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#2404: The gourde and the "Haitian dollar" Auguste comments
It used to be that one American dollar was worth 5 Haitian gourdes and one
could buy things all over Haiti with the American dollar without any
One American penny was worth 5 Haitian cents
One American nickel was worth 25 Haitian cents
One American dime was worth 50 Haitian cents
One American quarter was worth 1 gourdes 25 cents
One American 50 cents was worth 2 gourdes and 25 cents
4 American quarters were worth 5 Haitian gourdes
and to calculate how much Haitian money one had, it was necessary to multiply
the American money by 5. Simple.
Now Haitians in Haiti have decided that they also have something called
"dollar." It is not a dollar at all. It is simply 5 gourdes.When dealing with
merchants and everyone else I have to constantly ask whether they are talking
about the so called Haitian dollar or the real dollar and do not go out
without a mini calculator to figure things out. For every day the exchange
rate is different. One American dollar amounts to between 15 and 20 Haitian
gourdes at any given time. Confusing to say the least.
I also found that many from the new generation of Haitians in Haiti do not
know at all how much is for instance 250 gourdes. They talk in dollars terms,
Haitian dollars that is........ while dreaming of the real thing.
And not everyone will accept the American dollar as payment for goods.
Recently, while at La Plaine, my elderly mother visiting our ancestors'
graves, decided to have some kenepes. My siblings, my mother and our group of
relatives began to sample the kenepes. I paid the merchants with one American
dollar (worth lots more than the amount he had requested from us) and he told
me "what is this?" I suspected that he did not know how much it was worth and
despite my explanation to assuage him we had to return the rest of the
kenepes to him. We had just landed and did not have any Haitian money with
us. His lost I guess since we had already consumed some of the kenepes.
Recently while at a Haitian barbershop in Brooklyn, New York, this subject of
Haitian dollar came up in the context of how much money would one need to
live decently in Haiti for one month. When I said that Haiti does not have a
dollar as a monetary unit the whole shop went up in a roar. When I explained
that this Haitian dollar thing only creates confusion, I was told "wap fai