Community Currencies Offer Refuge from Economic Forces
MEXICO CITY, Dec 21, 2010 (IPS) - Túmin, which means "money" in the Totonaca indigenous language, is a community currency now circulating among 80 vendors selling their products at an alternative market in the town of Espinal, in the eastern Mexican state of Veracruz.
It is equivalent to one Mexican peso, and each vendor was initially given 500 units, which they are using to buy and sell goods and services.
The túmin was launched in November by Juan Castro, a professor at the public Intercultural University of Veracruz, and members of a development research centre and a human rights network in Espinal, 400 km southeast of the Mexican capital.
"We created it to strengthen the local economy, so that people will buy locally and not go outside of their community to spend their money," Castro told IPS. "It's gaining acceptance; more and more people are interested in participating."
The túmin is the latest experiment in Mexico in parallel currency systems, which began to be used at least two decades ago in this Latin American country, although none of them has really taken off.
"We haven't been able to grow as we would like to," said Luís Lópezllera, director of Promotion of Popular Development, a local NGO. "We have run up against mistrust and irresponsibility. It's really hard to get people to believe that credit lies in people, not in the authorities," he told IPS.
Lópezllera was one of the driving forces behind the Red Tláloc, a network dedicated to the solidarity economy that emerged in 1996, in the wake of the financial crisis that two years earlier had devastated the savings of millions of Mexicans and spread to other countries in a contagious phenomenon dubbed the "tequila effect".
The network created a directory to enable those offering or looking for goods and services to contact each other and do business using the Tláloc currency, which takes its name from the Aztec god of rain and is equivalent to one hour of community work.
The parties involved in the transaction agree on what proportions will be paid for in Tlálocs or Mexican pesos. The hour of community work is valued at four dollars -- the official minimum daily wage in Mexico.