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El Banco Peninsular Mexicano

Fusion of the two Yucatán banks

During a boom at the beginning of the century both the Yucatán banks, irresponsibly and corruptly, extended credit to henequen growers. These growing abuses were detailed in both the local and Mexico City pressfor example, El Imparcial, Núm. 3905, 20 June 1907, but not before many henequeneros found themselves teetering on the brink of financial ruin. The easy money made available by banks was linked both to local casas exportadoras and foreign lenders. The Banco Yucateco, for instance, was firmly under the control of the Molina house, while the Banco Mercantil was tied to Eusebio Escalante e Hijo and this was of crucial significance, since a weakness in a major casa exportadora could undermine the fiscal well-being of the whole regional banking industry. Foreign lending institutions like the Credit Lyonnais were also vulnerable because of their indulgent investments in peninsular banks. As late as May 1906, French banks had lent three million pesos to the Banco Yucateco, an unwarranted show of confidence in a monocultural economy that was about to come apart.

Frequent speculations by henequeneros in peninsular joint stock companies (sociedades anonimas) further destabilized the regional economy. As the price of henequen continued to decline from 1904 to 1907, the artificially high prices of peninsular stocks could not be maintained. The bubble burst in 1907 and the first local casualty was the Escalante house.

Rumours of the collapse of Eusebio Escalante é Hijo had been circulating in Merida throughout the first months of 1907. The Escalante house was the oldest casa exportadora in Yucatan, and although it could no longer lay claim to dominance in henequen sales, its investments in the Yucatecan economy were still considerable. Besides the commercial house in Merida, the firm owned the Agencia Comercial, whose warehouses, docks, lighters, and other means of transport enabled the Escalantes to move fibre from hacienda to steamship. The Agencia, which had been created in the late 1880s in a partnership with another prominent casa, Manuel Donde y Cia (which succumbed to bankruptcy in an earlier bust cycle in 1895), owned considerable real estate in the port of Progreso. In addition, Escalante e Hijo had invested heavily in the Ferrocarriles Unidos, tramway companies, banks, urban properties and haciendas, a variety of attendant service industries and some chancy agricultural companies in the eastern portion of the peninsula. Like all casas, Escalante é Hijo served as creditor to a great number of hacendados: in some cases, it made cash advances; in others, it provided mortgages to planters. Finally, many wealthy businessmen and individuals in Merida and elsewhere had invested in the Escalante casa.

In a desperate but futile effort to avoid bankruptcy, Nicolas Escalante Peón went to Mexico City in May and June of 1907 to speak with Olegario Molina, Secretario de Fomento, Colonización y Industria, and Limantour, Secretario de Hacienda. What was at stake was more than just the failure of one of the largest henequen firms in the peninsula as the Yucatecan banks, especially the Banco Mercantil (the Escalante bank), were also in imminent danger of default. Limantour agreed to bail out the Yucatecan banks by authorizing the Banco Nacional de México to loan a million pesos to the Banco Yucateco and the Banco Mercantil under certain unspecified conditions. Later in 1908, Limantour agreed to the fusion of the two weakened banks into one stronger institution, the Banco Peninsular Mexicano.

While the federal government had intervened to prop up the peninsular banking industry, it did not, however, rescue the ailing Escalante casa. As a direct result of the Escalante failure in July 1907, Avelino Montes S. en C. would scuttle one of its principal rivals in the henequen trade, obtain control of the Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatán and of the peninsular banks, and then use its new clout to purchase a steamship line in I908. Rarely has a business profited so well from another's misfortune. Escalante's demise ensured Molinista dominance over the key facets of the regional economy.

Although local judges issued a formal order of arrest for both Eusebio Escalante Bates and Nicolas Escalante Peón in 1909, the two were warned by a highly placed 'government functionary' of their impending arrest a full two months before the order was issued. This advance notice gave them enough time to flee to New York. The lawyers for the receivers tracked the Escalantes down in New Rochelle, New York, and through an international legal instrument called 'Letters Rogatory' made the Escalantes take the stand in New York. Despite the numerous legal and ethical questions raised during the trial, however, the Escalantes received a juicio de amparo, or protection, from the Mexican courts and were ultimately exonerated from any criminal wrongdoingJoseph, Gilbert M., and Allen Wells. “Summer of Discontent: Economic Rivalry among Elite Factions during the Late Porfiriato in Yucatan.” Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, 1986, pp. 255–282.

