07/21/2016 Quarterly Americas
A great way to understand Agustín Carstens is to hear how he defines himself and his peers —“The Generation of 12.50.”
That may sound obscure to outsiders, but anyone who grew up in Mexico during the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s instantly understands.
For 22 consecutive years, the peso was fixed at exactly 12.50 per dollar — and that number was as much a fixture of Mexican life as Cantinflas, Zonda-brand TVs or the Volkswagen Beetle. “Not everybody in our generation knew how to multiply by 12,” Carstens recalled with a soft chuckle, “but many people could by 12.50.” That is, until one ill-fated day in September 1976, when President Luis Echeverría, his term coming to an end following years of fiscal mismanagement, abruptly decided to end the peg and set the peso free.