Saturday, September 10, 2011

#17: See the Burning of Zozobra.

   One of New Mexico's oldest traditions is the burning of Old Man Gloom, or Zozobra. Santa Fe has celebrated an annual Fiesta since 1712; however with time the tradition faded.  Thus eighty seven years ago, in an effort to revive the tradition, Santa Fe started the burning of Zozobra.
 Meet Zozobra.
This fifty foot bogeyman taunts children, brings sorrow to the town's citizens, and is responsible for the travails of the previous year. He is made out of shredded paper, muslin, a wooden skeleton, pizza pans, and wire mesh. It takes about 3 weeks to make his different parts, and he is assembled the morning before the event. I guess local school children can come and watch the assembly during the day, as a field trip.
 Everyone has a chance to put things that remind them of gloomy events, during the previous year, into the gloom box that will be burned. People have been known to put bills, divorce papers, photos, letters, even wedding dresses, or just a note of an event into the gloom box.
 The gloom box is then carried over to, and placed in the grumpy old man at dusk. As Zozobra burns, all your sorrows from the previous year are suppose to go with him and his ashes.
 Zozobra is also a marionette, which means that throughout the evening he moves. The movement became gradually more frequent. His buttons turned on and changed colors, and his eyes glowed a vibrant green.
 Justin and I were both stamped and caught glow sticks that someone one threw in our direction, while patiently waiting for the winds to die down, so the fire marshal would allow the burn. Unfortunately, that meant about another hour of a terrible band trying to appease the large crowd of about 25,000 people.
 
 Finally the winds calmed, and the show began. The wizard of the ceremony came out, and accused Zozobra of his crimes. He then asked the people of Santa Fe what we see fitting, as his punishment.  "Burn Him!" yelled the whole crowd in response. Little "gloomies" (children ages 10-14 dressed in white cloaks), then marched around solemnly; they warned him of his fate.  Next came the fire dancers, which aggravated the old man.  The sight of fire caused him to begin groaning, and swaying aggressively.
Finally, when you don't think you can take the anticipation much longer, he explodes into to flames.
Words can't describe what it is like to watch something 50 feet tall burst into flames.  In addition, to watch him flailing around and groaning is entirely impressive.
 Then without notice, he drops and crumbles to just a pile of burning timbers on the ground.  This moment causes a celebration of great merriment, as the crowd rejoices.  Well, why not?  They have just watched their troubles disappear!

Justin and I had a blast at this fiesta!  I had always thought this event was crazy, and was going to be a stress with the huge crowd. I guess that's why, even though living in New Mexico all my life, I had never been. They go to great lengths to make this event "family friendly."  They really make it easy and convent to park your car, and then ride to this fun event.  It is something I will definitely go to again!

2 comments:

Morgan said...

This looks like so much fun! I'll have to add it to my list of things to do here in New Mexico

Theresa said...

I have never been either! It does look really fun :)