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Peru’s intis in 1980s: The Story of Peruvian currency

By Gabriela García Calderón

Gabriela García Calderón is a lawyer, lefty, short-sighted. I am able to read from right to left, as a mirror. I love Limean winter, yes, the winter.

If you are Peruvian and over the age of 35, you probably remember the time when Peru’s economy went crazy, especially during the second half of the 1980s. During those years, words like inflation –along with its superlative, hyperinflation – shortages, scarcity and maquinita trended in everyday language (maquinita, literally “little machine”, was a colloquial way to refer to the inorganic emission of currency not backed by the Central Reserve Bank of Peru, the country’s issuing entity).

It was during this time that the government created a new currency called the inti (the Quechuan word for “sun”), a short-lived currency that existed between 1985 and 1991, and that due to huge devaluation, was replaced by the nuevo sol (literally “new sun”, today officially known just as sol). Figures don’t lie, in 1985 one inti amounted to one thousand nuevos soles; but in 1991, the nuevo sol amounted to one million intis.

During those years, the country’s cumulative inflation rate reached up to 2,178.49%. A figure that looks astronomic when compared with the 3.23% inflation in 2016.

Although it is important to note that during this period Peru was suffering regular domestic terrorism attacks, one of the many causes for this inflation rate was President Alan García’s economic policy during his first administration (1985-1990). According to Wikipedia:

  • That administration always resorted to state-owned resources to promote a short-term private operation compatible with apparent low inflation. After two years of experimenting with an improvised economic policy, Alan García’s administration began auto-destructing. […].
  • From the third year of the administration, or lack of administration, the population started to react to economic adjustments known as paquetazos (literally “big packages), along with the long lines everybody had to form just to get essentials, such as milk, bread, rice, sugar.

Memories of shortages and long lines to get essentials prevail. Some citizens do not lose any opportunity to remind former President García of this, even today:


First tweet (by Alan García) complaining about a phone company: For 32 days, your service answers “we’ve registered a breakdown in your area”. When do you [plan to] fix it?
Second tweet: Get in line, sir.
Today, when the media is again using the words like hyperinflation, lines and scarcity to refer to other countries, like Venezuela, some Peruvians are again reminded of the inti currency.

The blog Ratapelada tells us about the rapid banknote denomination changes and how Peruvians used to only pay with banknotes, as there were no coins in circulation.
Translation Original Quote
The out-of-control hyperinflation by APRA party-led administration [Alan García’s party] ended up with [inti’s] existence as soon as possible. A recurring image of this currency is linked to huge wads of banknotes that, due to inflation, lost acquisition value in months or even weeks. The first banknotes were the 10, 50, 100 and 500 intis. By 1986, the 1.000 intis banknote was introduced. […] In 1988, 5.000 and 10.000 intis banknotes were introduced. In 1989, we had 50.000 and 100.000 banknotes. In early 1990, a banknote for 500.000 intis was introduced, and on the second half of that year, banknotes for 1 and 5 million intis started to circulate.
On Twitter, some users shared pictures of those high nominative value banknotes:

With one million intis, you could buy a can of milk.
They were all sold out.
over a million.

First tweet: , wake up you, POLITICAL ZOMBIE, this is not the 1990s anymore, when you fooled everybody. Remember your 5%!!!
Second tweet: [Expresident] Alan [Garcia], do you remember this banknote? Indeed, 5 “million” intis. Today they could get you a modest breakfast with six pieces of bread, butter and jam!
That 5% is referred to the total votes Alan García got in the 2016 president election.

On the link: Peruvian banknotes: these are the intis from the 1980s [PHOTOS] The intis were issued to replace our devalued soles, but they lived a short and unfortunate life.
Tweet: Peruvian banknotes: these are the intis from the 1980s [PHOTOS]

Intis nowadays: what could you buy today with these banknotes? [VIDEO] Some online shopping websites even offer them as collectables.

This article was originally published on Global Voices.

Featured Image Courtesy: Visual Hunt

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