Jun. 10th, 2011

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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.

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2010 Could a rusty coin re-write Chinese-African history?

It is not much to look at - a small pitted brass coin with a square hole in the centre - but this relatively innocuous piece of metal is revolutionising our understanding of early East African history, and recasting China's more contemporary role in the region.

A joint team of Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists found the 15th Century Chinese coin in Mambrui - a tiny, nondescript village just north of Malindi on Kenya's north coast.

In barely distinguishable relief, the team leader Professor Qin Dashu from Peking University's archaeology department, read out the inscription: "Yongle Tongbao" - the name of the reign that minted the coin some time between 1403 and 1424.

"These coins were carried only by envoys of the emperor, Chengzu," Prof Qin said.

"We know that smugglers would often take them and melt them down to make other brass implements, but it is more likely that this came here with someone who gave it as a gift from the emperor."

And that poses the question that has excited both historians and politicians: How did a coin from the early 1400s get to East Africa, almost 100 years before the first Europeans reached the region?

When China ruled the seas

The answer seems to be with Zheng He, also known as Cheng Ho - a legendary Chinese admiral who, the stories say, led a vast fleet of between 200 and 300 ships across the Indian Ocean in 1418.

Until recently, there have only been folk tales and insubstantial hints at how far Zheng He might have sailed.

Then, a few years ago, fishermen off the northern Kenyan port town of Lamu hauled up 15th Century Chinese vases in their nets, and the Chinese authorities ran DNA tests on a number of villagers who claimed Chinese ancestry.

The tests seemed to confirm what the villagers have always believed - that a ship from Zheng He's fleet sank in a storm and the surviving crew married locals, meaning some people in the area still have subtly Chinese features.


via the Blasian Narrative.


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