By Robert Nott The Santa Fe New Mexican
Syndicated content 

Zozobra reflects dark sense of woe


Last updated 9/2/2021 at 10:36am

SANTA FE -- Every September, when Zozobra goes up in smoke, tens of thousands of glooms go up with him.

Those glooms, collected on slips of paper or official documents, are often related to personal problems — bad jobs, bad relationships, bad financial situations.

This year, someone even dropped off a wedding dress to be torched with Zozobra on Friday — perhaps a reflection on vows taken but not delivered.

But a look at a few dozen glooms provided by Zozobra organizers this year — replete with ZIP codes emanating both far and near — reveals a much deeper, dark-centered sense of woe.

Blame it on the coronavirus, which dominates the world's headlines and heartaches.

Though it's unlikely the crisis will disappear in the time it takes the huge marionette to burn Friday night at Fort Marcy park, those who've written their glooms — both by hand and via email — have made it plain they want the nightmare, now headed to its second full year, to waft away.


A sampling of this year's glooms, provided by Zozobra organizers, include endless references to COVID-19.

Someone from the Austin, Texas, area wrote of woes related to "the state of our country and the world after enduring 2020 and still through 2021."

An Albuquerque resident gloomed about "people refusing to be vaccinated against COVID to protect others."

Others expressed hope Zozobra could, in fact, do something about COVID-19.

"Enough already with this virus!" wrote someone from southeastern New York. "Burn this tiny mojo to the ground. Thanks, Zozobra!"

Other glooms spoke to the pain, loss and endless solitude.

"I am so tired of being alone," wrote a Phoenix resident.

Fear not: Daily frustrations haven't been forgotten, even during the pandemic. Glooms also included the usual number of concerns about unpleasant bosses, unfaithful lovers, financial destitution and cluttered houses.

"This year, I release all my past trauma from the Job That Stole My Soul," wrote one New Mexican in a gloom.

Lisa Jaramillo, a spokeswoman for the Zozobra event, said Wednesday that, unlike years past, the 2021 collection of glooms represented "a lot of anxiety about our country's unrest, political friction, the virus. There's a theme to it and it's quite sad."

Jaramillo said she has a number of glooms ready to burn up as well.

"My gloom in general is anxiety," she said. "I think the last year and a half, and it's the way everyone is feeling, is a sense of being unsure about where we are headed with the virus — people not being employed, businesses not being open because of not enough employees. Then you hear about what's going on in Afghanistan. It's just so hard to stay positive."

But the demise of Zozobra represents a new beginning, she added, one that holds out a measure of hope. If nothing else, people are trying to do something to banish their angst.

"I feel a little lighter the day after Zozobra," she said.

One resident of Wisconsin expressed a similar sense of optimism.

"I am anxious and scared that I will not succeed at my new job — but Zozobra, you will NOT win this time," that person wrote. "I am going to successfully return to work and get off Social Security."

The Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe, which organizes the event, sells glooms to burn at $1 a pop as a fundraiser for the event, Jaramillo said. In August, an official said 30,000 had been sold.

This year, only about 13,000 will be allowed to attend the burning in person, but for those who do get on the field, a tent will be set up to take last-minute glooms in print form.

And don't worry about any potential bad weather systems stopping Friday's burning, Jaramillo said.

"Rain has never prevented Old Man Gloom from burning," she said. "And the weather forecast is looking promising — though it was looking gloomy for a while."


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