On Sunday, January 15, the last night of the BPM Festival in Playa del Carmen, five people were killed, and 15 people were injured when a gunman opened fire in the Blue Parrot on Calle 12. These are some of the only facts we know. The rest of the information that has been flying around social media and being reported in traditional media outlets in the last 24 hours have been filled with speculation, rumors, and opinions. However, obtaining facts regarding what actually happened has been difficult.
Both the president of the municipality, Christina Torres and the governor of Quintana Roo, Carlos Joaquin made official statements condemning the violence, and promising justice would be served. The municipality has also stated that the BPM Festival would not be welcome back next year, and they would look long and hard at other similar festivals that wish to host their events in the region.
On social media, the opinion of canceling BPM varies. There are some who are pleased with the cancelation as they deem BPM a nuisance. It is a 10-day festival that offers DJ-hosted parties 24 hours a day. Opponents complain about the extreme noise the parties generate, the blatant and rampant drug use it seems to attract, excessive amounts of garbage on the beach and what they believe to be a blatant disregard for the community. However, others feel that BPM brings much-needed revenue to a location that relies solely on tourism to survive. They believe that BPM has also put Playa del Carmen on the map for a generation of young travelers with cash to spend and canceling the event will accomplish very little to curb the availability and desire for drugs in Playa.
There are many reasons to believe the shooting was drug-related. But, let´s be honest, drugs are a constant in Playa del Carmen. Removing BPM from the scene will not eliminate the core problem that exists here (and all over the world). If the demand for drugs is there, the violence that goes along with illegal drug use will continue. As one poster on a local Facebook forum so eloquently stated:
¨It’s all well and good canceling BPM, but it’s a demand problem. Maybe BPM increases demand for drugs, but even without the festival it still exists. If only people applied the same morals to their drug buying as when they buy fair trade coffee or avoid clothes made in sweatshops or blood diamonds. For some reason, people can’t associate buying drugs with the trail of destruction that it brings, but you can’t immediately see.¨
And he´s right. You can cancel all the festivals you want. You can start as many drug wars as your government can afford to fund. However, unless you address the real issue, drug use, you are just applying Band-Aids to a gunshot wound.