Paper Money of Sonora

.. by Simon Prendergast

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Early issues

Early issues of bonds

Deuda flotante

Along with other Mexican states Sonora constantly needed funds to maintain its finances, and invariably turned to contributions from wealthy merchants or hacendados. Authorities levied taxes on businesses and ‘requested’ special loans from their owners. The state kept a running account of the unpaid balance owed to hacendados and merchants under the heading deuda flotante (floating debt).

In 1853 the United States consul in Guaymas Juan Robinson, the owner of a large import-export house, reported that he had ‘lent’ more than 18,000 dollars to the state governmentSD papers, reports of American Consuls, Record Group 59, vol 1-5 1832-1896, microcopy 284, reel 1. Robinson and others never actually anticipated repayment, although they did expect special treatment when requesting trade concessions or the acquisition of land from local officials.

Forced loans

On 19 August 1861 Colonel Antonio Esteves, in support of the Plan de Tacubaya, crossed the border from Sinaloa with two hundred men and seized Alamos. He made forced loans of $30,000 and recruited supporters among the influential conservative and clerical elements, including José María Tranquilino Almada and his brothers, Toribio and Vicente, who were given the rank of captain in Esteves' forces. The rebels also recruited soldiers among the Yaqui and and Mayo tribes, and marched into the interior but at Hermosillo, on 23 October, they were met and routed by Ignacio PesqueiraVicente Almada was killed in the battle, and Esteves and Toribio Almada fled to Chihuahua. Pesqueira continued on to Alamos, ordering his cavalry to scour the countryside for rebels. By 24 November the leaders had been hunted down, captured, and delivered to him. Pesqueira showed an unexpected lack of mercy which shocked even his closest friends when he executed Toribio Almada.

0n 6 October 1861 an insurrection broke out in Guaymas but was quickly suppressed. The government ordered a forced loan of $50,000 to be collected from foreigners as well as Mexicans. The U.S. consul protested, but five foreigners were compelled to pay and the near prospect of a man of war visiting the port was all that saved the rest from seizure of their goodsSD papers, reports of American Consuls, Record Group 59, vol 1-5 1832-1896, microcopy 284, reel 1 report of consul, Guaymas, 13 October 1861.

Whether any of the documents that the state or insurgents issued as a consequence as these ‘loans’ could be considered paper currency is a moot point. For example, we know of one certificado (numbered 128) of the Gefatura de Hacienda de Sonora issued on 15 June 1875 in Guaymas, for a short-term voluntary loan (prestamos voluntarios de pronto reintegal) of $4,500 from Messrs. Sandoval y Büller to be repaid out of the revenues of the Hermosillo and Alamos mints but it is not obvious whether the document was negotiableInformation from Clyde Hubbard.

Amortisation of the copper coinage

Again, like certain other states, Sonora had to amortize its copper coinage in the 1860s. It suspended minting in February 1863 and on 19 May established a commission under the title Banco de Amortización de la Moneda de Cobre which was to use a quarter of the receipts of the Guaymas customs for its purpose. This was found to be insufficient, and so on 19 June 1867 Governor Ignacio Pesqueira levied a forced loan of 45,000 pesos on the leading citizens of the stateLa Estrella de Occidente, 28 June 1867, Sonora priding itself on the fact that whilst other states had to seek federal aid to amortise their coinage it was able to resolve the problem without outside assistance. The various lenders were given as receipts certificados issued by the Jefatura de Hacienda: one such certificado for $1,100 had not been repaid by 1899 and on 3 November of that year the holder was given government bonds for the same amountcertificado of Jefe de Hacienda de las Rentas Federales y del Estado dated 20 September 1867 in favour of Rafael Córdova (AGHES, no reference).

Local authority chits

Another form of pseudo paper currency should be mentioned. On 27 June 1879 the Guaymas correspondent of El Siglo Diez y Nueve reported that the salaries that local councils paid their teachers were not very generous and not always paid in cash, but sometimes in chits (boletas) that the teachers sold at a discountEl Siglo Diez y Nueve, 11 July 1879.