Free Grows Fertile – Central American Republic 8 Reales

 

“When Spanish domination in New Spain (Mexico) came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba on September 15, 1821, independence also resulted for the Captaincy-General of Guatemala. This was a loosely connected subdivision of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and was itself divided into the provinces of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Augustin Iturbide, the final leader of Mexico’s revolution, was proclaimed Emperor Augustin I and extended his domination over Central America. A typical struggle for power followed, and the first Mexican Empire collapsed early in 1823. Central America broke away from Mexico at this time, and political connections with the larger country to the northwest were permanently ended.

Most historians emphasize the bitter and long-continuing political feud between two schools of thought which flared from time to time in almost all of Latin America. Briefly, The Conservatives wanted new governments similar to the traditional Spanish Colonial pattern, emphasizing strong central power and retention of the old social classes (i.e. favoring the landed gentry, the clergy, and the established political groups). The Liberals, pointing to the recent revolutions in France and the United States, talked of the new opportunities for all through land reforms, through restriction of church-state ties, and through a generally more flexible form of government. This is only a hint of the social and political unrest prevalent throughout Latin America, but the student of Latin American Coins will gain a better understanding of the bewildering changes in coinage if he keeps these ideas in mind.” Holland Wallace “Central American Coinage since 1821”

The coin I have featured today is one which springs from this time of political change and unrest. A union came into being formed from the old Spanish Colonial Captaincy-General of Guatemala and its five provinces of Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The “Republic of Central America” union began July 1, 1823. Coins bearing the legend “Republica del Centro de America” were initially struck in 1824 and continued until 1851.  While political strife tore the union apart and it ceased to function by 1838, Costa Rica and Guatemala continued to strike coins with the same design until 1850 and 1851 respectively–partly for convenience and partly I think for a dream of reunification which never happened.

Born of the spirit of independence, this short-lived republic produced some of the most universally beautiful designs ever in coinage. As a collector of 8 reales coins I was mesmerized by that radiant sun with its large, full face streaming beams of light over the 5 mountains or volcanoes representing those old five provinces and future republics on the obverse. I thought the design oddly modern and fanciful. The reverse legend “Libre Cresca Fecundo”  (later Crezca) meaning “Free, Growing, Fertile” or as I like it “Free Grows Fertile” is a strong positive, statement of freedom and independence. The Ceiba tree on the reverse separates the denomination and is the national tree of Guatemala and important in mythology. The trunk is the stairway to heaven and the branches paths to God. The coin pictured with its mintmark NG and assayer initials MA is an 1842 oversrike of an 1837 issue.

You’ll notice this example does have a flaw feature.  That nick on the rim is a flan flaw (as I was told) and that is a defect in the silver blank that was impressed with the design. While flan and planchet can be fungible as terms, planchet can refer to a blank or flan where the edges have been turned to form a rim prior to impressing the design.

Photographically my effort with this image was to set the coin obverse in natural afternoon light and orient it such that the sun face was in good focus and so that the light hit those design beams in order to look as if the sun were breaking out over dark mountains. Like a new day of vibrance and freedom so a people could flourish in peace.

I wanted to add though, that current guides/descriptions call the sun over the mountains side the obverse and the ceiba tree side the reverse…which is how I think of it naturally. But, Holland Wallace in his book, Central American Coinage, has it the other way around in his write up. I expect as with other coins I’ve encountered what is considered the front (obverse) and what is considered the back (reverse) may change with perception or historical emphasis. Additionally, various sources disagree on when exactly the Central American Republic officially ended, whether 1838 or a couple of years later. The history of this region and time is fascinating and I am just a newbie on the subject. Attracted by a brilliant sun face over some volcanoes.

 

We all want to be free and thrive and that is what this coin says to me!

Judy

~ by Judy on November 21, 2019.

16 Responses to “Free Grows Fertile – Central American Republic 8 Reales”

  1. The Central American republic wasn’t the only state to break up; notably Bolivar’s Gran Colombia, which broke up even earlier. And Mexico was plagues with secession movements, not just Texas!
    I do like that sun rising over the mountains. 🙂

    • Brian, I thought you might like this excerpt from an email I got from a coin dealer about a CAR coin after I asked about it. The gentleman is a coin enthusiast who also teaches history at a local college. Seems being a numismatist and a history buff go hand in hand.

