Monday, February 2, 2009

What Things Cost

Eleanor is back from her week in the United States, so we restocked at the supermarket today. Seems like a good time to talk about what things cost here. Depende, a Salvadoran would send: it depends on what you're buying. If you're buying foods imported from North or South American, the cost will be at least what it would be in the U.S., often higher. For example, a couple of weeks ago we bought 5 gorgeous, uniformly orange Valencia oranges from Chile for $2.83. (They weren't very good oranges, either). On the other hand, vegetables grown in Central America, often in Guatemala, are very much less expensive than in the U.S. The local oranges - yellow and green and brown and orange, spotty and unglamorous, unlike the ones in the photograph, are 10 cents apiece, and they make the most glorious fresh orange juice. I noticed a similar pricing difference between the big Chiquita-style bananas, with their uniformly yellow skins, and the smaller local bananas, called guineos or dactilos, which aren't so pretty, but taste just great.

Some other locally grown vegetables: beets, 0.73/lb; red and orange bell peppers, 0.55 each; broccoli, 0.57/lb. Gala apples from Chile were available for $1.10/lb, not bad. But 4 ears of fresh corn, out of season now, and so probably grown in South America or a greenhouse, cost $2.33.

Before you start feeling put out about the higher U.S. prices, consider that the minimum wage in El Salvador was just raised to $208/month for commercial workers, $174/month in maquilas (factories) and $97/month on the farm. And many, many Salvadorans working in the informal economy earn less than that.


  1. Some math: that comes to $1.30 an hour and less, compared to $6.55 an hour in the USA. That's why some economists focus on the purchasing power. In nominal terms El Salvador has a GDP per capita of $2,857 a year, but when the same figure is examined under the concept of "purchasing power parity" the GDP per capita is $5,847. Of course, this is way below the U.S. $45,000-plus per capita, but then the USA and El Salvador are, to begin with, very large and very small, respectively.

  2. And, oh, what happened to history, part 4? I'd hoped to read it later and poof ... it's gone down the Orwellian vanishing machine!

  3. It's coming...this is history in chunks and segments, not an orderly process, alas!