I returned to the tropics for the holidays. The tropics are my home (or the Caribbean, the mid-torso region of the Equator, or whatever you’d like to call it). Since my stay was going to be short, my mom and I decided to spend some quality time together shopping…on Christmas Eve.
That was where I got anxious and confused.
There were A LOT OF people in the stores with large bags of toys, clothes, etc. The mall we went to had lots and lots of kiosks selling all kinds of merchandise. Even the Sam’s Club next to the projects was full.
I was anxious because of the renewed fear of pick pocketing (last time my purse nearly got snatched because I wasn’t carrying it in front of me). I was confused because what I recently read did not fit with what I saw while shopping:
- The poverty rate in Puerto Rico remained far ahead of the poorest state, Mississippi, where 22.6 percent of the population was below the poverty line in 2011.
- The median household income in Puerto Rico fell to $18,660 last year, dropping from $19,370 in 2010, the new Census data shows.
- The percentage of Puerto Ricans on food stamps inched up from 36.7 percent in 2010 to 37.5 percent in 2011.
Source: Caribbean Business September 2012 Article- Census: PR poverty up, income down http://caribbeanbusinesspr.com/news/census-pr-poverty-up-income-down-76580.html
Don’t get me wrong: I am not against people going out to buy things but after running the numbers in my head (including the IVU now charged per purchase), technically the vast majority of the population do not have a lot of discretionary income for large bags of items (unless they are going to a goodwill store, which strangely enough I have not seen after living 25 years on this island). So, it brought me to the same conclusion I had for the general population that manages to make ends meet that could be viewed as paranoia but has a ring of truth to it:
45% of the population participates in the black market.
This could be the most plausible explanation (or biased-hateful explanation) on how to gap the holes on affording food and basic housing without suffering malnutrition. Seriously, there are more US restaurants popping up every year in this island than existing chains closing in the states (eating out costs more than making a meal at home regardless of how you look at it).
But why should I be anxious/paranoid/distrustful in a mall full of people shopping until they drop? Or even going about town?
Well, even my mom can sum it up better than I can:
“Sometimes I hate driving in town because I am afraid I might get hit with a stray bullet from a nearby gun fight“.
She has lived over a half a century on this island and has tracked the cause and effect changes from the current economic crisis. This uneasiness is still present in spite of avoiding ALL of the bad neighborhoods, projects, etc, while going about while running simple errands. And there is a HUGE population of people here who live in project housing who do pack heat whom we do interact with on a daily basis. They are more than likely not members of the NRA.
Don’t take my word or my mom’s word on that:
“Puerto Rico has 3.7 million residents, a storied capital, more than 300 miles of stunning coastline, an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit –and, in 2011, a homicide rate more than five times that of the mainland U.S. and higher than that of Mexico.”
Source: Bloomberg View February 2012 Article: Puerto Rico’s Drug Crime Problem Needs Federal Attention: View http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-28/puerto-rico-s-drug-crime-problem-needs-federal-government-attention-view.html
But I digress. I shouldn’t feel this way since I was spending time with family in a familiar place (the mall) and just zone out all of the crowds of people.
Maybe, just maybe it was a general bad idea to go out shopping on Xmas eve.
I love Amazon!