For many people, making it all the way to Punta del Este or even Mar del Plata is not possible for New Years. However, if you still want to do something different to kick off the New Year, there is a much closer option – only 45 min away in La Plata.
Taking place at midnight on New Year´s Eve in La Plata is “la quema de muñecos,” which translated into English means “the burning of the dolls.” Residents get together to burn and watch as their neighborhood’s giant papier machée creature, filled with fireworks, goes up in flames. For a short amount of time, La Plata turns into a smorgasborg of color, noise, and smoke, as the residents of La Plata kick of their new year in style.
So how did it start? It may not surprise you to hear that it had to do with football….Legend has it that over 50 years ago, the president of the Cambaceres football club built a monument in honor one of the team´s football players, who had been instrumental in his team’s recently won championship. (The idea was most likely based on the burning of the Falles in Valencia or perhaps the burning of Judas, which takes place in many Latin American countries on New Year´s Eve). A good two decades later, this turned into a popular yearly tradition, where residents from different neighborhoods would work together to build their own paper giant, and set it on fire on New Year´s Eve.
As this tradition continued to gain popularity, there surfaced a competitive edge, and it has now turned into a competition to make the best paper giant. There are now over one hundred groups that participate, and there is an official contest for the best creation. Most years have some sort of unofficial theme, often the result of a blockbuster movie. For example, 2009 contained lots of dolls of characters from Harry Potter. In the past, it has also been common to make a copy of a politician or a well-known sports figure.
If you decide to spend your New Year´s in La Plata, it is pretty much impossible to miss the event. The only problem is that there is no central spot where the paper giants are lit on fire – this is performed throughout different parts of the city. One of the most popular is on 77th St, between 13th and 14th, but there are now so many different ones that they are not hard to find.
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