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The Hidden History Behind Mexico’s $50 Banknote

December 30, 2019


Welcome back to Monetized History, I’m
Daniel. This week we’re going to talk about José María Morelos, the Morelia aqueduct,
monarch butterflies, and the current Mexican 50 peso bill. This bill is part
of the F1 series of banknotes and began circulating in 2013. It’s got a face
value of $2.60 and you can pick one up off eBay for between
$3 and $6. Since this is one of Mexico’s most modern banknotes, it’s got a lot of security features to talk about. Intaglio printing on the front means it is
possible to feel the design elements on the front of the note, and although it
becomes harder to feel as the notes age, the Banco de México text at the top is
the most prominent tactile feature. The butterfly in the top left corner changes
color as you tilt the note. There are also clear panels on the left and right
of the note, one of which has a hidden holographic 50 that’s visible when you
look at a speck of light through the panel or project a laser through it. The
back of the note is covered with UV reactive ink which also reveals the hidden text “50 pesos” and “BdeM” for Banco de México. Both sides of the note are
covered in micro printing of the notes denomination, Banco de México, and a brief
passage from Morelos’ “Sentimientos de la Nación.” “Sentimientos de la Nación,” or
Sentiments of the Nation, is a document read by José María Morelos in front of
Mexico’s first independent congress in 1813, in the middle of Mexico’s war for
independence. It was basically a bill of rights and a declaration of independence
combined. Of the 23 points in the document, the one quoted is the 15th: “Let
slavery be abolished forever along with class distinctions, all remaining equal, with only vice and virtue distinguishing one American from another.” José María Teclo Morelos Pérez y Pavón was a mestizo priest from Valladolid,
Michoacán who took up arms against the Spanish in the south of Mexico.
He took leadership of the insurgency against New Spain after the death of
Miguel Hidalgo in 1811. His early campaigns against the Spanish were so
successful that by 1813 he controlled Amost of southern Mexico. He was captured
in 1815 while protecting the insurgent congress from the advancing
royalist army. Although he was captured, he ensured the escape of the congress
and his generals. He was tried by the Spanish Inquisition, defrocked, and put to death by civil authorities on December 22nd. Morelos, along with Miguel Hidalgo,
is considered one of the most important foundational figures in Mexico’s history.
To honor his contributions the state of Morelos was named after him, his home
city of Valladolid was renamed Morelia, and he’s been featured on Mexican banknotes and coinage for over 100 years. To the left Morelos is a collection of
symbols relating to his life. The canons represent his military career “SUD” is an
old way of saying south where he fought most of his battles. This, along with the
bow and arrow, were stamped on coins Morelos had minted during the war. The
banner is Morelos’ battle flag. It was one of the first Mexican flags to
display the imagery of an eagle on a cactus. This is surrounded by a Latin
phrase which translates to “By eyes and claws, equally victorious.” The reverse of
the bill is inspired by the state of Michoacán where Morelos was born and
features the aqueduct of Morelia originally built in the 16th century. The
aqueduct as it appears on the bill was first constructed at the end of the 18th
century and still stands today. The symbol to the left of the aqueduct is a
toponymic glyph used by the Aztecs to identify the people from the lake
Pátzcuaro area west of Morelia. The Aztec name “Machuaca” means “Place of the
Fisherman” and is the origin for the name of the state of Michoacán. It’s
impossible to miss the butterflies that adorn this note. Michoacán is home to
the largest overwintering sites for monarch butterflies in the world.
Monarch butterflies cluster by the millions at multiple sites in Michoacán.
There are so many butterflies that the population isn’t measured by individuals,
but by how many hectares they cover. That’s all for this week, thank you for
watching. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, please leave them in
the comments, and don’t forget to Like and Subscribe.

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