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.
Rose Lomathinda Chibambo, featured on our banknote, has been heralded as “One of the Founders of Malawi” by a local news outlet upon her 2016 passing. More of this talented and courageous woman’s story is told below.
From Wikipedia: Rose Chibambo organised Malawian women in their political fight against the British as a political force to be reckoned with alongside their menfolk in the push for independence. She was arrested on 23 March 1959, two days after giving birth to a girl, and taken to Zomba prison. Her fellow freedom fighters, including Hastings Banda were arrested earlier, on the morning of 3 March when governor Robert Armitage declared a state of emergency. After Malawi gained independence in 1964, Rose Chibambo was the first woman minister in the new cabinet. When she fell out with Dr. Hastings Banda she was forced into exile for thirty years, returning after the restoration of democracy.
Traditionally there are three ethnic groups of Laotians, and they are illustrated beautifully on our banknote by these three ladies. The Lao Soung, or Lao Sung, are the highland dwelling peoples constituting about 10% of the populace. The Lao Theung, or Lao Thoeng, indicates the midland Lao peoples and represents about 25% of the populace. The Lao Lum, or Lao, are the majority ethinc group, representing about 50% of the populace.
Over the left shoulder of our three ladies is the Pha That Luang pagoda. Regarded as dating from the 3rd century, that is almost 2000 years old, this is the most significant pagoda in Laos. It is rumored to contain the breastbone of the Buddha himself. It is said that the architecture contains numerous references to Laotian culture which has furthered its significance as an icon of Laotian nationalism. It is said that the three levels of the pagoda each reflect a dimension of Buddhist doctrine.
The National Emblem adorns the front of our banknote and is illustrated her. The Pha That Luang Pagoda is at center top. Left center is the modern empowering hydroelectric dam while right center is the forest on the traditional paddy field; the road forward is between the two. The name of the state is inscribed below the one-half gear wheel on the bottom,
Fully ripened rice stalks encircle the whole, each wrapped, and inscribed between them, with the five words of the Laotian Motto: Peace, Independence, Democracy, Unity, Prosperity”.
Her husband was the Corregidor of the town of Queretero, a position of some political power. She became La Corregidora of Mexico, a position enshrined in the heart of a grateful nation.
“She”, as reported by a historian to BBC Mundo, “lit the fuse that started the Independence of Mexico.”
“She” is Doña Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez, who, living in early 1800s colonial Mexico, grew to despise the way the indigenous peoples were treated by their colonizers. While mothering 14 children as wife to a local politician, she began to attend literary meetings in her town home in which the literature of The Enlightenment was frequently discussed. After a time, she began to host these meetings in her home. And in due time the discussions, attended by educated figures such as Miguel Hidalgo and others, turned towards ideas of independence, and then a movement, and then, finally, plans for a independence.
With an upheaval in the Spanish monarchy, the possibilities of independence seemed more real than ever. The meetings in her home became the center of the developing insurgency. Plans were made and weapons began to become accumulated and cached in the houses of supporters. Plans were set for an uprising on December 10, 1810.
On September 13, it was learned that weapons were being stockpiled. The chief magistrate, the Corregidor, Doña Josefa Ortiz’ husband, was immediately informed and ordered to raid the houses, seize the weapons, and jail the participants. Worried for his wife, he told her of his orders; and, determined to protect her, locked her in a room to prevent her from arrest with the others.
The story is told here, that while locked up, she composed a letter of warning to Father Hidalgo, making it untraceable by pasting together individual letters from newspaper clippings. And then, while still locked in that room, she repeatedly stomped so hard on the floor with her heel, that one came to the door, one to whom she could entrust her letter to Hidalgo.
Hidalgo, receiving this intelligence, moved up the date of the insurgency to the morning of September 16, 1810. Early that morning Father Hidalgo rang the church bell summoning all the common peoples to Mass. There he delivered the impassioned sermon, now known in history as, The Cry of Dolores, in which he urged a rebellion against Spain so that Mexico could be governed by Mexicans.
From here: “There is no scholarly consensus on the exact words Miguel Hidalgo said at the time. The book The Course of Mexican History says “the exact words of this most famous of all Mexican speeches are not known, or, rather, they are reproduced in almost as many variations as there are historians to reproduce them”.
The same book also argues that:
“ …the essential spirit of the message is… ‘My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government! Death to the Gachupines!’
