Zozobra ("Old Man Gloom") is a giant marionette effigy that is built and burned every autumn during Fiestas de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As his name suggests, he embodies gloom; by burning him, people destroy the worries and troubles of the previous year in the flames. Anyone with an excess of gloom is encouraged to write down the nature of his or her gloom on a slip of paper and leave it in the "gloom box" found in the offices of the Santa Fe Reporter in the weeks leading up to the burn. Many people put legal papers in the gloom box as well. At the festival the papers from the gloom box are placed at Zozobra's feet to be burned alongside him.
Fiestas de Santa Fe has been held since 1712 to celebrate the Spanish retaking of the city in 1692 by Don Diego de Vargas from the Pueblo tribes who had occupied the city since the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. The burning of Zozobra dates from 1924. Santa Fe artist and marionette maker Gustave Baumann came up with the idea of creating the effigy, also called Old Man Gloom, and the ritual burning; and then conspired with his friend William Howard Shuster, Jr. to burn the first Zozobra. Zozobra means "anxiety" in Spanish. Baumann's idea might have been influenced by Mexican cartonería (papier-mâché sculpture), especially the effigies exploded during the burning of Judas that takes place on Holy Saturday or New Year's Eve, as a way of ridding oneself or one's community of evil.
Today in Santa Fe more than 50,000 people go to watch Zozobra, who stands fifty feet tall. His burning marks the start of three days of celebration that includes traditional mass at St. Francis Cathedral; a reenactment of the Entrada, when Don Diego de Vargas returned to the city; a Children's Pet Parade; and the Historical/Hysterical Parade. The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe builds Zozobra and burns the effigy at Fort Marcy Park. The Zozobra that was burned on September 7, 2007, was certified by Guinness World Records as the largest marionette in the world, measuring 15.21 m (49.11 ft) in height. Zozobra's record was subsequently broken by the 17.82 m (58.46 ft) mascot to Ottawa's Ital-Fest one year later on September 6, 2008.
The Zozobra burning in Fort Marcy Park in Santa Fe, New Mexico has traditionally been held in September, however ticket sales in advance of the event improved when it was moved to the Friday immediately before Labor Day in 2014.
Zozobra Burning Events
The color of his hair changes each year.
|September 10, 2004||orange|
|September 6, 2007||red|
|September 4, 2008||green|
|September 10, 2009||orange|
|September 9, 2010||blue|
|September 8, 2011||purple|
|September 6, 2012||yellow|
|September 5, 2013||green|
|August 29, 2014||chartreuse|
- In the Pixar short film Mater and the Ghostlight, the Sheriff mentions Zozobra.
- The 1947 Film Ride the Pink Horse is set at the festival of Zozobra.
- The band Old Man Gloom, a collaboration of artists on Hydra Head Records, released an album entitled Seminar III: Zozobra. Additionally, two of the members of Old Man Gloom have since formed another side project called Zozobra, releasing the albums Harmonic Tremors and Bird of Prey.
- Burning Sosobra is also an album by experimental rock band Floater.
- In the 1990 film Catchfire, Jodie Foster's character watches a small version of Zozobra being burned in a small plaza in Taos, NM.
- "Old Man Gloom, sorrows up in smoke". United Press International. September 7, 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Dances with ink: Gustave Baumann and his studio, Tom Leech, El Palacio 2009 vol. 114 no. 4 pp. 32-37.
- http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/1000/largest-puppetmarionette Guinness World Records Entry for Largest puppet/marionette
- Zozobra: The Story of Old Man Gloom, Jennifer Owings Dewey; photographed by Jeanie Pulsen Fleming, Santa Fe: University of New Mexico Press, 2004