In its section on revolutionary Coahuila Mexican Paper Money list three denominations (1, 5 and 10 pesos) under the heading “Manuel Suarez. Oro Nacional (National Gold)” and adds the following comment, “These notes are military issues because they were created to pay revolutionary troops by Colonel Manuel Suarez and were signed by Suarez. Francisco Villa would not allow his signature to be placed on the notes under threat of death to Suarez.”
This information came from the Villista commander Manuel Suárez (y Suárez) himself, who told it to a group of numismatists when they attended a convention in the hotel that he owned in Cuernavaca in July 1982, though Suárez actually said that he could not contact Villa and believed that Villa would have killed him if he used his name without authorization.
Suárez was born in Spain in 1896 and landed in Veracruz in 1911. He entered the business of buying and selling grain and met with Roque González Garza, a revolutionary who later became the commander of the Conventionalist Army and, in January 1915, the President of Mexico. It is said that Suárez travelled north with Roque González from Veracruz and was introduced at Coahuila to the revolutionary commander Francisco Villa. However, in an interview Suárez recalled that in May 1914 he was captured by Villa’s forces and was on the point of being executed for being a gachupín (hated Spaniard) when Villa saw him writing a farewell letter, realized he knew how to write, and enrolled him on his staff with the rank of teniente coronel. He stayed with Villa for just under a year and took part in battles at Zacatecas, Agua Prieta and Cuesta de Sayula, before being allowed to return to Mexico City. Suárez continued his agricultural grain business, and in later years it was enlarged into a wholesale and banking business. In 1956 he acquired the Hotel Casino ‘La Selva’ in Cuernavaca.
However, certain factors make one question Suárez’s memory (he was 86 at the time).
(a) the notes are dated January 1917. On his own admission, Suárez would not have been with Villa in January 1917. Villa did (unexpectedly) capture Torreón in December 1916 but was only able to hold it for a few weeks, and by this time he had been defeated by the Carrancistas, pursued by Pershing’s Punitive Expedition and was in no position to issue any currency, let alone such a well- designed issue as this.
(b) the notes were printed by La Helvetica press, in Avenida 16 de Septiembre, Mexico City. Mexico City at this time was firmly in the hands of the Carranza government.
(c) the vignette on the face has a farmer holding a sheaf of some plant and gazing over a cotton plantation, probably based on a vignette on the 1888 25c Banco Mexicano note from Chihuahua, where the farmer holds a sheaf of hay.
(d) the vignette on the reverse shows a train passing a cotton field, flanked by cotton plants and Atzec imagery.
The Comarca Lagunera, the fertile area surrounding Torreón, was the most important cotton-growing region in Mexico, but would a military issue go to such trouble? Is it not more likely that these were produced for one of the cotton-producing haciendas, and that Suárez was thinking of some other issue?