New year’s eve is the one day when conservative Ecuador lets it all hang out. For most of the year, Ecuador is staunchly low key. This is a country where pubs generally close around midnight, the people are overwhelmingly Catholic, and there isn’t much free space on church pews on Sunday. All this just makes the insanity of Ecuadorian new year’s eve even weirder.
First, you know it’s the last day of the year when Ecuadorian men start dressing in drag. In a traditionally stridently homophobic country like Ecuador, it’s nothing short of jarring to see troupes of drag queens dancing in the streets.
Monigotes are a bit like pinatas, except they are usually dressed in old clothes and displayed on the street during the days leading up to new year’s eve. For the last week of the year, it isn’t unusual to see children sitting on the sides of roads with monigotes, collecting money.
The basic concept is that the monigote somehow represents the old year.
However, more intricate monigotes can also depict entire scenes or ideas that represent the past year.
For example, 2015’s Miss Universe bungle.
Even political controversies aren’t off limits, such as FIFAgate.
Yup, for one night, orderly little Ecuador’s streets are set ablaze. In the town of Otavalo, most of the streets in the city centre were blocked with blazing infernos, as hundreds of monigotes – big and small – where doused in petrol and torched. The few streets that weren’t blocked by fire were packed with drag queens. In short, chaos ensued for hours, as the streets turned into huge parties, lit up by the flames of the burning monigotes.