Tuesday, June 15, 2021

pacing the peso

If bad news travels fast, good news must travel slow.

Or, at least, it seems to be true for Mexican-peso notes.

Early last November, the Bank of Mexico issued  another in its series G banknotes. The Bank's goal is to have its notes reflect the history of Mexico in chronological order from pre-Hispanic to contemporary Mexico. November's new issue was a brilliantly-colored 100-peso note feature the familiar face of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who graced the previous 200-peso note that is now being withdrawn from circulation (goodbye and hello to our favorite nun).

That was over seven months ago. In that interim, I had yet to receive one in change from a store or the bank. I had not even seen one in another person's hand. I have now.

At dinner last night, one of my dining companions left a tip for the waiters on the table. My first impression was that she had left two Canadian bills. The colors were foreign to me. But I was wrong. They were two of the new 100-peso notes.

Because I am always at your service, I scooped up one of them and slipped an older Nezahualcóyotl 100-peso note onto the table in its place as if it were a foundling. My hostage bill is pictured at the top of this essay.

The three earlier issues of new bills ($200, $500, $1,000) made their way to the streets of the Costalegre quicker than this particular issue. Within a couple months highland tourists had brought the new bills with them to spend in local stores.

I would think that the 100-peso note would have floated its way through the currency stream to our streets earlier than this. After all, the 100-peso note is one of the currency's mainstays. Omar tells me I am simply late to the party. He has seen the new note around town for at least three or four months.

One more new note has yet to be issued -- the 50-peso note celebrating pre-Hispanic Mexico. Its scheduled release is not until next year. It will be interesting to see how quickly it shows up here. With the complete withdrawal of the 20-peso note, the 50-peso note will now become the workhorse of small change.

It is possible that the 50-peso note will be the penultimate note rather than the last. The Bank of Mexico is still trying to determine if the economy needs a 2000-peso note (slated to represent contemporary Mexico featuring Octavio Paz, one of my favorite Mexican writers, and Rosario Castellanos). If the Bank issues the note, it will be a certain sign that it has abandoned its prior policy to move Mexico to a cashless society. It will also send a problematic message about inflation of the money supply.

So, we may have two more opportunities to stay alert for the first appearance (for me) of new notes.

I am not certain why I get this excited about spotting a new issue. It may be the bird watcher in me. After all, the new notes disappear from my wallet as quickly as the old notes.

But that is why they are there. To represent the value of our work and to exchange that value for goods we need.

My university Economics professor was correct. It is a handy system.

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