New Years celebrations are festive days in our country! People from every age and background participate in a celebration known as “The Party of the Innocents” since the 19th century. The celebration officially begins on December 28 and ends every January 6th on the streets of Quito, with costumes, color and plenty of humor!
Masks are an essential element during New Years festivities. In Quito, the traditional mask is made out of newspaper, carton, glue and paint. Every mask is decorated with intricate detail to achieve the character one wishes to represent. The most emblematic characters in the city are clowns, bears, witches, devils, political players, monsters, etc.
When did the tradition of masks originate?
The exceptional work of the Vaca family is considered an ancestral legacy. It all started in 1940 with Angel Vaca, a sculptor in the School of the Fine Arts, and pioneer of traditional Quiteño masks. Initially using clay molds, Angel soon realized that this material cracked easily, and decided to try a special mix, with cast and cement.
Angel Vaca produced and popularized masks of national and international political players by the end of the 50’s until the early 70’s. His idea has been replicated throughout the country and a tradition that was born in Quito, is now celebrated in almost every region. Now when we “burn the Old Year” (see more about New Years traditions here) we usually decorate our Año Viejo with a mask representing someone in politics.
Nowadays, his grandson Diego Vaca Revelo is dedicated to the family business as a way to rescue this important tradition and avoid its oblivion. Many of Diego’s masks have been worn by the cast of the Jacchigua National Folkloric Ballet in parades and carnivals in the city of Quito.
Clowns represent joyfulness, they typically wear colorful suits and big shoes. Clowns go about cheering up the bitter, playfully hitting them with a balloon covered with powder.
The representation of the traditional Quiteño devil is best known for its astute and mischievous personality.
Witches, also known as “huaco”s in Kichwa, are in charge of sweeping away bad energies and purifying the festive environment.
He is a character of the daily life of Quito in the times of yesteryear. It was an indigenous worker whose role in the city was to keep it clean from very early in the morning.
He is a character that represents innocence, joy and humor of life.