Valor y Cambio: Community Currency in Puerto Rico
The OIKOS working group at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for a discussion of Valor y Cambio with Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Sarah Muir.
Valor y Cambio (#valorycambio) is a story-telling, community-building, and solidarity economy project started by the artists Frances Negrón-Muntaner and Sarabel Santos Negrón. The project emerges in response to the island’s more than decade-old debt crisis and the punitive austerity measures imposed by the U.S. government since 2016. It calls attention to the fact that for almost all of its history Puerto Rico has been denied the right to create its own currency, and its economy has been organized to benefit other nations and states.
The project introduces a “community currency”—pesos of Puerto Rico— that can be adopted autonomously by communities to meet their own needs for cooperation and exchange. It does not require the backing of the state, corporations, or other entities. In February of 2019, a mobile “valorycambio” or VyC machine, an ATM-style device, began traveling to various locations distributing bills and, in return, gathering stories on video about what people value. Each time a person shares a story, he or she will receive pesos. With these bills in hand, participants will be able to receive a discount in more than 40 small businesses in several towns and cities. The pesos feature athletes, activists, writers, and communities that have acted on their values to enrich peoples’ lives and in that way asserted that, “change is in our hands.”
Frances Negrón-Muntaner is a filmmaker and professor at Columbia University. Her scholarship and artistry span a wide range of forms, such as film, essay, and poetry, with a focus on the Caribbean, the African diaspora, and Latinos in the United States. Her publications include Puerto Rican Jam: Rethinking Colonialism and Nationalism (1997), and Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (2004). Among her films are: AIDS in the Barrio (1989), Brincando El Charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican (1997), Small City, Big Change (2013), and Life Outside (2016). Negrón-
Sarah Muir is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Director of International Studies at City College. Her research examines the practical logics of economic investment, ethical evaluation, and political critique, with a particular focus on social class and financial crisis. She is completing a book entitled Exhaustion: Critique in an Era of Routinized Crisis, which examines everyday middle-class Argentine politics in the wake of a century of financial crises. She is also developing a project called Accounting for Kith and Kin, which analyzes pension plans as institutions of intergenerational investment and social obligation. Muir’s work appears in Cultural Anthropology, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Current Anthropology, and ANUAC: Journal of the Italian Association of Anthropology. She co-directs (with Frances Negrón-Muntaner) the Unpayable Debt working group at Columbia.