Saturday, December 29, 2007

End of the Year Madness

Puerto Ricans love to celebrate the holidays. New Years' Eve celebration, literally speaking, can sometimes end with a bang. Every holiday season, especially after Christmas Day, I see banners and newspaper ads with the following phrase: "No me quites la vida con una bala perdida." (Translation: "Don't take away my life with a stray bullet.") We were also quite use to hearing sporadic gunshots from our living room as well, during New Years' Eve, even though they were fired from quite a distance.

It's a sad reality but some Puerto Ricans mark the New Year by firing bullets into the air. One would think, if he or she has a decent amount of brain cells, that someone can get hurt as a result... and in fact, many people have been killed. The police and various non-profit organizations, such as United Way, have worked hard to discourage people from engaging in such dangerous behavior by launching media campaigns and community outreach programs. According to the police, such efforts have been quite successful as the number of reported injuries and death has gradually decreased.

Besides stray bullets, as in many other countries in the world, drunk driving is also a serious problem here. A few days ago, I came across an interesting set of statistics in the local paper. In the state of South Carolina, which has a population of 4.25 million, there were 8,645 drunk driving arrests in 2005. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, the number was more than twice that amount at a staggering 19,837. Keep in mind that this island has a bit less than 4 million inhabitants. Interestingly, the article also states that the percentage of alcohol consumption, during the holidays, goes up from 51% to 82%.

Why is it that the holidays seem to provoke such outrageous behavior amongst some of us?

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