Just like most countries, the coming of the new year is something that is greatly celebrated in Puerto Rico, New Year’s Eve 2012 was no exception, the only thing is that in Puerto Rico people like “bangs” from much more than just fireworks; for some reason, some people like to shoot bullets up into the open air.
Not too long ago, all fireworks were illegal in Puerto Rico, yet every New year’s Eve, there were thousands of people firing up their illegal firecrackers and bottle rockets and just about every other type of firework you can imagine. However now, certain types of fireworks are legal and you can buy them at just about any store. But the problem is that some of the loudest and most dangerous type of firework that people use here, the ones that are still illegal, are the ones that cause the most injuries and sometimes death.
There is a type of firecracker that is very loud and we call “Cherry Bombs”, basically this is a very big firecracker that some actually consider to be a quarter of a dynamite. New Year’s Eve 2012 saw at least 2 people that had to go to the hospital due to serious injuries sustained from improperly handling one of these “Cherry Bombs”. But this is not what bothers me, you see, these guys sustaining injuries from improper handling of pyrotechnics is more often that not because of their own risky behavior. They knew that firing up these firecrackers or Cherry Bombs carry a serious risk, yet they decided on firing them up, self injury was a risk they were willing to take.
What really bothers me is something that some people do for some unknown reason, and that is shooting bullets into the open air, despite the huge campaigns that the local government, police officers, and just about every radio and TV stations hold every year. Legalizing most fireworks didn’t work, firing up powerful firecrackers just doesn’t cut it, people just have to take their guns and point it upwards at an angle and just shoot a few rounds. “Ni una bala más” (Not one more bullet), people say all the time in these huge campaigns, songs about it are written and played on the radio, TV and Radio ads are played, billboards on the roads are displayed, yet people still do that.
This time “only” 3 people were injured due to stray bullets, believe it or not, this is considered a success since no one died due to stray bullets. But the thing is that every new Year’s Eve, I feel the same way, ashamed that we have to deal with the fear that a stray bullet can come and hit us at any time if we are outside. Several years ago I found a bullet just outside of the front door of my house, that same year I met a girl that can no longer walk because of an injury sustained from a stray bullet, and last year a 14 year old kid died due to getting hit with a stray bullet in his head while he was in front of his house.
So what are we supposed to do? Culturally we would be outside in the nice weather that we normally have at this time of year, eat lots of food, party with friends and family, listen to loud music and then count down to the coming of the next year, but most of us can’t celebrate without wondering if one of those bullets will hit someone at any time. This is something that really bothers me. Is it too much to ask to not shoot into open air?
Anyway, I must admit that I feel ashamed that we have to deal with stray bullets during New Year’s Eve. How can we celebrate when we are in fear of our lives because someone somewhere decided to ignore the potential consequences and start shooting into the open air?
This is one thing that I DO NOT like about living here.
I hope you all have a happy new year,