Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Year's Celebrations in Zaruma

By midnight on New Year's Eve in Zaruma, it was just too dangerous to be on the street what with all the drunken men staggering around, the liquor bottles being smashed on the boardwalk, and the trucks recklessly racing around all the sharp corners in the road. I plopped my feet up on my balcony railing and continued to watch the show from the safety of my room.

A half dozen pick-up trucks filled with drunken revelers raced back and forth, up and down the main street, with young men cheering and screaming and chucking things on to the road as they clung to the sides of the truck. A few almost fell overboard, and as the night went on the trucks grew more crowded with men hanging on to the roofs and clinging to the windscreens.

Men also wandered up and down the wooden boardwalk openly guzzling liquor and urinating in dark corners. They dumped their booze into plastic cups and then smashed the empty bottles on the street. So many people smashed bottles that I thought it must have been part of the annual ritual. Out of nowhere an old woman appeared and stepped into the street and put a small bag down. She almost got run over as she stood there clapping her hands and doing some strange little dance. Maybe she was drunk,too. When she finished her weird performance she picked up her bag and moved down the street half a block and did the same thing all over again.

At the other end of the street, somebody had lit a pile of garbage and a fireball quickly shot up to a second floor window. I ran into my room and gathered up my money and passport and flashlight and stuffed them into my purse and prepared for evacuation, but when I flew out to the balcony again to check the fire, the flames had been doused and the garbage was sizzling and smoking on the pavement. It was 1:30 in the morning and the party showed no sign of let-up.

Zaruma EcuadorA drunk slowly tottered down the street. He was trying to stay up right but he tripped and grasped for a telephone post before he collapsed. He was laying half on the boardwalk and half on the street and as he lay there semi-conscious I watched as trucks screamed by, narrowly missing him each time. Nobody realized he was there. They veered so close to his head at times that I thought for sure he was going to get run over. Another crowd was staggering up the street so I was relieved thinking that they'd rescue him, but they just shuffled off and left him there. Two boys went by and poked at him with a stick like they would a dead fish on a beach, before they ran off laughing. It seemed that nobody was interested to see if he was even dead or alive, until finally two men stopped and stooped down to look at him. They called a name, then slapped his face, yelled at him some more, then pulled on his arms and helped him up. They struggled under his heavy weight but finally, with his arms wrapped around their necks, and their arms wrapped around his waist, they staggered off. More smoke was coming from the other end of town but I said the hell with it and went to bed.

I fell asleep before the revelry was all over, but when I looked at the street the next morning it looked like it was going to be one hell of a clean-up. Those few that weren't hungover were out there sweeping up glass and garbage and paper cups and empty whiskey bottles and hosing down storefronts and sidewalks. Some men had already started drinking again. I told the proprietor of my hotel about the man laying on the street and asked if anybody had been killed in town amongst all the fires, bottle-throwing, and drunken driving. He said that nobody had been reported missing or dead, unlike the previous year, so it had been a great success.

Zaruma Ecuador
Zaruma Ecuador