In Spanish cities, at night, crowds of young people wander the streets in search of a party, meeting their friends and stopping to drink. When a large mass of people get together, a party spontaneously breaks out. This phenomenon, translated into English as booze-up or binge-drinking, is perceived by local governments as a social problem because it is impossible to predict where it will take place and because drinkers are as young as 12.
In addition, now it has become fashionable to compete for the biggest national drinking party, as cities from Málaga to Madrid and Barcelona to Bilbao try to outdo one another by organizing the largest gathering. Word is spread by email and text messages, and teenagers crowd into city centres, armed with bottles of soft drinks generously mixed with alcohol.
City councils are very cautious about calling in the police for fear that drunken youths will turn to violence. The Government has tried to introduce emergency legislation but this is unlikely to have much impact, because, across Spain, regional authorities have set different minimum ages to buy alcohol.
Despite Spain’s reputation for civilised Mediterranean drinking habits, “the big bottle” leaves city centres full of rubbish, and residents, who have been kept up all night, furious. Under-age drinkers claim that this way they can enjoy a night out for as little as 6 euros a night, whereas bars are too expensive.