Félix Ortega

On 9 February 1915 General Brigadier Félix Ortega, the new jefe político, decreed (decree núm. 1) that the Cornejo notes were null and worthless. Annulling the Cornejo notes caused upset in La Paz and the town council (which included the leading businessmen) told Ortega that his decree would be severely detrimental because the lack of funds would means people could not buy necessities and small businesses would grind to a halt. Ortega replied that the decree was intended to avoid the economic isolation of the territory as the Cornejo notes were not accepted on the mainland opposite and that he was attempting to put into circulation a currency that would be accepted in Sonora, Sinaloa and Tepic. He added that holders of large quantities of Cornejo notes could exchange them over time for notes of general circulation (such as the sábanas and dos caritas of Chihuahua, and the issues of Sinaloa’s Riveros and the Estado de Sonora issue. Besides, the lower value cartones with the Jefatura’s resello still remained in circulation to facilitate day-to-day transactions. Finally, troops and public employees were being paid with notes of general circulation, so these would be available.

At a meeting in La Paz on 22 March a junta of local businessmen agreed to the withdrawal of this currency, on conditions that would not affect them or their customers. They agreed that over the next two days (23-24 March) they would take in the notes at par and without restriction, and then hold them until the government could exchange them for paper money of general circulation. They also earmarked a reasonable amount in banknotes to be sent to Sonora to change for that state’s fractional currency, to be use for day-to-day transactions. For its part, the Jefatura Política agreed to produce a new issue of paper currency to redeem the existing notes, and also redeem some such deposits with coins.

The next day, 23 March, in a decree (decree núm. 6), Ortega acknowledged the junta’s help but stated that as there was insufficient time to bring in the Sonora fractional notes he was repealing the circular that fixed the acceptance of the cartones at 20% in payments of any amount and decreed that the vales of the Jefatura Política (and any that it might issue in future to replace deteriorated notes) were of forced circulation in the district, at par and without any limitation, without prejudice to the efforts being made to change the local paper currency for that of the rest of the country.

However, despite the threat of fines, some traders continued to refuse to accept the notes, so on 31 March Ortega and his secretary, Juan M. Nuño, met again with some forty-eight businessmenM. R. Armenta, Manual Avilés, Otto Bach (for A. Ruffo), Eduardo S. Carrillo, M. S. Carrillo, Mariano Carlón, G. Castro. Francisco Castro, R. R. Castro, Aparicio Contreras, I. Cosío, F. R. Cota, Gerónimo R. Cota, C. de la Peña, C. R. Díaz, M. P. Estrada, F. V. Ferrer, Susano Geraldo, L. S. Inzunza, José León, Pablo León, Teodoro León, José Lizardi, Elías Lucero, Lino Martínez, Miguel Mendoza, Miguel Moreno, Y. Moyrón, Juan I. Osuna, N. Peláez, Filemón C. Piñeda, Manuel Quijada, Rochel Ruffo y Cia., Cayetana S. de Ojeda, C. Sepúlveda, E. A. Sepúlveda (for Elena Sepúlveda de G.), Esteban Talamantos, Humberto Unzon, Antonio Usárraga, Filiberto Valdez, E. von Borstal, Guillermo Wong, Luis I. Yuan, Eugenio Yuen, León Yuen, Quong Ley Yuen. Ortega stated that the period fixed by the earlier meeting for the withdrawal of the currency had proved too short and he saw himself obliged to decree its forced circulation but that he was aware of the great trouble that this money had caused and the even greater trouble that it would continue to cause if left in circulation. The meeting then approved that:

(1)    the Jefatura Política would issue notes (bonos) of five, ten and twenty pesos, to replace the existing notes;
(2)    these would be negotiable and that the tax offices (Oficinas Recaudadores) would accept 20% in payment of taxes and dues; and
(3)    in place of the existing cartones businesses (casas de comercio) would issue vales under their own responsibility, to facilitate small change.

As for the existing notes,
(4)    the Jefatura Política would order the Oficinas Recaudadoras to collect and hold the local currency, and local businesses would stop using it, and
(5)    every Saturday, from four to five in the evening, the Jefatuta Política would exchange the local vales.

(6)    the official paymasters and individuals would pay wages in money of general circulation in the country; and
(7)    the Jefatura Política would issue a decree ordering that only money in general circulation should be used in payments.

So the same day, in decree núm. 7, Ortega decreed that the public offices would henceforth make payments only in currency that was in general circulation in the country and with vales issued, with the authorization of his Jefatura, by local merchants. The merchants would be obliged to accept the current vales from the public and, every Saturday between four and five in the afternoon, would present them to the Jefatura Política to be exchanged for bonos.

The new notes are dated 3 April.  These carry the promise that the Jefatura Política would honor them as soon as economic conditions permitted and (as agreed) the statement that they were not only negotiable in commerce, but also acceptable by the Oficinas Recaudadoras in payment of 20% of any taxes due. They carry the signatures of Ortega, Secretario Juan M. Nuño as secretary, and customs administrator (Administrador de la Aduana) F. G. Rubio as interventor.

Although the town council went along with Ortega, some businesses refused to accept his notes, arguing that they had no value, and demanded Carrancista notes, banknotes or silver coins. Others accepted the notes as a discount, whilst other preferred to close up.

On 27 May, in decree núm. 12, Ortega stated that the difference between banknotes and the revolutionary issues was growing daily, and leading to inflation and other troubles. However, banknotes were merely promises to pay, backed by deposits, yet those deposits had been used up in Huerta’s time. When the time came, the government would honor the notes of the jefes revolucionarios before those of the banks. So to protect the public, he decreed that henceforth legal tender would consist of Mexican coins of gold or silver and the notes of general circulation in the states that submitted to the Convention, unless the Convention or Francisco Villa, Jefe de las Operaciones, decided otherwise. On 24 June the Presidente Municipal of La Paz decided that municipal taxes should be paid half in notes of the Gobierno Provisional (M1239-M1244) or the Brigada de Sinaloa (M3720-M3726) and half in the local issue and a circular of 8 July stated that Gobierno Provisional and Brigada de Sinaloa notes were of forced circulation.