Creating A Community Currency

Frances Negrón-Muntaner, a Puerto Rican artist and professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, has spent three years working on creating a community currency for Puerto Rico called Valor y Cambio

The first two years were spent on understanding the unpayable debt Puerto Rico had incurred. From there, she and her team studied community currencies around the world, especially colonized islands, including New Zealand, Australia, and the other islands of the Caribbean. Much of their currency was colorful, with many references to the natural environment. “They were inspiring to us, because the natural environment is so central to everyday life,” she says. Currency made by Māori artists, and other artists, was especially inspiring. “What kind of stories, and what kind of values does currency carry?” she asks.

Negrón-Muntaner and her team, including visual artist Sarabel Santos Negrón, spent time on the currency’s design, determining what stories to tell, what the denominations would be, etc. Every component was thought out extensively, from the colors to the details, and Negrón-Muntaner and her team surveyed Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico and in New York City to learn what figures embodied the values they were seeking to uplift: justice, equity, creativity and solidarity.

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