Sunday, July 7, 2024

Argentines Pawn Family Jewels to Make Ends Meet

Buenos Aires— Amid soaring inflation and economic austerity, many Argentines are resorting to pawning their family heirlooms to survive. Mariana, a 63-year-old former court employee, recently sold a watch her grandfather gifted her father to cover housing and health insurance expenses. With inflation hitting around 270 percent year-on-year, her pension no longer suffices.

Mariana’s situation is not unique. As President Javier Milei implements severe austerity measures to curb decades of government overspending, the Argentine economy remains in recession. Consequently, many citizens are forced to sell their valuables to make ends meet.

In Buenos Aires, stores like El Tasador, a major cash-for-jewelry hub, have seen a significant increase in customers. “There have been a lot of people lately, I think because of what is happening in the country,” said Natalia, one of the appraisers at El Tasador. She mentioned the store now handles over 300 transactions daily, triple the amount from a year ago, necessitating increased staffing and extended working hours.

People from all social classes frequent these stores, bringing in items they never intended to sell. Daniel, a 56-year-old unemployed accountant, was disappointed when the silver keychain he tried to pawn was valued at barely the price of a subway ticket. Carlos, a jewelry store manager, noted a steady influx of customers seeking appraisals, especially at the end of the month when bills are due.

Historically, Argentina was one of the world’s wealthiest nations from the 19th to early 20th centuries, and many citizens possess valuable heirlooms. Natalia noted that classic items like wedding rings, Victorian jewels, and gold cufflinks are common at pawn shops today. “Gold has always been sold. What has changed is why it is sold,” she explained. In the past, people sold gold to fund home renovations, car purchases, or parties. Today, they do so out of financial desperation, driven by rising living costs and unemployment.

As Argentina grapples with economic hardship, the sentimentality attached to family heirlooms is often sacrificed for immediate financial relief.

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