“The dollar keeps getting more expensive! Isn't it awesome?” Jimmy told me excitedly one payday a couple months ago. At age 20, Jimmy was my youngest coworker while I was working in retail. He had little understanding about how the economy works. Those who earn dollars and live in Mexico accrued more than a 20 percent raise just by having a different currency, so of course Jimmy was exhilarated. But for those who earn pesos and live in dollars, the devaluation has been tough.
“Tacos el Franc now cost 21 pesos. The world has gone to shit,” César Faz, a political analyst, published on his Facebook wall. A conversation soon ensued about how much tacos cost at different stands after the devaluation. As for me, my favorite Tacos (El Rey) went from 16 pesos to 17 pesos at the beginning of the year and haven't gone up since. The price will eventually go up since some of the ingredients (like the cheese) are brought from San Diego.
Taqueria El Franc, one of many favorites among locals, have had their tacos priced at 21 pesos for the longest time. For those paying in dollars, that cost has been around $1.30, and the price in dollars has fluctuated accordingly. (Today, October 1st, a peso’s value is at 6¢.) Taqueria El Franc has not been the only restaurant to accept dollars, and many businesses and residents pay their rent in dollars.
The Tijuana government tried to make spending dollars at businesses illegal in 2010. Many supermarkets and businesses had to put up signs that read: “We do not accept dollars as a method of payment.”
This did not last long. Soon businesses started opposing the government and advertising the complete opposite — that they did accept dollars. The government gave up and dollars continue to be used regularly in Tijuana.
“I did not know what pesos were until 1993,” my brother's mother-in-law, Licha, recently told me at a family dinner. “We never used pesos; everything has always been in dollars. It was very confusing to always have two currencies in my purse. I always had a calculator with me.” In fact, most every person who does business in Tijuana has a calculator in their pocket.
The peso exchange back in 1993 was around 3 pesos per dollar. By the year 2000 the dollar was an even 10 pesos, which most people still remember for being the easiest exchange rate to calculate.
For the past five years, the peso has floated around 12 pesos per dollar. But the Mexican peso has been in a steady decline during 2015 and seems to be stabilizing at around 17 pesos per dollar (in Mexico City), though devaluation might hit in the near future.
The casas de cambio in Tijuana buy the dollar for around 16 pesos and sell it for 16.33, fluctuating up and down on a regular basis. For now, most businesses take your dollar for 16 pesos, which is about the cost of a bottle of Tecate in a cheaper bar.