SAO MIGUEL DO GOSTOSO, Brazil – The “Gostoso,” a solidarity currency created in the distant Brazilian municipality of Sao Miguel do Gostoso, is increasingly replacing the Brazilian real, the euro and the US dollar in a city where the number of foreign residents and tourists has been on the rise in recent months.
The local currency, endorsed by the Central Bank of Brazil, has gained popularity because of inconsistent internet connection, a major obstacle in commercial transactions for about 10,000 residents, of which some 200 are foreigners, mostly Europeans.
“Internet is very difficult here,” said Jose Prisciano, of the city solidarity bank (Banco Solidario de Sao Miguel do Gostoso), adding that the presence of foreign residents and tourists led the local people to take a greater interest in languages and business.
“The youth did not have anything to do in the community, his job was to help out in the field and that’s it,” but tourism has now got young people to see business as an option for a different life, according to Prisciano.
However, despite these opportunities which led to new projects having sprung up across the fields of gastronomy, art, tourism and sports, monetary transactions turned out a complicated affair due to internet connection and limitations in foreign exchange.
In 2011, the Technological Incubator of Solidarity Economy (ITES) of the state-owned Federal University of Bahia, began to work on a currency project that would ease these difficulties; two years later, the “Gostoso” was put in circulation.
A Gostoso is equal to a real ($0.33); it is produced in Bahia and is backed by the country’s central bank and serves as legal tender, said Prisciano.
After its circulation in 2013, the solidarity bank of the city – located in the extreme northeast of the country – began to offer loans of 150 Gostosos for small commercial enterprises.
These loans, which have currently increased to 300 Gostosos, can be paid back in three installments with no interest, and they have also been extended for personal use under the same conditions.
“No one has become rich yet with the Gostoso currency. The bank gives the loans without charging any interest,” said Prisciano, adding that it can be used for regular transactions such as shopping at the supermarket, among other.
Sao Miguel do Gostoso went on to become the most sought-after city among Brazilians and foreigners, after Jericoacoara in the neighboring state of Ceara, for kitesurfing and windsurfing due to favorable wind conditions in the locality.
According to Anilda Venancio, owner of a small supermarket, many people like her came to the city from other places and ended up settling there owing to favorable business opportunities.
“I came to spend my holidays at my grandmother’s house and ended up staying,” said Venancio.