After seeing people carry enormous, colourful dolls through the streets, I start wondering what this is all about. I quickly find out that, at the end of each year, Ecuadorians use these dolls to get rid of bad stuff of the ending year, so they can start with a clean slate in the next. To this end, they produce Año Viejo effigy dolls, which are then set on fire when midnight comes on December 31. Often, fireworks are tied to the dolls, to make sure the doll will be destroyed completely. I want to know more about this curious tradition, and ask where I can find the dolls. I am advised to go to Seis de Marzo street. When I enter the street, there is nothing special to see, but as I walk towards the south, I start seeing people carrying their trophy doll home. I even see some enormous dolls tied to roofs of cars. I am on the right track.
Then, as I cross a street, I see an abundance of dolls on the other side. Police is making sure pedestrians can cross safely and that cars do not try to enter. Once I am on the other side, it is at times hard to walk. The street is covered from one side to the other with hundreds of dolls, small and big. In between, people are walking, looking for the perfect doll to buy, depending on how they want to end the year, and start the new one. I see dolls depicting Superman, Spiderman, the Joker. I see barbies, football players (the Ecuadorian team failed to qualify for the World Cup), huge dinosaurs. I see King Kong, Batman, and unicorns. I see scary dolls with blood on their faces, a huge doll who is holding a head dripping blood, and nuns with their breasts half visible through their black dress. To my surprise, there are few politicians, and it turns out that, under president Correa, it was even forbidden to make Año Viejo dolls representing him. There are paper-maché masks which people can wear for the occasion. Block after block, there is a dazzling display of brightly painted dolls of all sizes and appearances.
Some are done quite roughly, while others are evidently done with a lot of skills and dedication, and look like pieces of art. It seems cruel that all these beauties will be set on fire within twelve hours. After walking more than ten blocks, filled to the brim with dolls on all sides, I can safely say there are many thousands. I ask one seller if he will really sell all, and he confirms. It seems that, as time passes, the dolls drop in price, so most people wait until they buy their Año Viejo effigy doll. Oh, here are two guys carrying a larger-than-life doll on their heads. Even though the dolls are light, they are hard to handle because of their sheer size. When I head back to my hotel, I feel bad for not being able to celebrate New Year's Eve here, and see how Ecuadorians leave all their bad memories behind by simply burning them through these colourful dolls. Brave Ecuadorians jump over the fire three times. My first New Year resolution is there: attend this special happening here in Ecuador in the future!
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