Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Jamaica. What do all these countries have in common? They are all self-governed Caribbean islands that have had poor economies for over 50 years, in contrast to Puerto Rico’s relative wealth. Now, I’m not looking to start a political discussion regarding Puerto Rico’s current economic troubles or whether independence or statehood is the right future for my homeland. There are far bigger problems than that. My aim here is to decouple the current political and economic situation the island is going through and focus solely on the existing social behaviors expressed by Puerto Rican people in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.
“Happy is a man who is living by his hobby.”
It is obviously very healthy for a person to have hobbies such as exercise, sports, reading, writing, travel, etc. Those things that you consider your true passion or maybe your escape from reality (e.g. job). But do we know what the most common hobby we have as a society is? Based purely on my experience living in Puerto Rico for 25+ years, I can conclude that our main hobby on la isla del encanto is drinking. Now, why have we developed such an appetite for our precious Medalla?
There are several nonsense arguments. One of them being our “cultural heritage” or, one that I really like, “It is the way to celebrate our hard work by means of a social Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” These are all just good excuses and they only scratch the surface of the real issue. In essence alcohol is an anesthetic, a way to remove ourselves from the present and mitigate the pain that we feel as a person. And perhaps in Puerto Rico, the pain we feel as a country.
By no means am I against drinking. I enjoy a good whiskey or a strong IPA. My point is that when drinking becomes the main hobby of a society, and we start to build micro-economies to support this hobby then there is an issue. In Puerto Rico a common Saturday activity is a chinchorreo road trip, where a group pitches in to rent Jeeps or school buses to “safely” drive them through the highlands to multiple dive bars so that they can drink more than they should.
I have to ask myself, is this what we should be doing? Don’t get me wrong, these things are a ton of fun but is it what we really need? In a time where 85% of our food in Puerto Rico is imported and therefore food security is an issue of national concern, wastefulness is a cultural norm and our economy is on the verge of collapse, should we be wasting time and money on this “hobby”? No, probably not. Time is precious and what we do with it will define our future.
This leads to my second question, why don’t we as individual citizens do something about it? Why do most Puerto Ricans not seem to care to be the change they want to see in the world? This one is a harder question and requires lots of inputs in order to have a wholesome answer. However, there is one thing that can summarize our dependent mindset. It is harder to do something about a problem than to just let it be. We have been a colony from the moment Christopher Columbus arrived to Borikén. We evolved in as a dependent country. We are waiting for someone to look at us and have pity on our misfortune and fix it for us. Well let me tell you Mi compatriota, we are waiting on a dream. We are in the 21st century and we need to take care of our own country and people ourselves. Puerto Rico is an island with amazing human and natural resources and I think we sometimes forget how far we have gotten and conform to mediocrity because of our dependent mindset doesn’t let us take action.
We need to shift our focus onto things that add value to the sustainable development of our future generations. We need to teach our own people the value of making decisions that pave the pathway to self-awareness. This is done only by setting the example ourselves. Don’t wait for others that were no even born on this island to take care of it. Because why should they? In the end my dear Puerto Rico, we just need to care more.