Mexican Numismatic History: The 1811 Real de Catorce 8 Reales…
By Carlos Jara – Mexican Coin Company
Our company was privileged to recently handle a specimen of the very rare Real de Catorce provisional 8 Reales. Appearances of this rare type are usually few and far between, with less than 10 specimens currently known. Nevertheless, despite being always considered among the most valuable War of Independence issues, current catalogs still show considerable mistakes or inaccuracies in its description, the main one being its true nature (royalist or insurgent). Although practically all current catalogs – including Krause – list it among the Royalist provisional issues, contemporary documentation proves beyond a doubt it was instead an insurgent one, authorized by Jose Mariano Jimenez between the end of 1810 and early 1811 to mitigate the lack of coinage available in Catorce.
Jose Mariano Jimenez was indeed a noteworthy Insurgent military commander. After joining Hidalgo shortly after the latter’s arrival in Guanajuato in late September of 1810, he took Valladolid in early October of that year, and played an important role in the Insurgent victory of Las Cruces on October 30. Following the defeat of Aculco, he retreated to Guanajuato and participated in the defensive efforts against the royalist troops that attacked the city on November 24. After the ensuing defeat, he was instructed by Ignacio Allende to march towards San Luis Potosi (where Real de Catorce is located) and spread the insurgent movement in that and other interior provinces. After spending most of December in San Luis Potosi – where he gathered around seven thousand men and fabricated 28 pieces of artillery, – he defeated Royalist commander Cordero at Agua Nueva on January 6, 1811.
He would later join other insurgent leaders in the nearby town of Saltillo. The subsequent insurgent plan to reach the United States was eventually a failure and Jimenez was captured with Hidalgo and many of his companions by royalist leader Elizondo at Acatita de Bajan. He was taken to Chihuahua to face treason charges and finally shot as traitor on June 26, 1811.
His testimony when answering the many accusations held against him has survived and gives a poignant testimony of those turbulent times. Importantly, it also provides unequivocal evidence on the nature of the provisional issue of silver coins that he authorized in late 1810 at Catorce. The relevant parts are translated following:
Declarations of the revolutionary prisoner Jose Mariano Jimenez.
In the city of Chihuahua, on the 22nd day of May of 1811, the commissioner and judge don Angel Abellapor and the General commander Don Nemesio Salcedo presented themselves at the hospital of this town, where Don Miguel Hidalgo and his consorts are held prisoners.
And after prisoner Don Jose Mariano Ximenez was summoned, he committed to a sworn testimony…
He stated his name as Don Jose Mariano Ximenez, of thirty years old and Roman Catholic religion… Spanish, born and residing in the town of San Luis Potosi, legitimate son of Don Jose Roman Ximenez and Doña Josefa Maldonado Zapata…
1. Asked whether he was aware of the cause of his imprisionment, the identity of his captors, the circumstances of his detention, the identity of those who were detained alongside him, their role in the insurgency and their current location, particularly that of Don Miguel Hidalgo, Don Ignacio Allende and Don Juan Aldama.
He answered: that (said detention) is due to him entering the insurgency proclaimed in the town of Dolores by Don Miguel Hidalgo and Don Ignacio Allende, that he was apprehended by Captain Don Ignacio de Elizondo commanding a garrison from the town of Coahuila…
19. On whether it is true – as is stated on the aforementioned papers that you have acknowledged – that you have gathered militias, fabricated weapons, issued coinage in these internal provinces of the orient and other neighboring towns, and also have imprisoned and supplanted the legitimate authorities and issued proclamations and edicts to several other authorities and the troops of the King, either intimidating or trying to cajole them and concealing the true objectives of your actions by successively showing yourself – depending on the other party – as entirely independent, then as subject to the authority of don Ferdinand VII and eventually and ambiguously proposing an alliance with the United States, and finally displaying alternating moods towards the Europeans, changing from humane to inhumane depending on the circumstances.
He replied: that it is true that he began gathering his garrison in San Luis Potosi, on behalf of the authority that had been bestowed upon him by replacing the originally appointed Lego Villerias due to his dangerous leadership which could have resulted in many aggravations, and that troops were added in el
Venado, Charcas, Matehuala and Catorce; that it is effective that he fabricated weapons such as spears and cannons in Matehuala and Catorce and that he issued coinage in silver of full fineness and intrinsic value in the Real de Catorce; that it is true that he imprisoned the legitimate authorities and replaced them with his appointed men instead; that he has indeed issued proclamations and edicts to several authorities as is stated in the inquiry. But that all these actions have resulted from his need to preserve his safety by embracing the insurrection despite being well aware of its nefarious consequences. And that even worse events would have taken place under the authority of the aforementioned Villerias, or considering that Alferez don Francisco Lanzagorta already had gathered over a thousand men in the Pozo de los Carmelitas in the San Luis Potosi jurisdiction and was marching towards the Saltillo, and similarly the commisionates of Iriarte, Gallardo, Veliz and another individual whose name escapes him were respectively positioned in the locations of Catorce, Venado and Matehuala. That if he committed the crime of minting coinage, he only did so following the example set forth by Zacatecas and under the authority bestowed upon him and the necessity of providing a circulating media, but always being careful or not harming the King’s interests by giving it a proper weight and full intrinsic value.
As mentioned previously, all references liken the 1811 Real de Catorce 8 Reales to a royalist issue, probably influenced by the reference to Ferdinand VII in the legend of the 1811 Catorce 8 Reales. Nevertheless, the hereby presented evidence speaks for itself, since Jimenez was undoubtedly in the Insurgent camp. Thus, this rare provisional coinage ought to be considered among the first Insurgent issues, alongside other items of Mexican numismatic history that will be presented in upcoming issues of our Newsletter.
A parting commentary on the Catorce issues: firstly, it should be noted that the various references to a Royalist Provisional mint being established at Real de Catorce probably refer to the issue of copper 1⁄4 Reales by Royalist commander Teodoro Parrodi in 1815 rather than the silver (and insurgent) 1811 8 Reales.
1 A noteworthy exception is the description of the recently sold ex-Hungtinton specimen by Jesus Vico, which correctly identifies it as part of the Insurgent series.
2 See for example Rafael Montejano y Aguinaga: “El Real de Minas de la Purísima Concepción de los Catorces” (1993), pp. 219-221.
3 It is known he entered the town of Real de Charcas on December 8, and that of Matehuala on the 14th. Jimenez issued a proclamation on the latter location on that same date of December 14, inciting the populace to denounce any Spaniard opposing the insurgents, and also denouncing opportunists claiming to support the revolution but dedicated to robbing and thus discrediting the movement.
4 See for example Jose Toribio Medina: “Las Monedas Obsidionales Hispanoamericanas” (1919), pp. 121 and 137.