      “The CAR coins, they hold a most interesting attraction when you consider the context of the existence of this vast Federal Republic to the South of Mexico. At the time Texas declared its independence from Mexico, there was also a secession movement in the Yucatan that almost won. This is why Santa Anna hurried so in such a bloodthirsty manner to the Alamo, butchering all at Goliad and then the Alamo, chasing Sam Houston all the way across Texas until his troops were exhausted and, as it so often happens in warfare, the smaller force got the jump on Santa Anna and it was a rout.

      But Texas would never, ever been granted any kind of independence were the War of the Castes not raging as it was in the Yucatan. It was this rebellious, revolutionary elan that both helped create the Federal Republic of Central America and tear it apart.” Sean Paul Kelley of Redoubt Numismatics

  2. I lived in Honduras for two years and taught at a school named for Francisco Morazán, president of the Federal Republic of Central America from 1830 to 1839. I learned a little about the failed Central American union, but this is the first time I’ve seen a coin from that era.

    • I can see in my book that Holland Wallace has that when the former dictator Francisco Morazan was defeated by Guatemala’s Rafael Carrera in 1839, then defeated again and executed in 1842, that the Liberals’ dream of a unified Central America was shattered. Very cool that you taught in such an interesting region. The coins from that period are really fantastic I think. Lots of South American countries have wonderful designs..South Peru has a really cool 8 reales with an erupting volcano, a ship, a castle, a horn of plenty all on one side. South American coinage really does feature the sun a lot in designs…Peru’s has a Un Sol for a denomination. While I wasn’t trying to turn my nature blog into a coin blog perse, but its a photo blog too and I am working on some stock photography of objects..and coins are great objects and carry so much history. So I feel glad that you enjoyed the coin as I am sure do select others that might be interesting to share or have great artistic possibilities. I am trying to better my attempts at macro photography.

  3. It is interesting to see coins from different countries and different periods.

    • Yeah it really is. While I seem to enjoy South American, US, as some Asian coins the best, all over Europe are wonderful designs in big silver coins. Germany has great bird designs!! An the UK plenty too. In fact one of my favourite designs is of the British Trade Dollar made specifically for trade in Asia. Photographically, I like working on objects and trying to get good detail on them, so working on what I want to do with that idea, especially when I don’t get out into nature for wildlife and scenery. Don’t want the camera to sit around in my closet doing nothing!!

  4. I’ve enjoyed your posts on coins, Judy. Fascinating history!

    And just as I thought I was too old too learn anything new …

    • Coins really are little pieces of history in your hand!! Well, I think my problem isn’t learning new things; it’s remembering it the next day.

  5. The history you detailed is fascinating, and it certainly makes sense of the design. When I first saw that sun peeking at me, I assumed it was shown behind waves, rather than volcanoes or mountains. It’s a beautiful design, and the ‘expression’ on the sun’s face is wonderful. It seems a little world-weary, to be honest: as though it might have seen a little too much complex history.

    Even though my basic education was good, I’m constantly surprised at the gaps I come across. This is one. I never realized that the Central American countries had been a single republic. And I can’t remember ever reading about the history south of Mexico that influenced our history here in Texas. It surely must have been included in histories of Texas I’ve read — or perhaps not. I’m anxious now to go back and take another look at those times. History’s always more complex than we realize.

    • It really is and I only learned of it because I fell in love with that 8 reales. I do vaguely remember learning about the Alamo in school. I did live in Texas for awhile. In fact my mother was born at Fort Sam and I have a sister buried there. We were stationed at Fort Hood for our longest tour. Since not everyone is a history buff, I feel that certain hobbies as coin collecting can serve as a focus and give history life. I felt the same way when I was shooting lighthouses in Florida and learned the history of the state through interest in those beacons. Much as we all do learn, there are always those gaps that amaze us when filled a little bit.

    • Just wanted to ad that it is cool you really looked at that sun face. I found it so expressive. I agree world-weary.

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