The date, September 16, 1810, the date of “The Cry of Dolores”, is celebrated in Mexico as Independence Day. It is considered to be the day the independence movement began.
And “that day” was possible, because of La Corregidora.
This image from the back of our banknote is very significant in the story of Mexico.
It has evolved over the centuries; and is reproduced in the nation’s coat of arms, great seal and flag. The coat of arms in 1821, at the first proclamation of independence of Mexico, showed the eagle on the cactus and wearing a crown. Two years later, while our heroine La Corregidora was still with us, the coat of arms was revised. The crown was removed, but the cactus remained; and the eagle now grasped the snake.
The image is reminiscent of the founding story of Mexico City, then named Tenochtitlan. The people of Aztlan, then residing north of contemporary Mexico, were directed to travel southward to find a new land. They were to look for an eagle perched upon a cactus and clutching a snake. This would indicate the place for the founding of a powerful empire. After years of traveling, place to place, during which they learned from other cultures, they arrived at Lake Texcoco. In the distance, in the middle of the lake, they saw an eagle, perched upon a cactus, devouring a snake. They had arrived. The Aztec empire flourished from that location.
Lifting the flag of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.
The image has become a national symbol, and is now included on Eritrean currency. An interview with the photographer can be found here.
The EPLF has been noted for its egalitarian approach. 30% of its constituent fighters were women, which significantly affected the traditionally conservative paternalistic outlook of the nation.
The EPLF captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers in battle. But in contrast to the way the Ethiopians treated their captured, the EPLF did not mistreat them. The taught them the principles of the EPLF. They instructed them in world politics. They trained many of them in crafts and trades.
Eritrea consists of nine nationalities. Tigre, Tigrigna, Saho, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Bilin, Hidarb, and Rashaida. More information on this can be found on the Eritrean website here.
These nationalities are depicted in the banknotes in a series of tryptich portraits, that is, three-paneled illustrations such as in many of the classics. The artist who designed these banknotes is Mr. Clarence Holbert, the first African American to design an African banknote. He passed away January 9, 2018. His memorial was reverently attended by representatives of Eritrea, and can be read about here.
The reverse of the currencies reflect scenes from Eritrean life. As recalled by Mr. Holbert, the currency “features the everyday people of Eritrea because Eritrean President Isaias had given specific instructions that money not feature cabinet or government officials or their relatives.”
The Nakfa region, inhabited since ancient times, came under Italian control in 1890. Italy lost control during WW2, and Eritrea was “awarded” to Ethiopia as a part of a federation in 1952. In the 1960s, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea as a province. This instigated the independence movement. In 1977, the Eritrea Liberation Front laid siege to Nakfa, and, took it in their first major victory. Eight subsequent attempts at recapture failed, during which much of the above-ground town was destroyed, and during which also, the Eritreans developed an significant underground facilities. Independence was secured in 1991.
“Nakfa” is now the name of Eritrea’s currency. It is taken from the town which had become the main base of the Eritrean independence movement. Nakfa is famous for its extensive underground entrenchments developed in the time of the resistance. Included are hospitals, printing presses, a radio station, college and factories, in addition to rings of trenches and minefields.
The following paragraph is from this blog post with this photo of the Nakfa territory. A special test for tourists is also the sites of the liberation struggle situated in bleak mountains of the Sahel, northern angle of Eritrea. Hence one must be willing to enjoy the arduous journey across the rough terrain mountains to visit these miraculous EPLF defenses, trenches, bunkers of Nakfa, Himbol and the Roras Plateaus, and the Denden terrains.
The famous Tricolor of France. The blue symbolizes Liberty. The White Symbolizes Equality. The Red symbolizes Fraternity. Long may it wave.
One might imagine Dessalines, a leader in the Haitian revolution against the French, the first slave revolt of the New World that would lead to an independent nation, looking upon that flag as the tide turned in Haiti’s favor at the beginning of the 19th century. “White”, he’d sneer. “Equalty”, he’d spit.
The story goes that Dessalines, ripped apart the French tricolor, the blue from the white, and the red from the white, throwing away the white, and leaving the remainder.
Catherine Flon, his goddaughter, a skilled nurse, and very active in the revolution, took the remaining red and blue, and sewed them together to create the original Flag of Haiti.
“Long live Liberty, Down with Slavery”, were the last words of Suzanne Belair.
