Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cuenca Ecuador's Celebration of AÑO VIEJO - Cuenca's Old Year!

Guess who our Effigy was for 2013 
and who we will burn for 2014?
It's almost here - the end-of-year 2014 burning of the effigies!  Dummy bodies and paper mache' masks bearing the likeness of different celebrities, cartoon characters, presidents, or people who resemble someone you might know are being chosen and purchased, ready to be set on fire at midnight December 31st.  

It's a wild and crazy night for many - and a very different kind of celebration for anyone who hasn't experienced it yet.  So get ready!  Bo and I had our effigy hanging over our terrace last year for several days, and it would scare the crap out of me every day until we finally burned it with the crowds at our neighborhood block burning party.
Yes, in El Centro, it's one big smokin' "burn" party as thousands of Ecuadorians and many Gringos participate in this yearly tradition that has been celebrated for years.  The air will be filled with smoke and the sky will be bursting with fireworks.  I am not aware of the origin of this yearly custom, but I read that it could date back to a time when corpses were burned during a yellow fever epidemic.  Ya think?  Sounds a bit off to me, but who knows?
The effigies are supposed to represent the old year (años viejo), and some construct their effigy to specifically resemble someone they may dislike (like a current President) or someone personally they may have issues with.  The dummy may simply represent past disappointments.  Some pin a handwritten note on their dummy to specify their new year's goals.  For many who take this tradition seriously, they are demonstrating their desire to erase the past by letting go of the good and the bad, and starting a renewed year of new hopes and goals.
You will see many leaping over the burning dummies, usually three times for good luck.  There have been emergency room visits by some who end up injured by the fire or exploding firecrackers or rockets embedded in some of the dummies.  Wild and crazy, I say!
Be looking for your neighborhood "burning" party!  There will be many throughout Cuenca, including loud music, crowded bars, drunken staggerers, piles of burning effigies, fireworks, and more.  
As for Bo and me, it will be our third year of saying "Adios" to the old and "Gracias a Dios" for every new day and blessing we will embrace in the year to come.  HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our BLOG fans and followers.  May the year ahead be one where your goals and dreams are fulfilled - especially to those planning their exit from their current lifestyle to begin a new adventure in Ecuador.


Hand-crafted paper mache masks of every kind line the streets ready for sales.  Most sell from $2 to $5.
Firework stands are popular for the burning celebration
Our neighborhood girls choose their fireworks carefully!
So many effigy bodies to choose from......

The main street of Calle Larga is blocked off, ready for one of many big burn piles in El Centro!
Kids love this traditional Cuenca celebration (not so sure their dog will though!)
You'll see taxis, cars, and trucks whizzing by with an effigy tied to it.
Our neighbor girls get dressed in black to represent "La Viuda"  - The widow mourning the death of the old!
So Beautiful!

Outside our door, our neighborhood gathers to begin the burning of the viejos.  It's almost midnight!
It's time!
Adios Año Viejo!!
 Around the corner, on Juan Jaramillo, another huge burning begins.....
 People continue to toss their effigies onto the burning pile.....
 ......and the crowds gather to watch the effigies going up in flames!
One block away, on Calle Larga, another pile is burning.  
All over the city of Cuenca, the smoking flames and ashes rise to the skies! 
leap #1 over the burning ashes....
.....leap #2..... 

.....leap #3 for good luck in the coming year!
 Viva Ecuador!  
What a wild and crazy night it was.  We're looking forward to celebrating again tonight with special friends and our neighborhood party people.  So, ya'll come out of your caves and find a neighborhood to join in the Cuenca celebration!

From Bo and Linda and our neighbors on Santa Teresita in El Centro - "Feliz Año Nuevo" to all!


  1. We look forward to getting out into our neighborhood tonight and see what's burning! Happy New Year to you both.

    1. Happy New Year Glenn and Mara!
      Have fun tonight as you experience the burning of the old! We'll be on our corner enjoying the festivities with friends and our neighbors. Come on up and join us. Looking forward to more fun times together in 2015.
      Much love,

  2. Hi Linda,

    I recently found your blog and have been reading every post you had put on. You have a very nice blog. Your blog helps me virtually imagine my retirement life in Cuenca. I also learned many things from your blog. We are still working our our finance side and probably need a few more years reach our retirement life in Cuenca. We are definitely planning on visiting Cuenca next year as well as Quito.

    How is the ex-pat community in Cuenca? We are both fluent in Spanish and shouldn't have any issue with our communication in Spanish. But one of our friends is also interested in Cuenca. He is not fluent in Spanish and can barely put a few Spanish words like hola, como estas?, comer, etc.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Welcome to our BLOG!
      Not sure of your name, but glad you are finding my postings informative and helpful. Next Year is only hours away, so hopefully 2015 will find you exploring Cuenca, Quito, and other beautiful towns along the way. The ex-pat community in Cuenca is continually growing, and we have met some great people here from the USA and other countries as well. Since you are fluent in Spanish, you will find it easier to communicate with the Ecuadorians and learn about the culture. Even those who come here with no Spanish end up learning enough to communicate and get around. Most Ecuadorians are friendly and embrace the expat community. Your friend will be fine if he is adventurous, friendly, and embraces the people and the culture here.
      Happy New Year and wishing you the best as you plan your exploratory trip to Ecuador.


Leave us your comments and I will respond with any questions you may have. Enjoy our Blog! Linda (y Bo)