Every year on the first midnight of January, Ecuador celebrates La Quema del Año Viejo (the burning of the old year). My father used to build our family’s monigote — also referred to as the “old man” — using his old clothes. At the waist, he would stitch a shirt and a pair of pants together. Later, he would fill it with sawdust and old newspapers. He would then close the legs and arms with stitches. We would purchase a prefabricated paper mache head with a painted face of an "old man" as the finishing touch.
We would bring our monigote to the middle of the street, where our neighbours would come out with theirs and we’d pile them all together. Everyone would buy gasoline and explosives to set them on fire, we would jump over the burning pile while laughing and hollering. Granted, these were not commercial fireworks, and all I can recall was staring out the window from the safety of a car, entranced.