El Dia newspaper published this cartoon on June 30, 2011. There are two policemen questioning a person “Don’t you know is forbidden to put up fires in Saint John?” Saint John (San Juan) is celebrated with fires on the night of June 23rd, people jump over fires, eat hotdogs and drink warm beverages, as it is regarded as the coldest night of the year. In the second part of the cartoon, the person replies “It is not a fire, it is chaqueo!” and the police officer says “I’m sorry…”
Chaqueo is the slang for slash-and-burn practices; forest and agricultural land are set up in fire around this time of the year until August. The irony here is that every year, the municipalities, central government and police launch national campaigns aiming at reducing the amount of pollutants (tires, plastics, cardboard and anything flammable at hand) that are set up in flames along with the festivity fires (wood) and fireworks; and at chaqueo times, little is done to prevent or build up awareness on current vs. best agricultural practices. For most crops, fires are not proven to be of real help anyway.
The following morning (June 24th), the air in most cities was “cleaner” than in previous years (there was a year that major airports were inoperable due to the smoke in the air). San Juan fires are just an example of how real problems are not tackled properly; rather, actions are diverted into smaller but visible issues.