Well, did a contemporary Haitian leader name her The Tigress.
Not quietly uttered, not in hushed tones, but shouted in the face of the French firing squad. Sanite Belair faced the squad and refused a blindfold.
The witnessing townspeople, who the French hoped would be intimidated into submission at the sight of this woman’s execution, instead were fired up and continued the resistance.
Suzanne died in late 1802, and the French soon abandoned the Western Hemisphere entirely.
Suzanne was born around 1781. She was born a free black woman, which afforded her a status better than the black slaves and worse than free whites. But she despised slavery, joined the cause and married brigade commander Charles Belair, the nephew of the great Haitian freedom fighter Touissant Louverture. Together they instigated the uprising at L’Artibonite, which became one of the great battles of the Haitian Independence War.
Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment. The task of the teacher becomes that of preparing a series of motives of cultural activity, spread over a specially prepared environment, and then refraining from obtrusive interference. Human teachers can only help the great work that is being done, as servants help the master. Doing so, they will be witnesses to the unfolding of the human soul and to the rising of a New Man who will not be a victim of events, but will have the clarity of vision to direct and shape the future of human society. – Maria Montessori, Education for a New World
Rafaela was 19 years old when she shot the commander of the British fleet with a cannon.
Standing on the rampart of the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception, which commanded a bend in the San Juan river, Rafaela Herrera looked out upon the British fleet.
Nicaragua had attracted Great Britain’s interest because of its geography. Its lakes and rivers represented a potential connecting route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which would revolutionize world trade. And Britain had sent an expeditionary force up the San Juan river, raiding and destroying undefended Nicaraguan settlements as they progressed. Jinotega and Acoyapa fell to the British force; and then Loviguisca and San Pedro de Lovago were overrun. The mission of Apompua near Juigalpa and the town of Muy Muy were captured. Villages were burned and looted; and many prisoners were taken.
It was 1762, and Britain was a mighty world power. Her navy sailed the seven seas and kept distant colonies under control worldwide. Nicaragua was small and young and alone.
The British expeditionary force consisted of 50 ships and 2000 men. The Fortress of the Immaculate Conception held about one hundred soldiers. At 4 am on July 26, 1762, as the fleet approached the fortress, a British landing party took a Nicaraguan observation post and captured its defenders. That same morning, a few hours later, the fleet anchored before the fortress, and the British commander sent an envoy ashore to negotiate a surrender. The terms were, in exchange for cessation of hostilities, unconditional surrender of the fortress,
Inside the fortress there was anxious turmoil, as their commander had just died a few days before. The second in command, a sergeant, was planning to surrender when Rafaela spoke forth: “Have you forgotten the duties imposed by military honor? Are you going to allow the enemy to steal this fortress, which is the safeguard of the Province of Nicaragua, and of your families?” Rafaela, you see, was the daughter, the only offspring, of the commander of the fortress, Lieutenant Don Jose de Herrera, who had just died.
The men were stunned and not knowing what to do. Rafaela Herrera ordered the gates of the fortress to be locked, took the keys and placed sentries. The enemy envoy returned to the fleet which promptly arrayed itself for battle, thinking to intimidate the defenders. Hererra, whose grandfather was a military engineer, and whose father had trained her in military honor, and the handling of weapons, aimed one of the cannons. Boom! and a volley sailed across the waters. Boom! a second volley; and then, in case they were mistaken as to her intentions, Boom! a third cannon shot sailed forth. On the third volley, the commander of the British fleet was killed.
The British were enraged and commenced an all out assault. Those one hundred rallied mightily, and, inspired by Rafaela’s heroism, responded with ferocious defense. Deep in the night, Rafaela soaked clothes in alcohol and set them afire and adrift on floating branches in the river. The flotilla of flame descending upon the anchored fleet forced them to readjust to defensive positions.
The battle continued at daybreak, and then day after day for six days. Rafaela Herrera commanded the cannons and Lieutenant Juan de Aguilar led the defenders. On August 3, 1762, the British lifted their siege, retreated, and sailed back downstream to the mouth of the San Jose river, never to return.
On November 11, 1781, King Charles III of Spain, issued a royal decree granting Herrera a pension for life as a reward for her heroic actions during the Battle for the Río San Juan de Nicaragua.
