, I should have bought a 4th dummy to represent ALL attorneys and stuffed a bunch of firecrackers up you know where.

The 3rd dummy was a male.   I almost ran out of space writing names on that sucker.  The guy who scammed me claiming he was a home builder, my old boss at WaMu, the person(s) who stole my cars’ computer/brain, the bullies from junior high school, neighbors (yes, plural) at Rocky Point, and a male cancer which took my Dad away from me.

The tradition is to burn these effigies at midnight.  To really seal the good luck part of it, you’re supposed to jump over the burning corpses 3 times.   However, some dummies are stuffed with fireworks, so I chose not to do that part lest I suffer an explosive enema.   All over Cuenca, there are fires in the streets, on the sidewalks, in parking lots, wherever.  The next day there are piles of ashes everywhere.

Many burnings aren't simply acts of "good-riddance," but are conducted with hopes of cleansing bad habits.  The male half of a ‘lovely couple’ I know decided he was going to stop smoking.   His wife made a giant stuffed cigarette and that was what their effigy to burn and, yes, he did jump over it 3 times.

I must admit, I did feel a sense of catharsis watching my dummies get torched.   Even the action of lighting them afire gave me satisfaction as I held my lighter under their asses.  I just hope the ‘real’ dummies felt it wherever they were at the time.

Another fun part of New Years Eve is the ugly widows.  You read correctly.   The tradition is for men to get dressed up in drag…but not pretty drag…ugly drag.   They hit the streets, approaching cars for donations.  The typical routine is to pair up with others and devise a barrier (such as a rope) to prevent you from passing unless you toss some change in their purse.   I was driving some clients around that day and we got stopped many times.   I don’t remember where the donations go, but I think the proceeds go to orphanages.   Anyhoo, it was great fun and we had a lot of laughs at the verrrrry bad drag.

Enjoy the photos!!!


A typical display of dummies lining many streets in Cuenca the week after Christmas.

Masks you can choose to adorn your dummy.

These are made of paper mache.

Recognize anybody?

My 3 dummies and the 2 boys I bought them from.  $9 bucks.

Ugly widow.

Ugly widow working the highway near where I live.

Traffic stoppers.   Looks like one lost a shoe!

Chasing after a truck for a donation.

Stuffed dummy riding on top of pickup.

My 3 dummies, saying their last prayers.

First up....Mr Corporation.

The female.  I hope 'DR' felt the fire wherever she was at the time.  GRRRRRR!!!



  1. Thanks, Dano, for these thoughts and photos. Hope to be there for it some year. See you next month!

  2. I sure hope that my name was not one of the ones written on the dummies since I worked with you at both BofA and WaMu! Millie

  3. OMG - I actually thought I recognized you in some of the pictures.

    I am seriously looking forward to burning some bridges behind me when I get there (especially since I won't have to worry about crossing those bridges again).

    And I agree, some of those dummies were better dressed than I in their new clothing.

    When did you burn yours? I understand it was night, but how late? And were you sober?

    How is your mom doing? Do you send her these pictures of what you are doing? Does she just shake her head and mumble about you still not growing up and acting like an adult?

    I found out recently that I am being downsized at the end of the month...which will delay me financially getting down there. I may have to sign up to work a cargo ship and work my way down there.

    Charlotte NC

  4. Very angry you are Dan to burn those poor dummies. lol

  5. Haha, sorry but sometimes it's best to switch to the Español setting on the keyboard. Ano Viejo means old anus. The tilde is pretty important with the word Año.

  6. My wife and I are here in Cuenca from Colombia. We are staying in centro a few blocks from the church. I'm curious, is Centro the best place for all the dummy and new years action?

    1. Greg...from what I'm told you can see a lot of action down by the river Tomebamba. Just walk down Benigno Malo to the river. Beautiful lights, too.

  7. Sweet thanks. Yea those stairs are just a block away. Have to watch the 7pm bowl game first lol.


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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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