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The Spanish town that’s bringing back the peseta

The euro was introduced to Spain a decade ago, but shopkeepers in Villamayor de Santiago are accepting the old currency, for now at least

It is either a taste of Spain’s past, or of the future after a euro armageddon. The rural town of Villamayor de Santiago has reintroduced the peseta. With its cobbled square and flocks of sheep, Villamayor seems an unlikely place for a monetary revolution. But in the flatlands of La Mancha, the home of Don Quixote, anything can happen.

“Lots of people have pesetas left at home still,” explains Luis Miguel Campayo, head of the local business association. “We wanted to persuade them to spend them.”

And that is what has happened. A decade after the currency was formally replaced by the euro, Villamayor’s shopkeepers have taken in more than 1m pesetas (about £5,000). “Mostly it has come in small amounts, but there are rumours that someone spent 80,000 pesetas (about £450),” says Campayo, who copied the idea from the northern town of Salvaterra. “People have come in from other towns. What we did not count on was that it would put such a smile on their faces.”

Mayor José Fernández says the money has helped the town cope with high unemployment – a quarter of its 3,000 inhabitants are out of work – as building work in nearby Madrid, Toledo and Guadalajara grinds to a halt. “People come to buy manchego cheese, lamb, mutton and olive oil – the things we are known best for,” he says.

At the end of the month, the shopkeepers will take their pesetas to the Bank of Spain in Madrid, where they can be exchanged for euros. So would Villamayor be happy to see the back of the euro? “No, I don’t think so,” says Fernández, a socialist. “We all have to stick together.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds