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Villista currency policy

Many of the myriad pronouncements concerning paper money have already been mentioned in the sections dealing with resellos applied to the sábanas, Ejército Constitucionalista notes and dos caritas. In general, the growing reluctance to accept revolutionary currency meant that there were constant reports of businesses refusing particular notes (usually on the pretext of a lack of change or fear of forgeries) or setting differential prices; continual queries from local authorities as to which notes were of forced circulation and the consequent (and often contradictory) replies from state governments and instructions to take whatever action they deemed necessary to force usage. It is hard not to feel some sympathy: there is, for example, a note of desperation in the pronouncement of Governor Medina of Jalisco.

Having published various dispositions and clarifications as to which paper money is in forced circulation within the state, and having observed that any information or notice which is published in the newspaper without official sanction is accepted by the public as the truth, though it is not, General Medina has decreed, once and for all (una vez por todas)...El Estado de Jalisco, 6 April 1915.

In Villa’s area of domination the two Chihuahua issues were the main currency, complemented by some notes from Durango and various local low-denomination issues. From very early on the authorities tried to withdraw the unprepossessing sábanas and replace them with a more acceptable currency, particularly the dos caritas, but the low values persisted so that as late as July 1915 the 25c and 50c values could be declared forced circulation in QuerétaroAQ, exp 204. There were numerous circulars and decrees enforcing both the Chihuahua issues in most of the states where Villa and the Convention had control, no doubt in direct relation to the growing unease of businesses and individuals to accept them.

On 19 September 1914 Carranza had authorised the Gobierno Provisional issue in an attempt to unify the currency and replace the existing issues. When he split with the Convention and retired to Veracruz, he continued to produce Gobierno Provisional notes: thereafter both sides acknowledged only certain Gobierno Provisional notes, depending on their provenance and serial numbers.

When Carranza fell out with his former allies, both sides moved to disown the acts of the other. At first, however, the debate centred on the currency issued around or after the split, and both sides accepted the validity of notes already well established in circulation, with the caveat that Carranza never acknowledged any that he claimed were issued without his prior authorization.

On 30 November 1914 Lazaro de la Garza reported that Carranza’s customs posts were prohibiting the introduction of Chihuahua currency and that its circulation was prohibited in his territory. He suggested that Villa retaliated by prohibiting Carrancista currency and changing it for Chihuahua issuesLG papers, 1-F-134, telegram from de la Garza, Ciudad Juárez, to Villa, 30 November 1914 and Villa gave the necessary order on 31 November 1914LG papers, 1-F-139, telegram from Villa, Tacuba, to de la Garza, Ciudad Juárez, 1 December 1914. On 7 December Villa ordered that notes of Carranza dated after 10 November, the date on which the Convention disowned him, should not be accepted but that earlier notes were valid. Vargas suggested that they should not exchange the Carrancista notes for Chihuahua issue, as they did not have enough funds, but should revalidate them so they could continue in circulationLG papers, 3-G-22, letter Vargas, Chihuahua, to L. de la Garza, Ciudad Juárez, 8 December 1914.

However, no action seems to have been taken for a couple of months. On 13 February 1915 Villa, from his headquarters in Guadalajara, in retaliation for Carranza’s prohibition on Chihuahua notes, decreed, in circular núm. 4 of the Cuerpo de Ejército del Norte, that the issues that were forced were the two from Chihuahua, the three-signatures Estado de Durango, the Monclova, Ejército Constitucionalista, the Gobierno Provisional dated 28 September and 20 October 1914, provided that they were revalidated, and the bank-to-bank cheques from Torreón. On 2 March Villa repeated this information to the government of AguascalientesPeriódico Oficial, 6 March 1915.

As communications with the Convention were difficult, in February Villa established his own bureaucracy, with three departments of statethree prominent intellectuals, Juan Escudero, Miguel Díaz Lombardo, and Luis de la Garza Cardenas were appointed respectively ministers of economics, foreign affairs and communications. Escudero was a member of the Mexican Congress under Madero and acted as minister of finance in Carranza’s cabinet. For twenty years prior to his political career he was a professor of political economy at the University of Guadalajara., in Chihuahua. On 16 February 1915 Francisco Escudero, Encargado del Despacho de Hacienda y Fomento in Chihuahua, said that he was going to issue a disposition that all the so-called Carrancista notes would be legal tender, as long as they carried his Secretaría’s resello, as there was a lot of this money in circulation where the Carrancistas had been dislodged and not to accept it world prejudice thousands of holdersVida Nueva, 16 February 1915: Prensa, 21 February 1915. On 21 February Escudero announced that they were going to revalidate all the Carranza notes(Prensa, 24 February 1915. By 4 March it was reported that the circular had caused some unquiet in various parts of Durango, as many people thought they would not be able to send their notes to be restamped and so would lose their money. Escudero told governor Saravia that no-one should be alarmed and that, if necessary, he would extend the time fixed for the reselloPrensa, 9 March 1915.

The Vilistas, by this time, were trying to unify the currency, withdrawing the earlier issues. On 9 March 1915 Villa authorised de la Garza to collect all the paper money in the market in the area dominated by his forces, to be exchanged for Estado de Chihuahua notesLG papers, 1-J-4, memorandum from Villa, Torreón, to de la Garza, Torreón, 9 March 1915. On 17 March 1915 the Departamento de Hacienda y Fomento sent a circular to all Jefaturas de Hacienda and Administraciones del Timbre, telling them to exchange Gobierno Provisional notes with Chihuahua notes (billetes del Estado de Chihuahua), as the state of their funds permitted, and in the meantime to suspend the restamping of Gobierno Provisional notes AQ, Fondo Poder Ejecutivo Sec 2ª Hacienda C-1 Año 1915 Exp 139.

On 20 March 1915 the Departamento de Hacienda y Fomento in Chihuahua issued a notice that the following were of forced circulation: both Chihuahua issues, the Monclova notes, the Ejército Constitucionalista notes, and the notes issued by Pastor Rouaix in Durango, Felipe Riveros in Sinaloa, and Maytorena in SonoraEl Estado de Sonora, 2 April 1915. Escudero wrote to the governor of Aguascalientes with a similar list on 22 MarchPeriódico Oficial, 27 March 1915.

So in the beginning the Villistas still acknowledged Carranza’s earliest issues and with justification as the Monclova and Ejército Constitucionalista had circulated freely throughout the north for over a year and to be in possession of them was as much a matter of chance as of political allegiance. It is likely, however, that, though the Ejército Constitucionalista bore the legend ‘Chihuahua’, they were not particularly common within that state. Villa had complained that Carranza did not send him enough currency, which was one of the reasons for printing his own, and only one resello come from Villa’s adopted state. Nevertheless, when Villa decided to disown all Carrancista currency, it must have hurt certain members of the general public and his action is hard to reconcile with his usual solicitude for the poorer classes, unless, of course, he had not thought out all the ramifications.

Certainly there was confusion among Villa’s supporters and each governor interpreted Villa’s order of 13 February 1915, differently.