Imagine, if you will, 40,000 people whipped into a mad frenzy. The chants of “burn him” are deafening. They surround a 50 foot high marionette (the world’s largest), which is moaning and struggling and crying. The giant puppet, named “Old Man Gloom”, represents all of the troubles of the past year. Through fire the gathered masses seek deliverance. There are dancers with torches. The old man screams out in despair. Suddenly he is aflame, his eyes glowing from within. Soon there is a five story pillar of fire; the heat washes over the thousands of people gathered around. And then, in a blizzard of fireworks, the marionette vaporizes to nothing but a pile of embers. This is Zozobra. He burned two hours ago. A Santa Fe tradition for the past 85 years, the event marks the beginning of Fiestas de Santa Fe, which has run continuously since 1712.
There is something communal and primal about Zozobra. It feels purifying and freeing; the sorrows of the city have been dispelled. And I can bike to it from my house, which is a lot more convenient than Black Rock City. It is uniquely Santa Fe.