In the future, books about Argentina’s economic history in the early 21st Century will have to come with a comprehensive glossary. South America’s second-largest economy has been through so many different economic policies and experiments in the past two decades that a whole new vocabulary has sprung up to explain day-to-day economic transactions. Buenos Aires’ main commercial street, Calle Florida, now has dozens of “little trees” (arbolitos), the name given to black-market traders who buy and sell dollars openly in the streets. They stand around like bushes holding up their green leaves (dollar bills). Some traders prefer to “make puree” (“hacer puré”), which is to buy dollars from the government and resell them to the “caves” (“cuevas”), the illegal exchange rate shops that deal with “blue” (black-market dollars).
This dynamic jargon is a reflex of a country that has been through a sort of economic rollercoaster ride for the past 15 years.
In 2001, the country had plunged into chaos – politically volatile, financially bankrupt and with violence erupting in the streets. It famously had three different presidents in two weeks.
By the second half of the decade, however, it was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, on the back of soaring global commodity prices and a partly successful debt-restructuring plan. By 2005 it had surpassed its pre-crisis level.