Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Christopher van Ginhoven Rey
Dario A. Euraque
It is not surprising that inequality exists in Central America given its turbulent history of class conflict and racial discrimination. This history must not be forgotten when considering countries such as Honduras and Mexico as it has helped shape their national personas. Nevertheless, analyzing inequality in Central American societies is no simple task as most have only enjoyed democracy for a few short decades and can easily recall brutal dictatorships. Furthermore, when looking at national characteristics that form the countries’ identities such as national anthems, flags, or currency the tumultuous past and societal problems are often conveniently left out.
In order to understand how the State in Honduras and Mexico has constructed a public history and thus national identity, the currency of the respective Central American countries may be used as a vehicle of exploration. I found that by looking at the images depicted on Mexican Pesos and Honduran Lempiras, the countries’ problems of indigenous inequality become evident. The currencies represent countries of proud historical figures, integrated populations, and rich landscapes by including imagery of war heroes, indigenous ruins, or natural resources. However, I argue that the historical portrait produced by the imagery, manufactured in the 20th century, is not so much an accurate portrayal of the countries’ indigenous history as it is an illustration employed by colonial hierarchy to establish a unified modern identity that justifies the exploitation of classes.
My project highlights the fact that many indigenous groups are underrepresented and mistreated in Honduras, a country that has experienced a movement to ‘whiten’ its society ever since the times of colonization. Likewise, the figures of indigenous culture on the Mexican currency routinely appear in positions that portray them as inferior to figures of Hispanic identity, which highlight the societal problem of defining ‘Indians’ as poverty-stricken individuals stuck in the Third World. However, all is not lost as there have been multiple efforts on behalf of the underrepresented minority groups to gain equal rights and representation in government to break inequality.
Mucke, Bryan M., "Printing a People: Constructing Identity in National Currency". Senior Theses, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 2012.
Trinity College Digital Repository, https://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/theses/240