New Year’s Eve in Quito

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Crowds gather to celebrate and admire floats depicting scenes from the old year on Av. Rio Amazonas

¡Feliz año nuevo!

New Year’s Eve is a big holiday everywhere, and Quito is no exception. From massive floats illustrating scenes of the old year by day to fireworks exploding and cross-dressers panhandling for beer money by night, Quito’s New Year’s festivities don’t disappoint. Below are photos we took in Quito’s Plaza Foch/Mariscal Sucre area on December 31, 2016.

By Day

During the day, the Av. Río Amazonas in Mariscal Sucre was transformed into a fairground with floats depicting important issues in Quito and the events of the previous year. There were floats lampooning politicians, calling for conservation of water in the city, and honoring firemen who rescued citizens during disasters (such as the 2016 earthquake in Manabi province). The street was full of pedestrians, while vendors hawked everything from rainbow mohawk wigs to fake breasts to neon-colored children’s toys on the side of the street.

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A man watches as workers assemble a float referencing Game of Thrones for the New Year’s festivities
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An elderly man looks over at a float honoring the firemen of Ecuador
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People stand in front of a float condemning corruption in the Ecuadorean government
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Superheroes entertain children in the crowd
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A man sells masks and wigs along Av. Rio Amazonas
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A boy stands mesmerised by bobbling children’s toys along Av. Rio Amazonas

The nearby Parque El Ejido also transformed into a massive market, selling souvenirs, trinkets, and snacks for the celebrations. We sat on a bench and watched families slowly amble past, adults trying to keep children from running off in every direction. Other individuals hurried past, rushing to complete their shopping in time for evening festivities. The air was thick with the smell of sugar and steaming sweet corn, alive with the shouts of children and laughter of friends. Even in this warm atmosphere, a contingent of officers stood in a line, waiting to guide traffic and keep the peace once night fell.

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A woman rushes to complete her shopping at the market in Parque El Ejido
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Officers stand awaiting inspection and deployment to keep the peace on New Year’s Eve in Mariscal Sucre and Plaza Foch

By Night

Once darkness fell, the real party in Plaza Foch got started. The families disappeared. Vendors switched to selling fireworks and roman candles. And the streets re-opened to vehicle traffic—sort of. Cars were stopped every few blocks by another feature of Quito’s New Year festivities: the viudas. Masquerading as the ‘widows’ of the old year, these men stop cars and pedestrians to beg for beer money while dressed in ridiculous costumes.

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Viudas blocking traffic in Mariscal Sucre
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A viuda collects money from a driver in Mariscal Sucre. Note the effigy of a pony tied to the top of the car.
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A viuda stops a taxi in Plaza Foch
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Posing with a viuda

And then there are the effigies themselves. Clothes stuffed with newspaper, propped up in chairs, and wearing masks, these dolls represent the old year and are destined for a fiery demise. Some are dressed as political figures and fearful creatures, while others are references to pop culture such as My Little Pony and Minions. All are meant to be burned to bid farewell to the old year, but the ‘fiery demise’ bit didn’t seem to be something done around Plaza Foch. When we asked shopkeepers about burning the effigies, they seemed slightly embarrassed and suggested we leave the city center and visit one of Quito’s suburbs—apparently it’s now more of a family affair.

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An effigy with the face of Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa
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A security guard and an effigy watch revelers from a window in an office building
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An effigy outside of a bar threatens to “go after the missing ones” this year

As with any good New Year’s celebration, the fireworks, drinking, and celebrations went on far past midnight. It was a long, ebullient farewell from Quiteños to the old year, which hadn’t particularly been kind to Ecuador. But the next day was the start of a new year for them.

Hopefully the hangover wasn’t too bad.

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A couple lights Roman candles in Plaza Foch
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