ambience: crowd yells “burn him, burn him”, drumming, cheering, and growls
Each year, more than fifty thousand people gather in Santa Fe to witness the burning of Zozobra, a fifty-foot puppet that’s rigged with glowing eyes and a groaning voice. Some spectators come just for the fiery show, but for many people this event is symbolic of a new beginning. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Zozobra has been given the nickname “Old Man Gloom”, and as he burns, the engulfing flames represent the destruction of sorrow. Lisa Law is a photographer who has been coming to Zozobra for thirty years.
“This is a major event here, this brings a lot of people together, and we get rid of the gloom. So this is a great time for everybody to let go of the old stuff and start afresh with the new stuff.”
The Zozobra puppet is literally filled with memories of gloom. Chip Lilienthal is a fire dancer in the show which precedes the burning.
“Zozobra right now is carrying approximately eight hundred, nine hundred pieces of paper: some of those papers mortgage, some are divorce papers, some are pictures of old boyfriends or girlfriends, a lot of children write notes about everything they want to burn, like ‘I want my cat back’ or ‘I don’t like math class’ and stuff like that, so the community goes in and participates by writing all their sadness and their gloom and we burn it in the big marionette.”
Bob Zone is a member of the Kiwanis Club, which has been running the Zozobra event since 1964.
“A group of young children come out in white costumes, they’re called the glooms, and they’ll taunt Zozobra. The fire dancers will come out after that. All this time the groaning increases, the beating of the drums increases, so it becomes very very exciting.”
.Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’m Jim Metzner.