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Where Money Is Useless and Barter Still Reigns

by Jason on July 18, 2012

Wow. I really am exploring one of the last frontiers on earth. Varun, the plant guy, just received a handmade bag from the Machiguenga natives that live in here in Manu Park. I asked if I could get something like that as well, and he said yes.

I asked how I could pay. He said money was useless to the Machiguengas. They don’t use money. They use barter. I paused for a minute to let that sink in. They don’t use money? How do they not use money? They prefer barter? Really? There are still places left like that in today’s world?

I asked Varun how that was possible. He said they don’t have electricity. They don’t leave where they are at, and they don’t have interactions elsewhere. They live a simple life. They don’t have money. What’s most useful and valuable to them are things they can trade or barter for.

So my money had no value to them. My money was useless. Wow. Incredible. This actually sounded very exciting to me. A world without money. A system where I had to barter for goods.

I asked Varun what was useful to them. He said shirts are the most useful. Pants are useful. Boots are useful. Flashlights. What I wanted from the Machiguengas was a few of their handmade bags, a bow and arrow set they use for hunting, and a necklace they make.

So when I leave in a few weeks, we’ll complete our barter. What an amazing experience to have. To actually barter.

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