Americans observe Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. They celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America. The observation began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. Ronald Reagan expanded it in 1988 to cover a 30 day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. We will take some time to focus on each country and their early banknote history, starting with Costa Rica.

While many celebrations of ancestry in the US cover a calendar month, the choice to begin and end mid-month was chosen to cover significant national independence days in September. Also to include Columbus Day which commemorates the European entry into the region. Here are critical dates during the month’s long celebration:

  • 15 of September – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua Independence
  • 16 of September – Mexico Independence
  • 18 of September – Chile Independence
  • 12 of October – Columbus Day
Costa Rican Independence Day Demonstrations
Costa Rican Independence Day Demonstrations
Source: Vargas Tours

Similar to the US, much of Central America declared its independence from its European overlords. However, they did not achieve true independence for many years after that. Such is the case for Costa Rica which along with Mexico and much of Spanish controlled Central America declared its independence in September 1821. Full independence did not occur until 1838.

5 Colones, 1917 issued by - Banco Anglo Costarricense
Costa Rican 5 Colones | 1917 | P-S122a | Banco Anglo Costarricense
Source: Banknote World

Costa Rica Banknote Design

Costa Rica did not have its own banknotes until 1864. As a result, four private banks, the Banco Anglo Costarricense, the Banco Comercial de Costa Rica, the Banco de Costa Rica and the Banco Mercantil de Costa Rica, issued notes between 1864 and 1917. From 1914 to 1950, several national banks were ultimately replaced by the Central Bank of Costa Rica. BANCO CENTRAL DE COSTA RICA is seen on all banknotes that are issued by the government’s central bank.

5 Colones, 1941 featuring a design very similar to that of the US Dollar
Costa Rica 5 Colones | 1941 | P-204a |
Source: Banknote World Educational

The early banknotes (1951 – 1967) designs are very US Dollar looking. The American Banknote Company printed them. Portraits of leaders are printed on the front of a monochromatic front and reverse sides, with security designs. In 1968, Colones banknotes became much more colorful and interesting cultural and natural themes. De La Rue became the preferred printer at that time. These design concepts and colors remained pretty stable through 2009 when the country began a transition to much more colorful polymer banknotes.

Costa Rica 5,000 Colones from the 90's. This banknote had a very new and different design
Costa Rica 5,000 Colones | 1991-95 | P-260s | Series A |
Source: Banknote World

Also, there is an interesting banknote to highlight. In 90’s Costa Rica introduced a high denomination 5,000 Colones banknote that was a significant departure from the design of all other currency in circulation. For instance, It did not have a portrait on the front. Rather the design showed aspects of local culture. On the back there is a jungle scene with lots of attention to detail. In conclusion, it is a very attractive design. Also, it aligns very well with the country’s portrayal as a rain forest vacation destination.

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