[The title should give you an idea of what this is about, but to get some context, read the intro from Day 1.]
At long last we arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where all of the buildings look like this:
You may think I’m exaggerating, but in fact I am not. There is a city ordinance in place to ensure that all buildings are to be designed with the traditional adobe architecture in mind, right down to the Targets and Starbucks. This results in a very cool environment, albeit one that is impossible to get your bearings in because everything looks the same. No landmarks = no sense of direction. “Okay, we parked near that store that looks like a mud hut. Um…”
After breakfasting on the most delicious huevos rancheros I’ve ever had (thus beginning a Santa Fe trend that would continue throughout the entirety of my time there: mind-blowingly amazing food) we schlepped out to Bandelier National Monument, a park made up of canyons, mesas, cool rock formations:
cave dwellings carved right into the side of the cliff:
and petroglyphs from over 11,000 years ago:
Or the teenagers with the graffiti. Hard to tell.
And then something happened. Something…else. Our waiter at breakfast that morning had offhandedly mentioned that some sort of festival was happening that weekend. He tried to explain it, but the words he was saying didn’t really make sense, so we went home and looked it up on the internet. Once we did, everything made even less sense.
Turns out that every fall in Santa Fe there is held a festival called, unsurprisingly, Fiestas de Santa Fe. It is a weekend of food, music, arts, parades, and…Zozobra.
We tried to read up as much as we could about Zozobra, but the concept sounded so ridiculous, magnificent, and improbable that eventually we got to a point where we just threw up our hands in disbelief and excitement and yelled “OH MY GOD LET’S JUST GO!”
So we went. To a field on the outskirts of town. Gathered in this field were THOUSANDS of people. And up on a raised hill, gazing down upon us with a look of disdain, was a gigantic puppet named Zozobra.
You see, Zozobra, or “Old Man Gloom”, is a fifty-foot tall marionette meant to symbolize all the sadness and bad things that have happened over the past year, and every year (since 1924!), the people of Santa Fe gather together to taunt him. When you arrive at the festival, you write down your glooms on a little piece of paper and hand it in:
Then you buy a whole bunch of overpriced souvenirs (in my case, a poster and a bobblehead), and THEN you grab a bit of food, grab a seat somewhere in the field among the teeming masses of people, and wait for the sun to go down, all while Zozobra continues to loom his gloom over you.
It got darker.
Funny faces were made.
Finally, the sun was gone.
Zozobra started to move. He waved his arms and began to moan.
Little kids–called “gloomies”–came out and danced around him, placing all of the pieces of paper at the bottom of his robe. Then more dancers arrived. Some pyrotechnics went off. One dancer, dressed all in red, began to taunt him.
AND THEN THEY SET HIM ON FIRE.
Everyone was yelling “BURN HIM! BURN HIM!” as he went up in flames, all while the poor guy was still screaming and moaning and waving his big gangly arms about. It made for one of the most gruesome, hilarious, disturbing, awesome spectacles I’ve ever seen. It was SO MUCH FUN.
And, when you think about it, a pain in the ass to tell people about later. Trust me. It’s so fantastical and unbelievable that people just end up smiling and nodding politely and inwardly thinking that you wandered out into the desert with a bunch of peyote and lost your damn mind. But it’s all true! We burned down Old Man Gloom! We burned him good!
You’d think that the collective energy of the good people of Santa Fe would be exhausted after incinerating a giant effigy, but you’d be wrong. Because a couple of days later, in stark, stark contrast to the bloodthirsty zeal with which they ruthlessly murdered a puppet, they held a pet parade! Bring the kids!
Yep, that’s a chihuahua dressed as a school bus.
True to its name, this is a parade where children (and their good-sport parents) dress up themselves and their pets in costumes and send them trotting down the street. Mere words cannot express how adorable this was. Just…just enjoy the photos.
Sombrero and poncho dog!
HAMSTER PIRATE SHIP!
And as those furry little rodents swashbuckled their way into my heart, the trip drew to a close. But not before I made one last friend.