Tuesday, January 04, 2022

emiliano zapata -- all change

Finally, it is at an end.

Over four years ago, the Bank of Mexico announced that it would be issuing new bank notes. For the first time in Mexico's history, the notes would be in chronological order, honoring the major periods of Mexican history.

The first out of the chute in May 2017 was the new 500-peso note featuring Benito Juarez (money makes the words go round). Because the 20-peso note then in circulation shared the same color (blue) and a similar portrait, some people easily confused the two bills -- often to their disadvantage. Four years later, it is still happening.

But, the Bank told us not to worry. The Juarez 20-peso notes would be withdrawn from circulation as they wore out. That reassurance was undermined a bit last year when the Bank issued a new 20-peso note to commemorate the bicentennial of Mexico's true day of independence (the ever-shrinking 20-peso note). To replace the note, the Bank has promised to mint more 20-peso coins.

And the Bank has done just that -- by issuing several coins commemorating important dates in Mexican history. The bicentennial of Mexico's Independence. The 500th anniversary of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. The 700th anniversary of the lunar foundation of the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. The foundation of the Villa Rica de Vera Cruz. Of those, I have seen only the Vera Cruz coin. And no others.

That is, until today. When Alex handed me my change this afternoon, a note and a coin stood out from the rest. The shiny new 20-peso coin honors General Emiliano Zapata Salazar, one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution who was sacrificed on the altar of another president's ambition.

One of the things I admire about Mexico's coins and notes is that it is easy to follow the ebb and flow of opinion at the top by what shows up in our pockets. Ironically, the man that ordered Zapata's death can also be found in your wallet if you happen to have a 100-peso note commemorating the centennial of the 1917 Constitution.

Historically, it is an interesting coin. There is a lot of ideology packed on the reverse side along with Zapata's bronzed portrait. 

Zapata has often been portrayed as one of the few Revolutionary leaders who was fighting solely for the common man. That is why a plowing peasant farmer is in the background -- along with Zapata's political slogan: Tierra y Liberdad" (land and freedom).

I do not know about you, but I often confuse 1-peso coins with 2-peso coins. I will probably have the same problem with the 20-peso and 10-peso coins. As you can see, they are about the same size. The only real differentiation is the crenellated border on the 20.

Now that I am getting the new 50-peso note and the 20-peso coins in change, it feels as if the journey that started in 2017 is complete. But, that may not be the case. 

The Bank is hedging its own bets. If inflation in Mexico continues to worsen, the Bank is prepared to issue its pending 2000-peso note honoring contemporary Mexico with the visages of Octavio Paz and Rosario Castellanos. For historians and notaphilists, that will be an interesting event.

For people trying to feed their families, it will not be a good omen.

No comments: