We are Islaholics and have been to the island for about 12 years and sometimes twice a year but have always wanted to be there on New Year's so December 31, 2004, was the year.
New Year's Eve in Illinois is a combination of bone-chilling winds and either ice or snow and frozen finger tips and faces. We knew this New Years would be very different.
We opted to take a nap in the afternoon as the festivities do not get underway until midnight and this proved to be a good plan.
The centro plaza is bordered on one side by Avenida Morelos and Avenida Hidalgo on the other with the centro plaza in the center. We wandered about starting at about 10 PM inhaling the sights, sounds, entertainment and festivities working up to the New Year.
Laughter and the excited cries of children came from a small arcade and carnival set up a block away, where children bounced on a large trampoline and ate sweet treats and deep fried dough items. Tables were being set up with reserved signs on them and we asked the price and they were 10.00 US for the night and reserved.
Beer vendors were at both ends of the dance area with ice cold beer and waitresses would bring them to your tables. The grand midnight fiesta in the plaza would be hosted by a seven piece Cuban band who would welcome the baby New Year 2005 into existence.
Vendor booths were set up in front of the church with delicious items from burritos, tacos and tortas to flan, churros and other sweet prepared temptations.
Little girls in their silk, satin and lace dresses played in the area of the dance floor and in front of the church. Overhead, stars sparkled and shone brightly getting ready for the big timeless celebration. We decided this was a very romantic place to welcome in a brand new year.
After reserving our table, we decided to walk back down Avenue Hildalgo. We noticed two musicians making their way from restaurant to restaurant. One was dressed in a ragged black suit with a black hat and a fake white beard. They were chanting a rather catchy refrain and one was banging on a drum and the other on a tambourine. There was a small basket for donations. The old man dressed in black was their "incarnation" of the "old year". Walking around the town area we noticed people would put out effigies of the old man or the old year which they would make out of straw and old clothes, like a scarecrow. At midnight everyone would set their old men on fire which is a symbolic gesture to usher out the old year and bring good luck in the new.
The Mariachis were playing at several restaurants and a very accomplished baritone singer was at Don Chepo's with his fine voice and good selection of songs.
Then we headed back to the plaza and it looked like all of Isla had arrived there. We went to our reserved table with some other friends and sat down. Balloons and streamers were on the trees. Liquour was flowing freely with bottles on the tables and glasses and snacks. The clock over the police station/city hall was fast so our watches and the big official clock did not match. We waited for the countdown but suddenly the moment arrived without one as the loud report of firecrackers exploded and champagne corks flew, and people yelled down from balconies while a bright fireworks display was set off on the top of the City Hall saying "Feliz Anos 2005. Everywhere we looked people were kissing and hugging not only their families but anyone around them. Then the fireworks started and they were a bright display that lasted about 20 minutes over the Carnival area.
We exchanged our kisses and hugs and Feliz Anos to each other and our friends at our table. Then the music started on the big stage set up looking North down Hildago. The music was very good but very loud. We have noticed at other Mexican events that all the Mexicans dance every dance and really have a good time. The evening was a little cool and light sweaters were needed for comfort.
We stayed drinking beer and dancing until about 2:30 and decided to head back to our hotel. We escorted our friends to their Hotel and then on to ours. Tired and happy from our first New Years on Isla we talked about coming again to usher in 2006. Reaching our room and going to the veranda we could see the turquoise swells coming into shore ushering in a New Years 2005 that we will always remember!