about the project
Valor y Cambio is now at New York City’s Loisaida Cultural Center!
After its successful run in Puerto Rico, Valor y Cambio has moved to New York City’s iconically Puerto Rican Lower East Side! Come check out the VyC ATM and exchange your ideas for a new peso powered by and for the community. Use it to treat yourself to a variety of items from local businesses, from a cup of tea to theater tickets. Designed to challenge the inequities communities like those of Puerto Rico and Loisaida face, the Valor y Cambio currency shifts the power back to the people, investigating what societies value or not, what is seen as worthy or not, at a local and global scale. Join the conversation on what a just economy should be. Come and visit the local businesses that have partnered with us to accept our peso de Puerto Rico! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @ValorYCambioPR & @ValorYCambio (published June 26,2019).
Valor y Cambio (#valorycambio) is a story-telling, community-building, and solidarity economy project started by artist Frances Negrón-Muntaner and collaborator Sarabel Santos Negrón. Started in Puerto Rico amidst the economic crisis and currently in New York City, Valor y Cambio is out to spark a broad conversation about what is a just economy and how to foster collective empowerment in the face of austerity and neoliberal policies locally and nationally.
At the center of the project is a community currency—pesos of Puerto Rico, —as a means of change, in the sense of both money and social transformation. Participants can obtain a peso through an ATM machine currently located at the Loisaida Cultural Center, which dispenses the bills at random in return for participants recording a short video about what they value. The bills can then be exchanged for products and services, from a cup of tea to theater tickets, in over 22 businesses and organizations (to date) throughout the summer.
The project launched in Puerto Rico in February of 2019. It emerged in response to Puerto Rico’s more than a decade-old debt crisis and the punitive austerity measures imposed by the U.S. government since 2016. It also called 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.
After a nine-day tour where over 1,000 people participated, the project moved to New York City, to a neighborhood with deep Puerto Rican roots--Loisaida. It premiered at the 2019 Loisaida Festival on May 26, and it will stay in the Lower East Side as part of Pasado y Presente: Art After the Young Lords 1969-2019 from May 31 to July 15th.
In New York City and Puerto Rico, the project has encouraged participants to consider the question of how a community can create different conceptions of wealth--one that promotes values such as accessible education, a clean environment, creativity, self-governance, solidarity, food security and gender, labor, and racial equity.
In the era of virtual currency, such as BitCoin, the artists chose an “analogue” paper currency that can be passed hand-to-hand to promote community conversation and draw attention to the imaginative dimension of currency production. Unlike bills issued by the state, which are used to impose its authority through top-down forms of security, the locally produced pesos emphasize that security and authority truly originate in robust social relationships and acts of community solidarity. They facilitate and encourage the exchange of local skills, relationships, and knowledge in ways that benefit communities and regions.
The six pesos of Puerto Rico bills have denominations ranging from 1 to 25, which are accessed through a mobile “valor y cambio” or VyC machine, an ATM-style device. They 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.” These include the Cordero siblings, Ramón Emeterio Betances, Luisa Capetillo, Julia de Burgos, Roberto Clemente, and the Caño Martín Peña community. All of the iconic figures that appear on the Puerto Rican pesos experienced the impact of forced migrations in their lifetimes, and several, such as Betances, de Burgos and Capetillo, share a deep connection to New York City or the Puerto Rican diaspora.
By using a QR code on the back of the bill, users can learn more about the bills and the stories of the figures pictured on them. All collaborators of the project hope these inspiring stories will stimulate the exchange of a diversity of stories about the wealth and values of community.
What is a Community Currency?
A “community currency” is a type of money that is created and 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. Today, thousands of social currencies abound in many parts of the world, including Brazil, England, Spain, South Korea, and the United States. Although community currencies do not usually substitute national or dominant currencies, they can fulfill important financial functions and offer a way to build solidarity economies that are not based on profit.