Thursday, April 28, 2011

Years ago, in Spain, I came across an undated, unidentified sheet of paper among many Spanish-era documents on Guam.  It was entitled, "Monthly Expenses of a European in the Islands."  It was part of the Marianas collection and, from the looks of the paper and penmanship, I would guess it was from the mid to late 1800s.

So I'd say the list gives us a good idea of the cost of living of a European on Guam in the late 1800s. 

We'll be talking pesos, which we can all pronounce and which we still use in Chamorro to describe even the American dollar!  And we'll be talking a little about the real, not the English word "real," but the Spanish word which is pronounced "reh - al."

Here's what the European paid on Guam each month in order to live :

Food 30 pesos

House Rent 4 pesos

Cook's salary 3 pesos

Servant's salary 2 pesos

Laundrywoman's salary 4 pesos

Linen 2 pesos

Lights 4 reales

So a total of 45 pesos and 4 reales was what a European needed to live on Guam sometime in the 1800s.

But what was the value of a peso?

Well, the difficulty is that there was more than one kind of peso circulating on Guam in the 1800s.  The Mexican Peso (as seen above) was very popular in the Marianas, the Philippines and Latin America.  From 1861 till 1897, the Philippines had its own peso, too.  They were based on silver and there was a terrible devaluation of silver in 1873 and the Mexican peso was worth about 50 cents (U.S.) at the end of the century.  The Philippine peso would have been around the same value.

A real was 1/8 of a peso.  Four reales was half a peso.

So, monthly expenses on Guam in the late 1800s would have been around US$22.75 for a European.

The anonymous writer of this list says, though, that this doesn't include doctor's visits, medicine, furniture, transportation, a horse....

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