As if the banks did not have enough problems, in January 1908 when Antonio Cáceres replaced Mateus Ponce as cajero of the Banco Yucateco it was discovered that the latter had defrauded the bank of $740,000, from a strongbox that contained notes from Mexico City that had not yet been put into circulationEl Tiempo, México, 9 January 1908. Although some culprits were arrested and convicted, the untimely robbery undermined the credibility of the already weakened regional banking industry and paved the way for the fusion of the two banks. The stolen notes were of the $50 and $100 denominations so the new bank gave holders 35 days until 31 December to hand in any notes for exchangeDiario Oficial, Yucatán, Núm. 3695, 15 December 1909.

The subsequent trials of Ponce and his supposed associates generated a cottage industry of ligitation and publication over the years.

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El desfalco al Banco Yucateco: alegaciones y constancias del proceso, y del juicio de amparo promovido por el defensor del C. Ignacio Duarte Escalante  

¡Justicia!: en defensa de don Ignacio Duarte Escalante, constancias del amparo pedido por don Ignacio Duarte E. ante el fallo dictado por la sala de lo penal en el proceso seguido por el desfalco del Banco Yucateco

folleto3   folleto4
Alegato presentado por el Lic. D. Leopoldo Cantón Frexas : como defensor de Joaquín Cantón Frexas, en el juicio de amparo que promovió ante el juzgado de distrito contra la sentencia dictada por la sala de revisión del ramo penal del H. Tribunal Superior de Justicia, en el juicio seguido contra Mateo Ponce y otras personas por el desfalco al extinguido Banco Yucateco, Mérida 21 de julio de 1913    Vindicación Social: documentos justificativos de la defensa de Don Joaquín Cantón Frexas, hasta la declaración de que el proceso con motivo del desfalco en la caja de primera reserva del extinguido Banco Yucateco, S. A., no perjudica su reputación


The merger was approved by the Secretaría de Hacienda on 11 March 1908 and the new bank started operations on 1 April 1908Memoria de las Institucions de Crédito corresponsiente al año 1908, tomo II. At 30 June the bank had 235,864 notes of the two banks, representing $10,270,006, on hand with another 264,196 notes, worth $5,514,385, in circulation. The interventor was holding another 79,899 notes, worth $2,234, 990ibid..

The board for the new bank was composed of Ricardo Gutiérrez, Alonso Aznar Dondé, Domingo Evia, Eduardo Robleda, Ricardo Molina Hubbe and Enrique Hort, with Agustín Vales Castillo as comisario. The advisory board in Mexico City was Fernando Pimentel y Fagoaga, José A. Signoret and F. de LizardiEl Tiempo, 3 March 1908.


The merged bank used notes of the previous banks, now overprinted in red "Banco Peninsular Mexicano".

Peninsular 5 HC 178784

Peninsular 20 YU 03174

American Bank Note Company print run

In November 1913 the ABNC altered the plate for the $1 Banco Yucateco, changing the bank's name, changing "Cajero" to "Consejero" and engraving new signatures. However, this order was cancelled by the bank on 12 December 1913.

In December 1913 the ABNC printed these notes from altered plates of the $5 Banco Yucateco, changing the bank's name and changing "Cajero" to "Consejero". These notes had the typographed signatures of M. Marin C. as Director and J. Juanes G. as Consejero.

Peninsular 5 A 212096

Peninsular 5 A 212096 reverse

Date Value Number Series from to
December 1913 $5 300,000 A 1 300000


The signatures are Menalio Marín Cordoví as Director, Benito Aznar Santamaria as Gerente, Antonio Rendón as Interventor, and José Juanes G. Gutiérrez as Consejero.


Menalio Marín Cordoví

When Cámara Valdes established the Comisión Reguladora del Mercado del Henequén he was appointed to the boardEconomista Mexicano, 18 May 1912.

sig Marin


Antonio Rendón sig Rendon


José Juanes G. Gutiérrez

In 1912 Juanes was president of the Cámara Agrícola de Yucatán and as such, when Cámara Valdes established the Comisión Reguladora del Mercado del Henequén he was appointed to the boardEconomista Mexicano, 18 May 1912.

sig Juanes


American Book and Printing Company

During the revolution the bank also issued a $1 note produced by the American Book and Printing Company with a design adapted from the earlier $1 Banco Yucateco note, signed by Rendón as Interventor, Marín as Director and Antonio Cáceres as Cajero.

Peninsular 1 A 268594


Antonio Cáceres sig Caceres


Under Obregón decree of 31 January 1921 the Banco Peninsular Mexicano was placed into Class B (for banks whose assets and liabilities were about equal and which were given a short time in which to obtain the necessary funds to resume) and allowed to resume all customary operations except the issue of bank notes.