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Botellones, or binge-drinking parties, persist in Spain despite bans, complaints and the odd cooking class.
MADRID, Spain — The right of Spanish youths to party in the streets is in question.
The “botellon” phenomenon, literally “big bottle,” attracts gatherings of youths to drink in parks and squares. People bring their own drinks: soda to mix with gin, vodka or whisky, and wine to make “calimocho,” a blend of coke and wine.
Some botellones are composed of small groups of friends, while others are massive. The time and place of “macro-botellones” are “announced” by viral dissemination, using mass texting, emails or social networks such as Facebook or Tuenti, a Spanish network popular among youth. The legal age to buy alcohol in Spain is 18, but younger teens attend these parties. (Binge drinking in general is on the rise among Spanish teenagers, as I reported in an earlier article.)
Residents in nearby apartment blocks complain of screams and loud music from “disco-cars;” vandalism; trash from broken glass, plastic cups and bags; and urine in the streets and on their doorsteps. “They go literally all night, Thursday through Saturday,” said Emilia de la Serna, spokeswoman for an aptly named Association for the Right to Rest. “And, what’s worse, these young people are destroying themselves. How can this be allowed?” she asked.
TV news coverage spotlights the crudest images of botellon: youths vomiting; unable to walk by themselves, being dragged by friends; or simply passed out on the ground.
In some cases, botellones have ended in clashes between youths and police.
Javier Ruiz, from the National Confederation of Students (CANAE), admitted such trangressions do occur, but said he feels they are the exception rather than the rule. “There are many people who don’t drink but they go to a botellon as a meeting point to hang out with friends and chat. The majority doesn’t abuse alcohol. They don’t do anything wrong.”
“There’s a tendency to criminalize the youth, but the youth is a reflection of society. The youths drink, but so do their parents,” said Ruiz.
In some locales, such as Madrid, youths defy municipal regulations banning street drinking. If caught by the police, they are subject to a 300 euro ticket, unless they opt to attend a session of alcohol awareness. Once-renowned botellon hangouts do not draw large crowds any more.
Smaller groups resist. “People will continue doing it,” said Ruiz. “Punitive measures don’t educate.”