Quito, Dec 29 (EFE).- Figures representing Argentine soccer great Lionel Messi are commanding premium prices in this capital as Ecuadorians prepare for the traditional New Year’s Eve bonfire of effigies.
The custom, which is common throughout Latin America, symbolizes the banishment of the evils of the year that’s ending. Unsurprisingly, effigies of politicians are usually most popular for the purpose.
But this year, in the wake of Argentina’s Dec. 18 triumph over France in the World Cup final, figures of Messi are more sought-after than those of politicos, according to Maria Pilicita, president of the association of effigy vendors in Quito’s La Carolina park.
“Perhaps because of everybody’s excitement, though I don’t know why they want to burn him, being that he’s the greatest player in football,” she said quizzically.
Pilicita, who has been selling “Old Years,” as the effigies are known, for 50 years, confides that she no longer purchases her stock in Quito, but from artisans in coastal Guayaquil who make figures from cardboard.
At 65, Maria gets help from her adult children in setting up and staffing the kiosk.
Son Milton Pila told EFE that the paucity of effigies of Messi and French star Kylian Mbappe can be explained by the calendar, because the artisans start making effigies in March and the World Cup final “happened just a few days ago.”
Martha Hinojosa, 72, and her 68-year-old husband sleep in their kiosk, which measures 2.5 x 2 m (8 x 6.5 ft), at La Carolina during the holiday rush to safeguard their inventory.
Taking pride of place is a larger-than-life figure of Messi with a $120 price tag.
Martha paid around $3,600 for some 500 effigies from Guayaquil – Ecuador’s largest city – and spent another $400 to rent a truck to bring the merchandise to Quito, her daughter Carina said.
The kiosk usually turns a profit of between $1,000 and $2,000, Carina said.
Artisans trying to meet the demand for Messi effigies are hampered by shortages of cardboard and paper, Martha said.
“Since yesterday, we barely unload (Messi effigies) from the truck and they fly out the door,” she added, noting that one of them sold for $100.
A cabbie who overheard the exchange quipped: “One-hundred dollars for a cardboard effigy? … better to burn the money and don’t pollute.”
Martha was expecting another eight Messi effigies to arrive from Guayaquil via bus.
“Only eight because the lady who supplies me doesn’t have more,” she said. “More Messis: the most requested and the most absent.” EFE sm/dr