That creature is Zozobra, or Old Man Gloom, in his death throes and screaming in his evil way for mercy. But he shall have no mercy.
Zozobra is a festival held every year in Santa Fe. People write down terrible memories or events from the previous year and put them in the Gloom Box, which is dumped as a whole into Old Man Gloom's massive paper-mâché body (he is fifty feet tall). He leers at the crowd from his place on stage, still as death, until the sun begins to set and he starts roaring like a madman. And roar he should, because the whole crowd begins to shout, "Burn him! Burn him!"
Zozobra is burned to send all those bad memories of the previous year up in smoke, to send the bad on its way in the past and make room for a new year ahead (and a chance to create more bad memories for next year's Zozobra).
Yippee, you might say. You drive over an hour to find a parking spot in Santa Fe, walk a mile or more to stand among a bunch of crazy, stinky strangers for two more hours just so you can watch a marionette catch fire? Big whoop.
Not just big whoop, though. It's the biggest whoop ever. Old Man Gloom is strung up to move around as he roars at the crowd, shaking our ear drums and pissing us off that he dares personify our bad history. He flaps his jaw and reaches out with enormous arms, seeking to add to his already monstrous dark persona. But then the fire dancer comes out, and he knows he's done for.
Imagine seeing this creeper in person, and knowing he'll be gone forever in just a few hours:
Okay, so this particular year (2009) we felt a little bad for the guy. If you look really closely at his hands, you can see that his arms are attached on the wrong side. His thumbs should be on top, but they're not. When our little posse realized that, we couldn't help whispering, "We're burning a cripple. We are so going to hell."