Pesos and Revolutions

The last few days of 2009 are ticking away, and 2010 fast approaches. Next year is a big one for Mexico. Two hundred years since Independence. And one hundred years since the revolution. The countdown clock in the Zocalo has been ticking for months, Ruta 2010 signs have gone up everywhere to mark, well, various routes. And preparations for massive celebrations are well underway.

Including, not surprisingly, commemorative banknotes. Here’s the new 100 peso note, celebrating the 100 years since the revolution. I got my first one today. You’ll notice the train – it’s very much a symbol of the event. There is a big train sitting outside the Monument to the Revolution in the Centro Historico, and if you watched the video I did of the Sound and Light show, you’ll notice that it ends with the shadow of a passing train. Bit weird really – it all suggests that Mexicans think trains are just fabulous. Yet, aside from city metro, the Copper Canyon line and a tourist line to a Tequila producer near Guadalajara, there aren’t any passenger trains here.

I don’t have one of the new 200 pesos  on me, although they’ve been out for a while. Off the top of my head, I’m guessing the 200 peso note celebrates the 200 years of independence. Just a hunch. by the way, it turns out that Adobe’s Photoshop recognises banknotes when you try and scan them in, and refuses to open the image. Quite clever. Took me at least 15 seconds to find the necessary crack. It’s not illegal to reproduce Mexican bank notes anyway. And besides, I did add ‘sample’ watermarks.


7 thoughts on “Pesos and Revolutions

  1. The railroads — and control of the railroads — were key to the Revolution: in a country without navigable rivers, and with two major mountain chains, railroads were essential (and still are) to transportation of goods, services… and armies. Most of the military activity between 1910 and 1920 were fights over access to rail lines and the iconic images of the Revolution usually include the armies traveling on top of box cars.

    Railroad development in the 1880s was largely for the benefit of foreign investors (and Mexican railway stocks were the “high tech” investments of the London stock exchange at the time, which Anthony Trollope uses in his wonderful novel, “The Way We Live Now”). With the developers paid in land, usually indigenous communal land, the hacienda system took off, creating the landless peasant communities that fought the Revolution. And… with the railways mostly running directly into the United States, Mexican railway workers were essential to the Maderista uprising of 20 November 1910 — smuggling U.S. printed propaganda (and arms) from the United States and spiriting Madero himself to safety in Texas when he was arrested in June of that year.


    • Trains have been an important factor in quite a few modern wars…the Civil War north of the border springs to mind. As does the Burma railway, although that has entirely different memories attached to it. I did get to see the (partly original) bridge over the river kwai. Twice – once in Thailand, once in Sri Lanka. Well, where it used to be anyway!

      Thanks for the book recommendation – looked it up on Amazon – touch and go if it’ll arrive in time for Xmas.


  2. And there I was, ready to write what Richmx2 wrote, only to see that he beat me to it, and a fine job he did too.

    Stamps and money bills, I love ém, but I don´t collect them. Well, I try to collect money, and it goes pretty well.


    • I ran out of writing time last time and I didn’t have the chance to say what an absolute pity it is that Mexico doesn’t have a decent passenger rail network. Mexico City is in the perfect geographical position to be a hub linking the country together. You could mention the ‘mountain problem’, but I’d point out that chopping down a few of those mountains would let out the fumes that build up and get trapped in the city every year! 🙂

      A reasonably priced rail network from Mexico City to Guadalajara, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guanajuato would surely attract sufficient custom to justify the expense.


  3. Kim G says:

    Wired a few years back had a story on the implementation of the anti-banknote editing feature in Photoshop. Apparently the earlier versions don’t have it. But also apparently printers shift the color of US banknotes if you try to print them. I’ve never tried.

    But given all the illustrations you see with banknotes in them, obviously someone had to be scanning and printing them successfully. I didn’t know there was a hack.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we’d like to issue our own currency, but fear there wouldn’t be much uptake.


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