Ecuador Day 6: New Years Eve or Burning Dummies on the Beach in Salinas

Thus begins our circumnavigation of a large swathe of Ecuador by diesel pick up truck. But first we had to sacrifice the dummies.

New Years on the beach.

This morning we four Travelers headed west to Salinas and the beach to celebrate New Years Ecuadorian style, meaning we were off to burn the dummies! The origin of burning dummies -- made of paper mache and/or wood and sawdust -- is a bit of a mystery. Dummies today take the form of political figures, super heroes, manga and anime characters, or famous movie characters. They range from doll size to absolutely, ridiculously huge. They are real works of art. When you burn the dummy at midnight you are burning away the bad things from the old year. So before you throw your dummy on the fire you get to kick it and spit on it. Then you burn it, burning away all the negativity from the year before and then celebrate among firework explosions the rest of the night. It is a enormous, amazing conflagration of a fire ceremony. It should be adopted everywhere.

The first dummy of the morning. This is what we saw as we exited Traveler Nine's family compound. This is one fad that deserves to be burned.

 Driving toward Salinas following the dummies. Spiderman and the characters from Madagascar and Ice Age made many showings along the way.

We piled out luggage into the back of Frodo the pick up truck and tied it all together and then tied it to the truck in a sort of Ecuadorian version of the Gordian Knot hoping to keep it from coming under new ownership by enterprising opportunists (a very real possibility). We struck out through Guayaquil, heading straight east, following, passing, or being passed by many vehicles loaded down with dummies. Dummies were also for sale on every corner. There were dummies every where you looked.

The Hulk seemed to be particularly popular.

 Dummies traveling by taxi.

Buying and selling dummies is serious business.

For some reason Chucky is really popular. Scary! And yes, he et. al. are giving the world the finger.

One of my favorites: the alien from Alien.

A bolon. This was one of my favorite things I ate on this trip. It's plantains, cheese and chicharron (pork rinds) pressed together. Delicious!

Heading toward Salinas

Salinas is about an hour and a half from Guayaquil. It's a popular destination for New Years it turns out. Even though it was a relatively short trip we stopped by a roadside stand and had a delicious second breakfast/lunch. 

We were fortunate to have the use of a beach house owned by Traveler Nine's aunt. It was a lovely big house. We would celebrate at his other aunt's house down the street. After settling in we headed to beach.

The view toward the beach from our lodgings.

The beach we shared with thousands of other sun worshippers.

The view through the hundreds of "cabanas" lining the beach. Yes, that is a human buried in the sand on the lower left.

The beach was one big party. Hundreds of tent "cabanas" line the beach. Peddlers hawking everything from beer and water to entire wardrobes of clothes and jewelry wander through. Ice cream, empanadas, and fresh fruit juices all can be had. You don't ever have to get out of your beach chair. It is all brought to you. The only difficult part is trying to find your cabana again in the giant sea of cabanas if you dare go for a wander down the beach.

 Pre-burning fireworks.

After a completely enjoyable afternoon on the beach this Traveler took a much needed nap. Traveler's Nine, Ten and Thirteen attempted to take Nine's mother to see the sunset on the beach but traffic thwarted their efforts. They ended up at the grocery store instead and picked up much needed supplies for the night's festivities. Or at least that's what I think they said they did. I was half asleep when being told this so this might not have actually happened given that it takes me a while to actually wake up from afternoon naps. I may look awake but I'm not.

As dark fell we ventured out. Nine treated us to flaming shots of something at a bar. We then had a traditional New Years dinner with Nine's very gracious family. Somewhere in here Ten, myself, and Nine's thirteen year old nephew got into the fireworks box a bit early. Fireworks are legal here on a scale not allowed in most of the United States.  In fact, I have never lived in a state where they were legal at all, except for sparklers, which hardly rate as fireworks. The three of us had a bit of fun throwing things around that explode and make noise and setting off a few things that flung sparks and fire into the air. 

Then it was nearing midnight. Time to burn the dummies. We four Travelers escorted Nine's nephew to the beach to burn his and his sister's dummies. His sister, Nine's niece, had left explicit instructions that her Little Mermaid dummy was not to be burned but, as she was asleep by this time and its bad luck not to burn your dummy, the Little Mermaid made the trip to the beach with us. It would be Ten who sacrificed The Little Mermaid. And yes, we kicked the crap out of those dummies. There was spitting. And finally they were thrown on to the ever growing pile of dummies materializing before us. Dummies were being stacked in their thousands down the beach. Fireworks began to go off all over, set off at random by the citizens and visitors to Salinas. Fireworks zoomed overhead, by your ears, or nearly taking one's face off it you weren't careful.

Then someone put a torch to the dummies. Bonfires of dummies roared to life all along the beach. The past year going up in flames as the air exploded around us all in multicolored rocket propelled conflagrations. 

This is how New Years should be done.

 Throwing the dummies into the pile.

 The dummies burning.

The flames go higher and higher.

 The crowd watches and someone even brought an iPad.

 More and more fires appear.

 Fireworks join bonfires to complete the fire ceremony.

We returned to Nine's aunt's house where Nine's nephew, with me as paparazzi (and as completely non-effective supervision as my Spanish is not up to saying things like "don't do that or you might blow up that person's car!" or "don't do that or you might blow up that person!"), came up with more and more creative and somewhat terrifying ways to set off fireworks. Nine's nephew has a great future in pyrotechnics or as an ordnance officer.

 Setting the sidewalk alight.


Sparks through wrought iron. 

Please don't try this at home. :-)