In this blog, we are going to focus on Mexico, the largest and most influential country that declared its independence from Spain on September 16, 1810 and began the subsequent war that lasted until September 27, 1821. We have published several blogs on Mexican banknotes describing their many commemorative banknotes. Here we are going to focus on the earlier banknotes and answering the eternal question about Mexico. Is it North America, Central America or what?
Geologists will say unequivocally that Mexico is part of the North American plane and therefore the continent. This ancient continent includes most of Mexico but, not the capital or Yucatan Peninsula. The South American plan only goes up to part of Panama. Both South America and North America are therefore considered to be continents today. Where does this leave Central America. Geologically, Central America is an isthmus created later than the continents as they moved. Mexico is clearly in North America – well at least 95% of it. Central America is therefore a cultural construct linking similar people and culture. Maybe it is a split between Aztec and Mayan origins, there also seems to be a more recent effect.
In 1821 when Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador declared independence from Spain, Mexico tried to create a Mexican empire including these countries. In response, all of the countries except Mexico tried to form a Republic of Central American States to concentrate power of these countries in a bulwark against Mexico and other countries trying to influence the region. This effort did not last, but it did create a clear separation between Mexico and the other countries in the region. This split continued in the 20th century when the US overtly interfered in the politics of many countries in Central America. The actions of the US were taken to offset a perceived move toward communism in Mexico.
Conclusion? Mexico is not part of Central America.
The first banknote in Mexico was the 1 Peso in 1823. (P1a) It was a basic white paper with printing on it. It wasn’t until 1925 that the Central Bank of Mexico became the sole issuer of the Mexican Peso. These notes are distinctive because they have a nice portrait of a gypsy-looking woman in the front. Later versions began showing an Aztec sun on the front.
Later in the 20th century, the banknotes began to include different historic Mexicans on their denominations. The Mexican peso was devalued in the early 1990s and replaced with the ‘Nuevo Peso’ along with a very different design with more color and a more modern look. Mexico is a large enough country with high enough demand to have its own banknote printer. This has allowed them to release a large number of commemoratives and to experiment with new technologies. This is one reason that the newer Mexican notes are some of the best designed notes in the world.