Photo: Wikimedia Commons
It started as a campaign to collect unused pesetas to exchange at the national bank for euros, but as the financial crisis continued to snowball with no real end in sight, the initiative took on a life of its own.Today, at least four Spanish towns have reverted to the peseta (the former Spanish currency) — albeit temporarily — instead of the much-maligned euro.
The trend reportedly started in March last year in Mugardos, a small Spanish fishing town on the country’s northern coast. More than 60 shops agreed to accept both euros and pesetas for all purchases.
The initiative was a success, with people from all over Spain digging up long-forgotten stashes of the now officially-defunct currency to buy everything from kitchen appliances to beauty products in Mugardos.
Salvaterra De Mino, Gorbea, and Villamayor de Santiago, also became ‘peseta zones’ for a few months. While the first two collected about a million pesetas (about 10,000 euros or $13,200) each, shopkeepers in the latter have collected 6,000 euros ($8,000) worth of the old currency since January.
But the only thing shop owners can do with the pesetas is exchange them at the Bank of Spain for euros.
The single currency was introduced in the country in January 2002, but the Spanish government never set a deadline for citizens to exchange their pesetas for euros. So Spain is the only Eurozone country where old currency can still be converted into euros. (In 2002, 166.386 pesetas=1 euro.)
While the move may simply be part nostalgia, part publicity gimmick, people in these towns feel the initiative has helped kickstart a stalled economy. Spain’s unemployment figures are staggering: 23 per cent of citizens are out of work, and the price of food has risen by 43 per cent since the single currency was introduced. There are fears Spain may have to be bailed out by the Eurozone.
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