A young Gambian lady graces the front of this banknote of Gambia. Adjacent to her is an image of the giant kingfisher bird of Gambia. The giant kingfisher, pictured at rest, and also in flight in a smaller image to the left, can be 18 inches long and resides throughout sub-Sahara Africa.
A scene with cattle and herders, in a meadow with palm trees in the background, is on the back of our banknote.
Properly called The Gambia, (like The Bahamas), Gambia is completely surrounded by Senegal, except for a brief Atlantic Ocean coast. The land of The Gambia is completely dominated by the mighty Gambia River flowing due West into the Atlantic ocean from the mountains in the East. The river is navigable for almost 1000 kilometers inland from the ocean and thus invited early explorers. The Portuguese, the earliest known European explorers, traveling South from Portugal, first encountered and explored the somewhat parallel running Senegal River in the North. A decade later, they rounded Cape Verde, the westernmost point of the African continent and encountered and began the exploration of the river Gambia. A century or so later, the French and the British exploratory endeavors began to overshadow those of the Portuguese and Spanish, and the French settled the regions around the Senegal River and the British settled the Gambia River territory.
The island in at the mouth of the river, now known as Kunta Kinteh Island, has been designated as a world UNESCO heritage site. The first European settlers arrived in the late 1500s from Holland, but in 1664 the island was ceded to the British. Thereafter, if not before, it became integral to the African Slave Trade. The island itself became well known through the influential Alex Haley broadcast Roots. Kunte Kinteh is the name of a character described in Roots.
The date of our banknote not known exactly, but the features on the front and back were known to occur on 1996 and 2006 issues of the 5 dalasis banknote, and therefore likely all of the intervening years too.. The 2015 issue of the 5 dalasis banknote is pretty much the same on the front and back except that the image of the happy young lady is replaced with the image of the then president, Yahya Jammeh. Jammeh seized power in 1994 in a coup d’e’tat and ruled for 22 years until he fled the land in 2017 following an electoral defeat. So the 2015 banknote image shows him near the conclusion of his reign. Today his administration stands accused of perpetrating violence against the people including executions tortures and rapes. A truth and reconciliation commission was established October 15, 2018 to further the healing of the nation.
Rei Amador, an inspiring symbol of freedom and self-determination, is named and featured on our 2013 banknote. In 1595 Rei Amador led the slave rebellion, known as the Maafa Revolt, on San Tome against the Portuguese. On July 9, 1595, boldly, in the face of the Portuguese invaders, he raised a flag and proclaimed himself as king of Sao Tome and Principe. Half of the enslaved population rallied to him and fought against the Portuguese, but the superior weaponry of the Portuguese overmastered the rebellion. Rei Amador is considered the forerunner of all of the African Abolitionists; the predecessor of Toussaint Louverture of Haiti, Nzumbi of Brazil, Samory Toure of Guinea and Francois Makandal of Saint-Domingue.
The beautiful papa figo bird adorns the same side of our banknote.
The national coat of arms is represented on the front of our banknote.
The central shield is upheld by a falcon on the left and a parrot on the right.
A star rests above the shield.
The banner below the shield displays the motto of the nation: Unity, Discipline, Work.
The dodo bird featured prominently on the front and back of our banknote. The dodo was unique to this island in the Indian ocean,1 1200 miles from the coast of Africa, and apparently first observed by Dutch sailors in 1598.
Moilin Jean Ah-Chuen (1911-1991) is a Chinese Mauritian politician. He was became First Chinese Cabinet Minister on 1967-1976 and First Chinese Member, Legislative Council on 1949. He was decorated by Pope John Paul II and knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II. His father, Chu Wei Chuen, arrived in Mauritius from Meizhou, Guangdong, China on 1887.
Suriname, on the Caribbean Coast of South America, is a land of rivers.
The South, near latitude 1 degree North, borders Brazil and is dominated by highland rainforests.
The red necked woodpecker, featured on the beautiful banknote, thrives in these rainforests.
An artistic illustration of the beautiful forests of Suriname, home to our red necked woodpecker..
Butterflies decorate the front of the 5 Gulden banknote…
… and Vampire bats.
The Suriname Coat of Arms adorns the front of this 5 Gulden banknote. The motto below reads Justice, Piety, Fidelity.
The two men lean upon the central oval shield and face two different directions. They are Arawaks, indigenous people of Suriname. The man on our left looks to the past, from whence ships, as illustrated on the left of the Oval, brought slavery. The man on our right looks to the future, his arm resting on the half of the Oval with an illustration of the Royal Palm, the symbol of a Just Man.
The Bahamas issued a beautiful banknote commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus setting foot in the New World, which happened to be, The Bahamas.
In this map of The Bahamas on the left, the island group is shown, and the individual island, San Salvador, is labeled. San Salvador is the island accepted by preponderance of scholarship as the island upon which Columbus first set foot October 12, 1994.
It was morning. And we might imagine the sun rising distant and glorious, illuminating the paradise before those three little sailing ships. It was October 12, 1492, Friday according to our reckoning. Christopher Columbus climbed down from the Santa Maria, into a little excursion boat, rowed the short distance to the little island, and stepped ashore.
This pre-Industrial Age, pre-Age of Enlightenment, pre-Scientific Revolution, pre-Reformation, Admiral, armored and weaponed, with his fleet of three ships anchored behind him, and the monarchy of Spain behind them, stood before a handful of curious and naked inhabitants of Guanahani, for so they called their island home.
I cannot imagine a more fateful meeting in world history.
The record of this first day ashore is reproduced below.