Honoring Juana Azurduy, a 52 foot high statue, a gift from Bolivia, has been installed in Argentina, replacing an older and smaller statue of Christopher Columbus. It is the largest statue in Argentina.
Who is Juana Azurduy?
Juana Azurduy, the “flower of alto Peru”, the “terror of the Spanish”, knew exactly what she wanted when, at 24 years of age, she wed Manuel de Padilla. Padilla, just 4 years her senior already had a well-developed disdain for the rule of the Spanish, a love of the people, and experience in the army and law. With him she would enter the military and with him she would liberate her people from Spanish rule. She trained and excelled in swordsmanship and marksmanship and horsemanship. When independence was declared 4 years into their marriage, they were ready. Bringing her children with her, and putting her hair up under her hat and wearing the traditional male uniform, Juana went to war.
What was the source of her passion and when was her inner fire kindled? The details of her childhood are limited, but enough that perhaps we can see the outlines … the origin of her fire. She was born mestiza, one parent Spanish and the other indigenous. Which was which we don’t seem to know, but we are told her father was killed by the Spanish without repercussion or justice, when she was very young. Not long after her mother died of causes unknown and young Juana was sent to live with an aunt. Was her aunt on her mother’s side and Spanish, we do not know, but we do know that her aunt sent young Juana, perhaps 12 years old, to live in a convent. The convent no doubt was catholic and run by the Spanish. We next learn that teenaged Juana was clandestinely organizing students to study together the lives of revolutionaries against the domination of the Spaniards, most notably Tupac Amaru, and she was expelled from the convent at age 17.
One can imagine young Juana ruminating over the killing of her papa by the unaccountable Spanish invaders. One can see her mourning the loss of her mother when she needed her the most. One can imagine her anger at her aunt, perhaps Spanish too, for thinking her too much trouble and sending her to the convent. And one can understand her rebelling against the strictures of convent life. Juana flowered into adulthood loving her people and bitter against the Spanish, determined to see things change. And so, it was in 1810, on the very day that independence from Spain was declared, Juana Adzurduy and her husband Manuel de Padilla joined the revolutionary army.
The initial 1810 revolutionary group was halted by the Spanish royalists; and the Padillas joined the army of the north to continue the fight. In 1811, they suffered a defeat in battle and the Padilla’s 4 children were captured, their property overrun, and their harvest and profits were confiscated. But Manuel rescued the children and returned to the battle.
In 1812 the Padillas joined the newly reconstituted army of the north and Manuel was made a military commander. By 1816 Juana was leading troops into battle. In March, she captured the region which was the prime source of Spanish Silver. During the battle she personally led a Calvary charge which captured the enemy standard. After this battle, she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was personally, honored by General Manuel Belgrano, who gifted her with his own sword.
Later that year, her children were captured, the 2 sons killed outright and the 2 daughters held as hostage. Azurduy and Padilla mounted a ferocious raid to rescue them but the children were killed and Juana was injured in the attempt. Later that same year Manuel Padilla was captured and killed. Juana Azurduy swore over her husband’s corpse to continue to fight and continued as one of the most violent warriors on the field, earning the moniker “the Terror of the Spanish”.
In 1818, she was forced to withdraw with her forces to northern Argentina where she continued the fight under the command of General Guermes. She was appointed commander of the patriotic northern Army of the Revolutionary Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. With the army she was able to force the withdrawal of the Spanish forces from the region.
The estimated strength of her army at its maximum was about 6,000 men under her command. She was so determined for the cause that she actually fought while she was pregnant, at one point, giving birth to her daughter, then returning to the fight soon after. Following the war, she returned to Sucre and there was reduced to poverty.
In 1825 Simón Bolívar, known as the Liberator visited her. Seeing her impoverished conditions, he was embarrassed, and promoted her to the rank of Colonel and provided her with a pension. Following the visit, he remarked to Marshal Antonio José de Sucre: “This country should not be named Bolivia in my honor, but Padilla or Azurduy, because it was they who made it free.”
In 2009, Juana Azurduy was named General (posthumously) of the Argentine Army.
Songs are sung about here. See here for the English translation of the words with some explanatory notes. See here for a classical performance and here for a dance performance.
The monument can be seen here and below, showing Juana with sword uplifted with one hand, a child on her back and he other hand stretched back protecting her child.
Juana Azurduy de Padilla International Airport in Sucre is honorably so named.
