By now, the reader probably knows of the riot that formed in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum on Three Kings Day during the governor's now-traditional toy giveaway. I won't go into how the activity should have been organized, or what should or should not have been done (enough has been said about that, anyway). Instead, I would like to invite the reader to rethink how this activity might be celebrated.
I should start by saying that I have never been to one of these activities. Nor have I any intention of going in the future. In fact, I am actually very grateful that I was never taken to one when I was a child. There is a very simple reason for this: going to one of these activities seems to me the worst possible way that I can think of to celebrate Three Kings Day. Who wants to spend a hot day in line waiting for a toy that may or may not be given to you by the governor? There are even people who camp out on the street or a parking lot the night before just so they can get a good turn when the activity finally starts. It is also worth mentioning the several people who fainted in this year's activity and the case of the girl who died several years ago on a previous occasion because of the heat. Quite frankly, it isn't worth it and I cannot begin to comprehend why they insist on doing this type of activity year after year.
Equally unpleasant is the image that is perpetuated of the benevolent leader who gives goods to the neediest among his people while he celebrates the traditions of yesteryear with his family. Besides being tacky and paternalistic (and I might add third-world-like), this image couldn't be farther from the truth. The reality is that the whole thing ends up being a public relations and photo opportunity for whatever governor happens to be in power. I don't think I exaggerate when I say this. This is why this year's celebration was deemed a success, when it obviously wasn't. How else could one explain the fact that this year they decided to give away notebook computers besides toys? (By the way, this year the government spent $780,000 on toys, while on other occasions private companies donated them. Whether or not the notebook computers were also bought with the government's money, I don't know.)
There are those who have said that it is important that this sort of activity continue because it fulfills an important social function. Well, yes. But I also believe that there are better ways to celebrate Three Kings Day than this one. Why not have a real people's celebration? Why not take advantage of the occasion to teach and perpetuate the best of Puerto Rico's traditions? Why give away toys on Three Kings Day and not, instead, a day that is genuinely pleasant and that anybody who wants to can enjoy?