Exchange for more change

I got these Chiky cookies from a gas station in Guatemala for 5 quetzales, which is about 60 cents for 25 cookies.

Delicious!

Delicious!

Point being: stuff in Guatemala is cheap to Americans. Yet most of the people in Guatemala are poor, so Americans who march in often have a ton of cash.

The Guatemalan Gringo wrote this week about the value of the American dollar as a way to escape the current American recession.

The inequality of the Gringo’s sad-but-true statement bothered me. In many of the places I visited in Guatemala, my income working part-time at ColdStone Creamery was double or triple the amount many of the locals made.

So how did the Guatemalan economy get to this state? I’m by no means an expert in economics. I do know (with a little help from a friend) that many Latin American countries tried to keep their currency at the same rate as the dollar (fixed exchange rate) for a long time even though their GDP couldn’t match that of the U.S., which caused the value of the quetzal to fall dramatically in comparison to the dollar.

Guatemala has a number of other problems contributing to figures as high as 75 percent living in poverty and the poor value of the quetzal including government corruption and drug trafficking.

I’m going to get to the bottom of this later this week. I’m meeting with a woman from UF’s Latin American department so she can explain this complex issue.

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