Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Easy Credit in Argentina

article from March 21, 2012
By Jamie Douglas

We live outside a relatively small town southwest of San Rafael in Mendoza province. To say that the area is very poor would be a good description. Out in the country where we live, a few kilometers away from the small dusty town of Salto de las Rosas, many of our neighbors are illegal Bolivian and Peruvian immigrants who make a living from the dirt that they inhabit. Literally! I don’t know if they own the land they live on, as it looks more like they are squatters to me. Almost all the homes are made of mud bricks. It is not much, but to them it is a lot more than they could ever accomplish in Bolivia or Peru. Not much wealth is displayed externally, except for the TV antennas on every shack, and more and more are sporting the US$50 satellite systems being sold in small and large stores alike.

The main sources of income in these latitudes are seasonal fruit picking and year-round brick making. They build these intricate structures out of raw mud bricks, with vent holes and a very unique way of stacking them, and then they stuff it with a special kind of wood and let is smolder for weeks. The end result is that giant trucks from all over the country come to pick up huge loads of bricks. There is some heavy equipment involved, such as forklifts, but it all appears to be communally owned.

I give you all the above information to show just how poor this particular area is. We are just a few kilometers south of the wine belt, so there really is a lot of poverty here for most of the year. You should know that in this region there are also a lot of really poor Argentineans as well as a number of legal Bolivians, Peruvians and Paraguayans. They have documentos to show that they are legal residents.

Now to the point of this message: We have been trying to distribute our meager income to as many locals as we can. We buy fruits and vegetables from La Familia, a sweet, hard-working family of Bolivianos selling great quality fruits and veggies out of their home; Carlito and his family provide us with meat and chicken; and we get our staple foods from the little Atomo minimarket, a branch of a larger chain.

So last Saturday I went to the Atomo to make some purchases, and in the tiny parking lot out front was a car dealer with a brand new Peugeot 207, a very small car he was trying to sell by draping two turbo-vixens over it, bending in the aluminum foil-thin skin (the turbo vixens are optional). I could not help it – I had to go find out how he was going to convince the local populace to get one of them.

“Oh, es muy simple,” he stated. All I need is for you to come to my office with your documentos and two utility bills in your name, and you can own one with no money down, no payments until six months from now and then you have five years – interest free – and best of all, the loan is in Argentinean pesos.”

Talk about money in the bank! The Argentinean peso is constantly devaluing and nobody can predict what calamities will befall the Southern Cone nation over the next five and a half years, but it will be quite a few. So buying a few cars on these terms, taking them to a barn and shrink-wrapping them for the future should be a very good investment.

This is the economic reality today in Argentina. The banknotes are so old and worn out that you are compelled to wash your hands after handling them. Giving the cars away on these kinds of terms shows how the economic engine, which stalled a couple of years ago, is being fueled. Lies about inflation, poverty, unemployment and anything else a government could lie about led to this situation. It has gotten so bad that the International Monetary Fund is closing their regional office, the nation’s economy has tanked and all Empress Cristina can talk about is “Las Malvinas,” the old nationalistic standby for diverting attention from domestic problems.

But just like in the upcoming elections in France, Greece, USA, Germany, etc, the people will continue to be baffled by all the bullshit and make all the wrong choices, as always.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza

[Photo from San Rafael Department, Mendoza, Argentina by Jamie Douglas]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.