So following Quito (and a Christmas with 50 moto-mounted Santas) we went to Guayaquil for a week (more on the overall stay later) to include New Years Eve. Guayaquil, a city of 4m and the largest in Ecuador, sits on the Rio Guayas, with a bridge connecting a nearby island and continuing to the opposite side of the river where you’ll find the town of Duran (insert “Rio”, “Duran Duran” and “dancing on the sand” jokes here). We stayed on the riverfront to the end of a pretty cool river walk with a couple hills immediately behind us.
Didn’t have big plans, as had a day trip planned for the, erm, day and who knew what we’d be up for. Our excursion (again, more on that later) had us going some 70km from Guayaquil. En route we saw people selling “viejos”, various papier-mâché creations designed to represent the old year. These creations used to be likenesses of generic people or politicians/famous figures, but have now morphed to pop-culture to further interest children.
Passing down the road, particularly at Naranjito, on Dec 31 with clocks ticking you’ll pass blocks of them. Ranging from small dogs or minions up to massive 6 foot Captain Americas, Supermen, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Minotuars wearing jerseys of local futbol teams all with the build of a He-Man figure. So twice the body mass of Terry “President Dwayne Elizando Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho” Crews. Apparently the midsized ones go for about $40 and the big ones can go for $250… in a country where for most people $250 might as well have an extra 0 on the end.
You’ll see cars, taxis with these strapped to the roof a la Tj Hooker, standing on the beds of pick-up trucks and even sandwiched between the driver and passenger of a motorcycle. We also saw them in the front yards of probably half the houses we passed. One even had a Thanos (Avengers Infinity War villain) on a throne a full story tall. No joke, the top of his oversized purple dome was on the level of the tienda (market) next door. Not sure how much $$$ he costs, nor the time spent in creating him…
So coming back from our day trip, the excitement was ramped up, as was the urgency of vendors selling “viejos”. On the return trip it wasn’t just the vendors on the side of the street… instead there were groups of kids and 20-30yo men, in drag (and we’re not talking Ru-Paul’s “Drag Race” drag, but picture random latino construction worker with 5 o’clock shadow in a black cocktail dress with wig and lipstick drag.) They’ll make a string clothesline across the street so drivers have to slow down to a crawl to pass. One hombre even stuffed the backside of his dress and was shaking his best Nicki Minaj “assets” at traffic. (No pics, sadly, would have been obligated to buy and didn’t have the scratch.)
So we get back to our apartment, relax, go for some cervezas and ceviche, return for Netflix and chill.
Pop-pops of random fireworks and firecrackers started going off around 10:30pm, non-stop. At 11:50 I decided to go out and see what was going on. Or off, rather.
Fireworks were already detonating, building in intensity. The guards outside our apartment/airBNB directed me to the best view point, conveniently just the opposite side of the adjacent tower. As the clock struck midnight the fireworks hit a crescendo.
The sound was crazy. For starters I was sitting maybe 50 feet from where the fireworks were being launched. Well the nearby fireworks. From my POV, impeded by our own airBNB towers and two hills (450 steps high) there were at least 7 different locations each with their own show going on. Oh, and pretty much the entirety of the bridge was launching low altitude fireworks as well. So pretty much any direction you looked.
(Side note, to all my Tucsonan amigos, one of the two hills/barrios behind us managed to set itself on fire a la “A” Mountain. Can you say “Sister City”?”)
After the crescendo things weren’t done.
Remember those viejos?
Well, piled in the dirt lot where they were launching the fireworks from was a big mound, 10 feet tall and wider around. Due to regulations in our rather touristy area, the center of the viejo mound merely consisted of a pile of firecrackers and the viejos were doused with gasoline and set ablaze. Apparently in ‘the slums” (term repeatedly used by an English-speaking Guayaquil native who was our tour guide earlier in the day) with less regulation these can be stuffed with “explosivos” so mere burning isn’t enough. Only detonation of the bad things of the outgoing year will suffice.
Once the fireworks had died down the mound was set ablaze, much to the joy of the assembled masses. Flames quickly rose high and as they worked their way inward the firecrackers started going off. The noise was amplified, reverbating off nearby Bellini Torres 4 & 5 (or 3 & 4…. Whatever. Torre 2! /flashes signs). While I approached relatively close, as close as the nearest ring of observing Ecuadorians, once the fire started to die down a little bit, the bulk of the viejos reduced to ash, I quickly backed up as the fire stokers (or flat out pyromaniacs) started lobbing actual fireworks, not firecrackers, into the fire.
Fireworks sure are swell at a distance, when up in the sky. When at ground zero (emphasis on ground), time to GTFO of Dodge.
All in all, New Year’s Eve holds no special magic for me anymore. I’m north of 40, been there, done that. Blah bLah blah. Mostly view it as “Amateur Night”. My hat is off to Guayaquil for Making New Years Great Again.