The Economics of a Disco Pig?

In my room, on my favorite shelf, sits a strange little guy I call Disco Pig. I think he’s strange not because of his weird clay pig shape or amazing name - or that expression he has where I swear he looks like he’s crying.- I think he’s strange because of his coating. You see, Disco Pig is covered in purplish-pink glitter that I took upon myself to give him. Hence the name Disco Pig.

Disco Pig is a piggybank made of clay by artisans in the town of Raquira in Boyacá, Colombia using a pre-Columbian pottery technique. He was born 134 kms (83.3 miles), roughly more than 5 hours distance, from my apartment in the city of Bogotá. He probably traveled from Ráquira to Bogotá in the trunk of a 1970's Renault 9, which would later serve as a display shelf for him and about 50 others just like him. He was picked out by my father on a street near my building, where the Renault 9 had parked for the day to conduct their daily business. He bought him for about $5.000 colombian pesos (about $2 USD) and gave him to me one Christmas morning full of coins. My father, an economist, intended for it to give me a start on the importance of saving money. I was supposed to save all my spare change and only break him right before we went on summer vacation, when the pig would be full and heavy. Instead, I made a small hole and took out all the coins…almost inmediately after receiving him. After that, the piggybank went straight to the closet!

For months, even years, it sat in my closet never being used for what it was intended (I actually got a vinyl piggybank for that purpose). Then one day, I walked into a designer store and saw a pig, just like mine, but covered in sequins. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen a pig made creatively more attractive, but it was the first time I’d seen one that I’d liked. I decided I wanted my pig to deserve a spot on my shelf – just like the sequin one did- and so, I took him out of his closet confinement and gave him a nice bath of glue and glitter. I gave him a name and a nice spot on my shelf. I now loved my Disco Pig. 

In Colombia, this “personalization” of clay pigs is a tradition. We like to buy them and give them our own finishing touches, and sometimes even sell them. There’s everything from DarthVader pigs to splash-painted pigs, to glitter pigs like my own Disco Pig. We do this in order to create a more intimate relationshp with the object. I think it speaks of the way we like to relate ourselves to institutions or other things that are “alien” to us. Its probably why tourists say we're so nice. We like personal relationships, not cold, distant relationships.

I don't use my Disco Pig as a piggybank because he's already broken (I have high hopes for him as a party decortaion!!). But many people do save their spare change in these pigs. As a matter of fact, our biggest coin (the $1.000 pesos one) is very rare because people save them into their pigs, or "marranitos" as we call them. It might be a stretch but maybe that’s why in Colombia more than half the country doesn’t save their money in banks and these clay piggybanks, even among the higher-income classes, are best sellers among artisans. 

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