Viudas in Ecuador: Dressing in Drag for a “Dead Husband”

Unless you’re an Ecuadorian, there’s nothing more bizarre than having traffic pile up due to the presence of men dressed as women, otherwise known as the widows or viudas in Ecuador. It is a New Year’s tradition here to have men don their most feminine attire to take to the streets in plight of their deceased “husband” which is the Año Viejo. In this blog, Metropolitan Touring invites you to take a closer look at what the story is behind this quirky little feature that adds to the charm and joy of celebrating.

viudas in ecuador

Photo by: Francisco Laso

Viudas in Ecuador: Dressed in Drag for the “Dead”

Viudas in Ecuador form an iconic piece of the New Year’s festivities in the country. Men, dressed in alternating levels of feminine attire (some go all out, while others don’t bother shaving or getting rid of body hair), will block off certain parts of practically every other street in the city to ask for handouts or “funds” for their new lives as widows.
Why widows? It all has to do with the burning of the passing year, which comes in the form of what are known as “Año Viejos” (Old Year’s) – newspaper-stuffed effigies, almost always males, that are burned when the clock strikes midnight on 31 December.
ano viejo ecuador
Men cease the comical opportunity to dress up as widows (of the deceased “Año Viejos”), dressing themselves up with any range of tight blouses, skirts, dresses, high heels, and pantyhose. They often call on the help of the actual women in their lives to help assist them with their make-up and jewelry, crowning themselves with ostentatious wigs of some sort.

viudas in ecuador make up

Photo by: Francisco Laso

The Rules of the Look

Their demeanor is probably the most “extravagant” piece of their ensemble, as these viudas in Ecuador don’t hesitate to hail cars (even going so far as to block streets and creating long lines of traffic in doing so) to beg that they be given money, using the imminent death of their “husband” as an excuse for needing money to help them (and their imaginary children and/or babies) survive throughout the upcoming New Year. Often times they will even climb on top of the hoods of cars to perform an exaggerated dance with the aim of “seducing” the passengers inside the car.

viudas in ecuador car

Photo by: Francisco Laso

Drivers of the cars that they manage to stop almost never hesitate to toss the viudas a few coins or bills, remarkably. Why? Because it’s important to note that viudas in Ecuador is always seen in a humorous light, and victims of their begging take the tradition lightly. Perhaps the most astonishing of this small tradition is that widows can walk away with anywhere between USD $50-200! Talk about a fabulous reward for dressing in drag!

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With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia.

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