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95. Coffee coins

2010-09-28 Comments Off on 95. Coffee coins

I am now the proud owner of a handful of fichas de finca — the coins with which plantation owners here in Guatemala used to pay their workers in lieu of government-issued currency.  As I understand it, they were only good at the “company stores” that estate owners set up for workers (along with housing, schools, health clinics, chapels, etc.).  Fichas were banned beginning in 1925, but they remain collectors’ items here.  For me, they are tangible pieces of coffee history, as well as a reminder that Guatemala’s coffee sector never went through the land reforms that broke up many of the big estates in neighboring countries and redistributed them to landless families.

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