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Don't Cry for Me Argentina: Pedro Schwartz
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The hotel concierge offered me the stingy amount of 8.50 pesos per U.S. dollar, which would make what I bought or spent in Argentina prohibitively expensive. I objected, "But that is the official rate; could you not give me the black market one?" Very correctly, the concierge answered that the only rate they were allowed to offer was the official or 'white' rate. I could get a better price ("Don't say 'black market rate,' but 'blue rate,' please.") at a small restaurant some blocks away. I walked to that establishment where the owner offered me 11 pesos per U.S. dollar—nearly thirty per cent more than the official rate. I suppose I could have bargained for more, but I was content with having both sides profit. In any case, the white and blue colors by which Argentinians call the official and the parallel rate piqued my curiosity and I decided to learn more about this multicolored currency.


This public policy has given rise to a lively black market (excuse me). Just before Christmas the illegal price for 'blue' dollars at exchange shops was 12.87 pesos. If one lived in Buenos Aires, one could buy so-called 'green' dollars at the better rate 13.07 pesos. Why 'green'? The dealers who pay this rate stand planted, so to speak, in Calle Florida in the country's capital city, and the ever humorous porteños call them 'arbolitos', or 'little trees'—hence green. Finally, if you badly need dollars to import parts for your car factory or tires for your tractors, the inexhaustibly inventive Argentinians have found another, though more risky way, of supplying them, by purchasing state bonds for pesos and selling them for dollars on Wall Street—at the 'grey' rate of 11.47 per cent.