Zapotec Dreams: 50 Peso (Mexico, 1981)-Founder's Article

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

This banknote represents the 4th denomination of the Series AA, printed by the Bank of Mexico. The notes were first issued 15 November 1973. It's dedicated to commemorating Benito Juárez and the indigenous Zapotec culture of southern Mexico. To pay homage to the culture which his ancestors hailed from. This note will be reviewed reverse first.

The reverse depicts a Zapotec funerary urn and the temple-palace of Mitla. A reference to Oaxaca and Benito Juárez's Zapotec ancestry. Mitla was the most important place in Zapotec culture, representing the center of their religion. Its modern name is a Spanish corruption of the Nahuatl (Aztec) name Mictlān, "place of the dead".


Zapotec culture was ruled by a caste of priest-lords, which lived within temples. These temples were known as yo hopèe, “House(s) of the vital force”. As a requirement prior to becoming rulers, Zapotec nobles underwent training in religious practices. Thus making them copa pitào, members of upper religious hierarchy. Therefore making them eligible to become an uija-tà (great seer), who ruled city-states, such as Mitla.


The Spanish gave Mitla it's name as the “city of the dead”, due to the urns stored within its palace temple. Which were stored along the walls and over the palace's door ways. The urns were used to intern the remains of high status Zapotec. The urns were molded from clay, in the form of large cats and various gods. Meant to guide the deceased noble's spirit to the underworld.


The god chosen for the urn was based on the attributes of the deceased. These gods include Cocijo (Rain/Lighting), Pitào Cozāna (God of the Ancestors/Creator of Life), Pitào Pezelào (God of the Underworld/Earth), Copijcha (God of the Sun/War), and Pitào Xicala (God of Love/Dreams/Excess).


As a security measure, the note features a pair of stamps. The red stamp (right) is the formal Bank of Mexico Seal. While the brown stamp (left), is an abbreviated variant. These two stamps are always paired within the Series AA (Bank of Mexico).

The observe features a portrait of Benito Juárez, the 24th President of Mexico and the first of indigenous ancestry. Benito Juárez was a Zapotec orphan, born to a poor Oaxaca family, in 1806. He was assisted by a Franciscan monk, allowing him to enrolled in seminary. Later studying law at Institute of Sciences and Arts (now the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca).


He later became a judge, the Governor of Oaxaca (1856-57), President of the Mexican Supreme Court (1957-58), and finally President of Mexico (1858-72). The National Palace can be seen to his left.


Ultraviolet Gallery

Additional Notes

  • This note's dimensions are 157 x 67 mm (6.18 x 2.64 in), standard for Series AA banknotes.

  • Mitla's native Zapotec name is Lyobā, “place of rest”.

  • Zapotec is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec) term tzapotēcah, “people of the place of Sapote”.

  • Zapotec refer to themselves as Ben 'Zaa, the “Cloud People”.

  • Zapotec legends claim they were descended from big cats, such as pumas, jaguars and ocelots.

  • The note's surface is covered with iridescent fibers, on both sides.

  • The fibers appear bight green and red under ultraviolet light, as seen in the photo above.

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