Sunday, September 09, 2018

money makes the words go round

I was patient. But it finally happened. Last night.

When I withdrew my weekly allowance from that marvelous invention, the ATM, I received a handful of Mexico's new 500 peso notes -- almost two weeks after they were first issued. But, our village tends to be something of a backwater when it comes to trends.

Because there have been plenty of news stories about the new notes, I was not surprised at their appearance. It is now blue with a portrait of Benito Juarez (often thought of as the Lincoln of Mexico because he ended slavery and survived a civil war) on the front.

The reverse is the more interesting to me -- for two reasons. It features a gray whale. I like money that celebrates animals. And, more importantly, it is an animal solely associated with Pacific Mexico. This side of the country is not often officially celebrated.

The current 500 peso note, containing the toad-like image of Diego Rivera on the front and Frida Kahlo on the back, has been around since 2010. I will not miss it. It is brown, just like the predecessor note featuring the hero of the Battle of Puebla, General Ignacio Zaragoza, that was first put in circulation in 1994.

You may notice something interesting about those dates. The first 500 peso note was around for 16 years. The Rivera-Kahlo note lasted only 8.

It turns out there is a reason for dumping Rivera in the dustbin of history. According to the Governor of the Bank of Mexico, there are two reasons for the change. The first surprised me. The 500 peso note is the most widely distributed of the Mexican notes. I would have thought it was the 20.

But the second reason makes more sense. It is also the most counterfeited note. That is why several new security measures have been added to the new 500s. Just looking at its face, it appears that it will be more difficult for counterfeiters. But they will find a way.

Some people have already begun kvetching about the fact that Juarez appears on both the 20 peso and 500 peso notes. The concern is not that he is hogging numismatic
 territory (after all, that German woman shows up on all British notes). Some people are worried that the blue Juarez 20 will be confused with the blue Juarez 500. The portraits are quite similar.

The Bank of Mexico points out the obvious. The two bills are different sizes. The 20 is plastic; the 500 is cotton paper. Each feels quite different.

Having said that, one reason the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin was pulled from circulation was because some Americans confused it with a quarter dollar coin.

There are makeovers in the works for other notes, as well. Next year a
 new 200 peso bill will be issued. It will featuring portraits of two heroes of the War for Independence from Spain -- Miguel Costilla y Hidalgo (who graced the Bicentennial 200 peso note) and José María Morelos (who is featured on the current 50 peso note).  El Pinacate Desert Biosphere Reserve will be on the reverse.

In 2020, a new 1000 peso note will be issued. Not that it matters to our villages. 1000 pesos are as rare here as reform politicians who actually try to stamp out corruption.

But, as unlikely as it is, should you receive a genuine note, it will honor three heroes of the
 Mexican Revolution, -- Francisco I. Madero, Carmen Serdán and Hermila Galindo on one side. Campeche’s Calakmul Biosphere Reserve will be on the reverse.

I come from a country where all currency is one color and the bills are the same size. It makes the wallet tidy. But I far prefer Mexico's system combining color and size to differentiate notes.

Of course, it does not matter what color and size they are, all money has a way of turning itself into goods and services.

But that is why it exists in the first place.

Those 500s were worth the wait. They are now gone.

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