To be sure, the Bahamas are very beautiful islands. Columbus reports seeing only parrots on his first venture. And these parrots are beautiful as illustrated here on our banknote.
These parrots live in there island nations of the Caribbean Sea; the Bahamas and Cuba and the Cayman Islands. Leucocephala Bahamensis are also known as the Cuban Parrot and the Rose Throated Parrot.
These beautiful birds gather in gorgeous flocks during the Winter, and then disperse into mating pairs from March to September.
Phoenicopterus Ruber, or, the American Flamingo, is also known as the Caribbean flamingo, although it lives also in the Galapagos islands in the Pacific ocean. It is the only species of flamingo native to North America.
This beautiful bird grows to 4 feet or 5 feet tall and lives for 40 years, one of the longest life spans in the kingdom of fliers.
Our Cylura Rileyi, or San Salvador Rock Iquana lives on three island groups in The Bahamas. Our iguana grows to about 15 inches long and can be very colorful with colors varying from subspecies to subspecies and among individuals in a subspecies.
The Coat of Arms of The Bahamas has a shield at center with the shining sun over the Santa Maria , the sailing ship of Columbus. Overhead is a conch shell brimmed with five palm fronds. To the left is a marlin and to the right is a flamingo, the national wildlife of the Bahamas illustrating its island nature.
Thursday, 11 October. Steered west-southwest; and encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the whole voyage. Saw pardelas and a green rush near the vessel. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log; they also picked up a stick which appeared to have been carved with an iron tool, a piece of cane, a plant which grows on land, and a board. The crew of the Nina saw other signs of land, and a stalk loaded with rose berries. These signs encouraged them, and they all grew cheerful. Sailed this day till sunset, twenty-seven leagues.
After sunset steered their original course west and sailed twelve miles an hour till two hours after midnight, going ninety miles, which are twenty-two leagues and a half; and as the Pinta was the swiftest sailer, and kept ahead of the Admiral, she discovered land and made the signals which had been ordered. The land was first seen by a sailor called Rodrigo de Triana, although the Admiral at ten o’clock that evening standing on the quarter-deck saw a light, but so small a body that he could not affirm it to be land; calling to Pero Gutierrez, groom of the King’s wardrobe, he told him he saw a light, and bid him look that way, which he did and saw it; he did the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the squadron as comptroller, but he was unable to see it from his situation. The Admiral again perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a wax candle moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land. But the Admiral held it for certain that land was near; for which reason, after they had said the Salve which the seamen are accustomed to repeat and chant after their fashion, the Admiral directed them to keep a strict watch upon the forecastle and look out diligently for land, and to him who should first discover it he promised a silken jacket, besides the reward which the King and Queen had offered, which was an annuity of ten thousand maravedis.
At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani.
Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits.
The Admiral called upon the two Captains, and the rest of the crew who landed, as also to Rodrigo de Escovedo notary of the fleet, and Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, to bear witness that he before all others took possession (as in fact he did) of that island for the King and Queen his sovereigns, making the requisite declarations, which are more at large set down here in writing.
Numbers of the people of the island straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: “As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us.
Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk’s bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse’s tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots.” These are the words of the Admiral.
For stories from other Island Nations on this website, click here.
His tail feathers may be 3 feet long, and colored blue green. His head is golden green with a rounded crest. His back is blue, tinged with gold. His belly is crimson red. He is glorious in flight.
To the Mayans, he symbolized the movement of creation and the will of the Creator to come to earth. Kings and priests wore ceremonial garments decorated by their iridescent feathers. They saw the combination of the quetzal and the serpent in their god Qetzal Coatl, “the plumed serpent”, the Animator of all creation. He is glorious in flight.
Tecun Uman was the great leader of the Maya in the age of the Spanish conquest.
The Spanish cavalry charge shocked the Mayans who had never seen horses. Tecun Uman, clothed in quetzal feathers and accompanied by his animal spirit guide, the quetzal bird, stood up to meet the horse mounted leader of the Spanish army, Alvarado, face to face. Thinking the mounted man and horse were one single being, he attacked and slew the horse. Turning round and seeing the still armed Alvarado dismounted, he realized his mistake, attacked again and died on Alvarado’s spear. His quetzal spirit guide was so grieved, he landed on Tecun Uman’s fallen chest, his breast feathers mixing with the hero’s blood, and died.
Forever after, the quetzal’s breast was red and his song not heard. And if a quetzal was ever placed in captivity, it died, making it a symbol of liberty.
Buried deep in the rainforest, these temple grounds appear to have escaped the notice of the Spanish conquistadors.
This fabulous pyramid standing as tall as a 10 story building was lost in the jungle until its rediscovery in the 19th century by Alfred P. Maudslay.
In his own words: “I was naturally anxious and expectant on this my first visit to a Central American ruin, but it seemed as though my curiosity would be ill satisfied, for all I could see on arrival was what appeared to be three moss-grown stumps of dead trees covered over with a tangle of creepers and parasitic plants . . We soon pulled off the creepers, and . . . set to work to clear away the coating of moss. As the curious outlines of the carved ornament gathered shape it began to dawn upon me how much more important were these monuments, upon which I had stumbled almost by chance, than any account I had heard of them had led me to expect. This day’s work induced me to take a permanent interest in Central American Archaeology, and a journey which was undertaken merely to escape the rigours of an English winter has been followed by seven expeditions from England for the purpose of further exploration and archaeological research.”1
The archaeological record of Tikal dates from around 1000 BC. It was a thriving city from around 300 BC until its decline between 700 AD and 900 AD.2