Thursday, December 26, 2019

Venezuela's Currency: Worth More as Craft Paper Than as Money

By Sergio Held

Santa Marta, Colombia - Along the cobblestoned streets of the coastal city of Santa Marta, demand for bolivares from Venezuela is skyrocketing, but not for the bills' monetary value.

Instead of using his homeland's money to pay for daily essentials in his native country, Venezuelan immigrant Hector Cordero weaves the currency into wallets and purses, which he sells to tourists in Colombia. His artful crafts underscore the creative methods that Venezuelans are using to extract value from a currency that - amid skyrocketing inflation - many consider worthless.

"These bolivares soberanos notes are worth nothing," Cordero, who is from Caracas, told Al Jazeera. "The notes I use are not circulating any more since last year."

Cordero uses about 70 notes of 100 bolivares each to handcraft a small coin purse, or 100 of the notes to make a larger wallet. A handbag can take up to 1,200 notes to produce. All in all, the artist incorporates 16 different denominations of Venezuelan currency into his crafts, many of them the discontinued bolivares soberanos.

Cordero sells wallets made from hundreds or even thousands of bills of the now valueless currency for about $8; the handbags go for about $12. He says most of his clients are European and North American tourists - people who want to take home a piece of what was once one of the strongest economies in South America.

He learned his technique by watching others in the streets of Caracas and by studying dozens of YouTube tutorials uploaded by fellow Venezuelans to teach people how to make what has become known as origami venezolano.

"When I run out of bolivares, my brother goes to Venezuela and brings more notes," Cordero said. "People have a lot of these notes and we buy them. We give them what they ask for." He explained that people in Venezuela exchange unworthy bolivares by the weight for other forms of currency - usually United States dollars - or for food. People also make the swap for high-denomination bolivares - bills that still hold some dwindling value. The crafts help Cordero and his family get by in their temporary home in Colombia, but he dreams of returning to Venezuela some day.

"I hope things change in Venezuela. I want to go back. There's nothing like our country and I don't feel comfortable living in another country," he said. "The government has let everything break down. I'm only waiting for problems to get solved so I can go back to Venezuela."

The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela this year will reach 200,000 percent - and that the economy will contract by 35 percent.

The above originally appeared at Al Jazeera News.

No comments:

Post a Comment