It’s hard not to notice the presence of the American dollar here in Buenos Aires. As you walk down crowded pedestrian streets, you will pass by men shouting ‘cambio, cambio! Cambio dolares!” as they try to petition you to exchange your dollars for pesos. Countless exchange agencies can be found throughout the city, always advertising the current price to buy or sell US dollars. While one might immediately assume that these businesses are catered to tourists, a closer look at Argentina’s unstable economy proves otherwise.
In a country where 20 percent inflation is not even noteworthy, citizens have become accustomed to investing in foreign capital. And for most of them – that means dollars. Many Argentines are accustomed to automatically converting peso prices into dollars and can tell you the current exchange rate. Large purchases such as houses or cars are paid for in dollars – and not electronic dollars – actual greenbacks – real paper money. It is speculated that Argentina has the largest amount of physical American capital (that is actual bills) than any country outside of the US.
The unreliability of the peso, coupled with a general mistrust of the government has created a reality where the dollar represents financial stability, and in a city with gross disparity of wealth and poverty, the influence of the dollar remains a constant.