What is a peso?
A peso is a unit of currency, similar to the dollar, pound, franc, and euro, which is common throughout North America and South America. The word peso translates to "weight" in Spanish. In many countries, both pesos and US dollars are accepted as a medium of exchange for goods and services. Although the dollar and the peso are two separate currencies with vastly different values, both use the $ sign and the words peso and dollar may be used interchangeably in some regions, which can be confusing to travelers.
What Countries Use the Peso?
Pesos are the primary form of currency in several Spanish-speaking countries in the Americas, as well as the Philippines. Each country mints its own version of the peso. Argentine pesos, for example, have a different appearance and value than Mexican, Cuban, or Chilean pesos.
Countries that Currently Use Pesos:
|Country||Currency||ISO 4217 code||$1 USD (15 Nov 2022) =|
|Argentina||Argentine peso||ARS||162.12 ARS|
|Chile||Chilean peso||CLP||885.60 CLP|
|Colombia||Colombian peso||COP||4,805.98 COP|
|Cuba||Cuban peso||CUP||24.01 CUP|
|Dominican Republic||Dominican peso||DOP||54.25 DOP|
|Mexico||Mexican peso||MXN||19.38 MXN|
|Philippines||Philippine peso||PHP||57.25 PHP|
|Uruguay||Uruguayan peso||UYU||40.02 UYU|
Where did the peso come from?
The original pesos were silver coins minted in Spain in 1497, with a weight roughly equivalent to 25.56g of fine silver. Spanish explorers brought the peso to Latin America, where a simplified manufacturing process was adopted: Silver was formed into a bar, which was then sliced into small pieces that were then hammered into rough, irregular coins. The peso manufacturing process was standardized and mechanized by Spanish laws in 1728 and 1730, which slightly reduced the amount of silver in a peso to 24.809g and created a perfectly round, officially minted coin. This updated peso was known in North American colonies by names including a piece of eight, Spanish dollar, and Mexican dollar.
Although it was the world's most popular coin for international trade in the 1700s, the peso gradually fell out of use in Europe in the 1800s, and was eventually replaced in Spain by the peseta in 1868. The coin retained its popularity in the Americas, however, from which it had spread across the Pacific to the Philippines. In fact, the "Spanish dollar" was accepted as legal currency in the United States until 1857.
Countries that previously used the peso
Multiple countries used the peso at some time in their history, but have since switched over to another form of currency. As previously mentioned, Spain invented the peso, but eventually replaced it with the peseta in 1868, which itself gave way to the euro in 2002. Additional countries that previously used the peso include Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua.
|Country||Peso Type||Year Replaced||Current Currency||ISO 4217 code|
|Bolivia||Bolivian peso||1986||Bolivian boliviano||BOB|
|Costa Rica||Costa Rican peso||1896||Costa Rican colón||CRC|
|Ecuador||Ecuadorian peso||1884||US dollar||USD|
|El Salvador||Salvadoran peso||1919||US dollar/Bitcoin||USD/BTC|
|Equatorial Guinea||Equatorial Guinean peso||1975||Central African CFA franc||XAF|
|Guatemala||Guatemalan peso||1925||Guatemalan quetzal||GTQ|
|Guinea-Bissau||Guinea-Bissau peso||1997||West African CFA franc||XOF|
|Honduras||Honduran peso||1931||Honduran lempira||HNL|
|Nicaragua||Nicaraguan peso||1912||Nicaraguan córdoba||NIO|
|Paraguay||Paraguayan peso||1943||Paraguayan guarani||PYG|
|Peru||Peruvian peso||1863||Peruvian sol||PEN|
|Puerto Rico||Puerto Rican peso||1900||US dollar||USD|
|Spain||Spanish peso||1869||EU euro||EUR|
|Venezuela||Venezuelan peso||1874||Venezuelan bolívar||VEF|
Is the Peso Worth a Lot of Money?
While the value of the peso varies considerably depending upon which country's peso is being valued, every modern version of the peso is worth considerably less than the US dollar and the euro. All of the countries that currently use the peso are classified as still-developing countries in an economic sense, and the currencies of developing countries are worth less than the currencies of fully developed countries, which tend to be quite valuable. As a result, it takes a great many pesos to equal the value of one US dollar or euro.