Low in cash, Galapagos residents turn to bartering

The following is adapted from an article that appeared in the El Universo newspaper today


The economy in the Galapagos archipelago has been affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Tourism, the Islands’ main economic activity came to a screeching halt nearly 4 months ago.

"Women's clothing for groceries, meat, chicken, fruit" or "Exchange a plastic blender container for a 2-kilos of sugar, or a juice extractor for a chicken" are two of the messages that are read in groups that was created through Facebook, where residents offer their products.

The desperation to get food has led several people to exchange and even sell their goods. This is how an ancient practice of bartering has become popular in the islands.

One of the groups where this practice is promoted is the “trueque official Galapagos” (Official Galapagos Barter), created two months ago by Isabela Bucheli and Milton Sevillano on the island of Santa Cruz. There, those who search for food or wish to exchange other objects publish their ads and within a few minutes receive a response from those interested in the transaction.

Sevillano has a boat hull cleaning company, while Bucheli is a naturalist guide although due to the health emergency she also ventured into a restaurant business with other partners.

Bucheli says that at the beginning of the pandemic, a neighbor placed a wooden box on the street so that food or other objects could be placed for others who needed could take them. This encouraged them to create the barter page.

The pandemic caused families to be affected. "There are homes where mom and dad are without a job and there are three to five children in the house. So zero income since the pandemic started in March," says Bucheli.

The Facebook page managers see bartering as a way of showing support for the community, because it is not about money or what a product costs, but rather to help someone with what they need, being able to get a product that they require.

"(We want to) adapt it to a daily lifestyle, so that people who are accustomed to bartering can do it all year long whenever they want, whenever they have something to barter ... We have tried to make people understand that it is also a matter of community solidarity and not just strict business dealing", they point out.

Among the rules that have been established within this community of more than 4,000 members is that sales are not allowed or money is not talked about, only exchange.  Advertisements cannot be disseminated and the most important thing is that there be seriousness between the two people for the exchange. For each transaction that is made, a photograph of the barter made is uploaded.