about the project
Valor y Cambio 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.
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.
How it works
At the center of the project is a community currency: the pesos of Puerto Rico. 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 Puerto Rican 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.”
Participants can obtain a peso through the VyC ATM, 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 participating local businesses and organizations.
By using a QR code on the back of the bill, users can also 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.
Designed to challenge the inequities that communities like Puerto Rico, Loisaida and East Harlem face, the Valor y Cambio currency shifts the power back to the people, investigating what societies value, what is seen as worthy, at a local and global scale. Join the conversation on what a just economy should be!
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.
In the era of virtual currency, such as BitCoin, the Valor y Cambio 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.