New Mexico really is a one-of-a-kind state. There aren’t any other states where you get quite such a potent mix of Mexican, Native American, Afro American and Old World American culture, all in the same state. Zozobra is one of those fine examples of historical and cultural superstition mixed in with modern American sub-culture. Think Burning Man, just on a much smaller scale.
It has its origins in Fiesta, a New Mexico tradition in Santa Fe dating back as far as 1712, making it the oldest celebration of its kind in all of North America. A fiesta is a celebration, it can be in any form- a feast, a party or gathering, and it can be in honour of anything- joy or happiness, to celebrate a saints day or celebrate a harvest but it is essentially about coming together, as a community and having fun.
The American sub-culture filters in through Will Schultzer’s introduction of Old Man Gloom, more commonly known as Zozobra. A grumbling, arm-flailing, toothless fabric marionette symbolising all your worries and fears. He’s set alight each year at the start of fall and burnt to the ground in a spectacular display of fireworks, and as he leaves he takes away our troubles with him, to lighten our load until next year.
It is impossible to compare Burning Man and Zozobra, one is an eclectic modern-day festival that creates a metropolis in the middle of a desert creating a currency-free society to prove that we can live in harmony with one another without being greedy. The other is a historical festival with a strong culture and tradition still running through it to this day. But both encourage essentially a re-birth of oneself, a more optimistic outlook and an embracing of new beginnings. Both promote this refreshed state of mind by letting a poor old old wooden figure burn to the ground in a fantastic colourful display of explosive mayhem. Guy Fawkes, eat your heart out!