A blogger I recently read, (and I am sorry I cannot find who it is), asked the question: “Why has my country, Bolivia, been given a woman’s name? Could it be because of the founding influences?” It seems the answer is YES.
Casa de la Libertad now houses a museum of History of Bolivia! Follow them on facebook here. The tours are highly regarded.
The Monument to Juana Azurduy is being relocated a short distance in a renovation project in Buenos Aires. See a description and map showing the old and new locations here, and confirm before you travel.
As always, if you have something to add to this story, or a recommended landmark for visiting, I welcome your comments!
School children are happily marching in their school uniforms along crowd lined streets. They proudly carry the flag of their country, the tricolor red, white and blue, after the example of France, standing for Liberty and Independence. This simple scene was so far from happening until the Speratti sisters came home a little over a century ago.
Their young mother had fled from Paraguay with her two infant daughters, Adela and Celsa. It was the late 1860s and their father had already died in the war that was to eventually claim more than half of the population of Paraguay and essentially all of her educated peoples. The children were spirited away to Argentina in hope of a better life, where they were educated and flourished and excelled so as to gain renown as graduates twenty years later.
Paraguay, following the war, was devastated. The national school system had only educated only boys, and now, according to census, only 28,000 adult men were alive. The schools were closed and the teachers were gone. A future of national illiteracy, and the associated impoverishment loomed. It was essential to the future of the nation that the educational system be rejuvenated and reformed.
In the ten years following the war, and then the fifteen years and then the twenty years, great efforts were expended in the rebuilding of the educational system. All the while our sisters Speratti were schooled, maturing, graduating and commencing the teaching profession outside the country.
Paraguayan ministers, hearing of their abilities, and in desperation for the reconstruction of the national education system, reached out to these sisters and entrusted them with the education of the country. We have this letter: “Atanasio Riera, Superintendent of Public Instruction, to Master Teacher, Normal Professor and Senator Don Conrado Romero Corrientes, “I know that there are two daughters of this Nation, Misses Speratti who currently practice the profession in the Normal School of Teachers. They, as daughters of this Nation, who today try to rise up on public illustration, I believe that, inspired by patriotism, they would not hesitate to come and contribute their professional knowledge to the work of regeneration in which we are all interested. See, then, those daughters of the Republic of Paraguay, and tell them that the mother country requires their valuable competition to hasten their march along the paths of knowledge and prosperity.”
And so, these sisters still in their 20s, equipped with acclaimed character traits of diligence and honesty, with talents trained as educators, and energized with a passion for people, commenced upon their work that would give birth to a generation, and then generations of educated men and women in Paraguay.
They began their work in the graduate school for girls, but soon their influence rapidly expanded as they were instrumental in the development of the Normal school for teaches. As Directors, they utilized the influential positions to modernize and advance the educational system. The sisters borrowed from the best educational philosophies and teaching methods from sources worldwide. They educated children, trained teachers and established teaching as an honorable profession attracting many into the noble profession. They educated thousands of illiterate girls throughout the country. From all the villages of the interior came young people eager to learn, and these eager learners became the seed for the creation of yet later schools for the education of yet later generations of Paraguayan girls.
And teach they did; but not simply teach, they cared, and cared in so many ways. The sisters regularly offered shelter to poor girls who could not pay their way. They were legendary for working to mitigate the pains of the elderly and sick, and routinely served on the board of one commission or another such as the Society of Charity of the Hospital of Charity. They actively collaborated with Professor Rosa Peña, the wife of President Juan Gualberto González in many activities promoting the national well-being including especially the founding of the National Asylum – an institution created to welcome all the people who had been left by the war in misery. In the course of these years, both Adela and Celsa, also collaborated with their writings in a pedagogical magazine published in Concepción del Uruguay, they spoke at cultural centers and wrote their opinions in local newspapers; but his most laborious cultural tasks consisted in organizing the Pedagogical Conferences as a means of promoting the improvement of the professional knowledge of the teachers of primary education.
It may not be too much to say that their efforts did more to rejuvenate an impoverished nation than the combined efforts of all her economic ministers, few of whom are remembered today.
Upon their passing, commemorations poured in from the people. Paeans of praise came forth from national poets at commemorative services. But perhaps the greatest tribute is this sight of our school children proudly marching and happily singing along the crowd lined streets carrying the flags of a grateful nation, Paraguay. If you listen closely, you can hear the music.