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Burning the Old Year on the Beaches of Ecuador

To say goodbye to the past year, Ecuadorians burn life-size effigies of what they hope to leave behind.

In the neighborhood, Nariz Del Diablo, a family stuffs "monigotes," or old year dolls, to sell on the street in the days leading up to the new year. While many of the dolls are made entirely of paper mâché, others are sold in two parts — the doll stuffed with sawdust or newspaper and the mask of their chosen character. Unlike most manufactured holiday decorations, the dolls are often made in family's homes all-year-round. This particular family uses their mechanic shop for a few weeks per year in order to make and sell dolls.

Traditionally the dolls are stuffed with sawdust or newspaper and often fireworks, but the government has made the fireworks illegal. A small room in the back of this family's mechanic shop is dedicated solely to Año Viejo dolls.

In the same neighborhood, Nariz del Diablo, the Delgado family dedicates themselves to making paper mâché masks and heads to put on the stuffed dolls. They work for over 9 months straight and estimate making over 25,000 pieces.

The most widely desired doll and mask is that of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who is set to leave office in February. The Delgados estimate that they made at least 15,000 replicas of the politician. While the masks are made in their home, the Delgados dry hundreds of them at a time on their rooftop terrace. They are constantly on edge with Quito's famous rainfall, prepared at any moment to run and cover the art.

The workshop is a family affair. Here, the son, Daniel Delgado, paints one of his 500-a-day pieces. While the pieces will only be burned come New Year's Eve, intricate details are still put into each face.

Hundreds of masks and dolls spill over the Delgados' work table.

The Delgados have a whole room of their apartment dedicated to painting. Another bedroom is dedicated to storage.

On a street corner in Quito's famous colonial center, masks are starting to be sold right after Christmas.

The masks often depict politicians, athletes, or other controversial famous figures. Often, they are burned in spite, but they are also chosen when a politician is leaving office or someone has died. Here, you can see a number of Fidel Castros.

In Quito's La Carolina Park, a dozen stalls are selling Año Viejo dolls. Right after Christmas, they move their Christmas decorations out in replacement of the dolls.

The stuffed dolls generally range from USD $5.00 - $15.00. The paper mâché dolls often cost much more. Masks and heads generally run for USD$2.00. Other popular choices are cartoon characters for the kids. Some of the masks don't depict any particular character and are simply "old," to represent the release of the old year and the beginning of the new.

This small President Rafael Correa costs $5.00.

One of the stalls at La Carolina Park. Many people shop here because there are a lot of choices in close vicinity. Paper mâché dolls run from $4.00 to $150.00, and vendors will often only buy a few large pieces as the investment is risky, especially in Ecuador's dwindling economy. Cartoon characters are very popular choices for paper mâché.

These Barcelona football stars range from USD $25.00 to $120.00.

Football (soccer) players are popular choices for Año Viejo dolls, especially those of the opposing team. The largest of these players from Barcelona costs USD $120.00.

This tiny President Correa doll costs USD $5.00.

Another stall at La Carolina Park. Some vendors choose to sell smaller and less expensive dolls as there is less risk. All of them say that the tradition is dying and every year they make less sales.

Here, there are a group of politicians, some of which are President Rafael Correa, opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso, or the ex-judge the judge, Jonathan Álvez, who was the center of a political scandal.

Each vendor estimates that they will sell more Correa dolls than anything else.

Every vendor unanimously agreed that President Rafael Correa is the most sold item in their collection. They said that this has to do with mounting frustration at the economic situation in the country or due to the fact that his term ends in February. Many also admitted that families were scrambling to make extra Donald Trump masks as they expected the sales of those masks to be high.

These paper mâche dolls range from $25.00-$150.00. The largest doll, Captain America, costs USD $150.00 and took two months to make.

The majority of the masks are old people or cartoon characters. Some masks represent terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.

These little dolls cost USD $4.00 - $5.00.
Here, Achig cleans a Mickey Mouse doll for sale. It costs USD $25.00 and can take a week to make.

Karen Achig, a vendor, says that some days they can sell up to $80.00 of goods, while other days they barely sell enough to buy lunch. She worries that the tradition is dying and that it may no longer be worth buying large dolls to sell. Vendors often spend over 12 hours at the booths trying to make sales.

New Year’s Eve in Pedernales

The dolls are often set up to be interacted with in the hours before the new year. Here, individuals drink beer with Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot.

Many people often make replicas of themselves. Here, a DJ poses with a version of himself in Pedernales, hours before the New Year.

On the beach in Pedernales, a man pours gasoline over the fire to burn the dolls. The fire burns bright as the Old Year is released.