Atlanta-based correspondent Brandon Christopher Hall takes us on a journey through the United States’ southern neighbor, starting in Baja California, then traveling south and east through every state and the federal district of Mexico City. Along the way he takes a look at coins from each region.
Guanajuato (Free and Sovereign State of Guanajuato)
Capital city: Guanajuato
Largest city: León
Nickname: (no official nickname)
Motto: (no official motto)
Area: 11,817 square miles
Order of admission to the Federation: #2 (December 20, 1823)
Guanajuato was one of Mexico’s earliest states to be added to the federation, and as such it possesses an extremely rich history. The cities of Guanajuato carry a strong tradition in the arts. The famous muralist Diego Rivera was born and raised in Guanajuato. The International Cervantes Festival is held in Guanajuato every year, and is arguably the single most important artistic event in all of Latin America, featuring a variety of plays, films, concerts, and dances.
We have now reached the halfway point in our Numismatic Tour of Mexico, and our trip shows no signs of slowing down either.
Guanajuato is located in the heartland of Mexico and stands geographically divided among the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, the Sierra Madre Oriental, and the Mexican Plateau. Though the territory used to be mostly forested, aggressive mining and land-development techniques employed by the Spanish changed the landscape forever. Thankfully, Guanajuato officials have taken steps to create 21 different protected areas to preserve the natural beauty of the state, such as the Siete Luminarias, Silva Dam, Las Fuentes, and Cerro de Amoles. The climate is generally semi-arid and changes slightly depending on altitude despite the land being long ago covered by tropical forests.
As a result of the various ecosystems and microclimates, the flora and fauna of Guanajuato are unique and eclectic. The mountains in the region resembled frogs to the Purepecha natives, which is why the state was named after a similar word they use to describe such amphibians. While deciduous trees dot the landscape, colorful cactus and flower species can be spotted all over the region. Some notable examples include Opuntia ficus, Echeveria agavoides, and Mammilaria duwei.
Pumas and black bears are almost extinct in the state but are protected in the federal Biosphere Reserve of La Sierra Gorda along with many other species of flora and fauna. Mexican jays, northern cardinals, and turkey vultures are common bird species in the state. Some typical mammalian species are white-tailed deer, bobcats, Mexican gray squirrels, and long-nosed armadillos.
Sometime between 500 and 200 B.C.E., the first people of Guanajuato settled near Chupicuaro and existed quite peacefully in a largely agrarian society. In 1523, Hernán Cortés led a joint force of 10,000 converted natives and 300 Spaniards through the area, killing indiscriminately. Centuries later, the entire Mexican movement for independence from Spain was born in Dolores, Guanajuato, not far from where Father Miguel Hidalgo was born. The state continued to play a critical role in national affairs over the years into the Mexican Revolution, which included two major battles at Leon and Celaya. The Partido Nacional Revolucionario (Institutional Revolutionary Party), established after the overthrow of Porfirio Díaz, led to a very prosperous and strong economy in Guanajuato all the way up to the present day.
The state of Guanajuato is known for being very religious and conservative, with 96% of its citizens consisting of confessing Catholics. Immigration to Guanajuato from other countries is becoming increasingly common, with more than 3,000 Japanese immigrants living in the Bajio region. 2.6% of the population is indigenous and tends to live in the most arid regions of the state. Their diet typically consists of agave, cactus pear, and nopal. In the capital city of Guanajuato, “Kiss Alley” can be found near the Plazuela de los Ángeles, fabled to give couples seven years of happiness if they visit the approximately two-foot-wide space.
Now that we have completed half of our Numismatic Tour of Mexico, the styles and patterns that modern Mexican commemorative coins typically adhere to should be increasingly apparent. An emphasis on economic, agricultural, mining, and cultural themes consistently appear on Mexican currency.
The coin we examine for Guanajuato is a 2006 silver piece depicting a statue of Miguel Hidalgo with Juarez Theater in the backdrop on the reverse side. As with others in this series, the Mexican national shield can be seen on the obverse.
Silver Mexican coins of the modern State Federation series (heraldic and emblematic types) are studied in depth in volume 2 of the Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money. Volumes 1, 3, and 4 discuss other, earlier money of the state of Guanajuato: Maximilian coinage, Republic decimal coinage, Republic reales, Royalist coinage, state copper coins and tokens, local mints, and other interesting topics.
As we forge on through the second half of our Numismatic Tour of Mexico, our 16th stop will land us in Queretaro.