Women of sun, women of gold: Effigies from the Tehuantepec Isthmus

Visit this exhibit in the Mezzanine of the Banco de México Museum from March 10 to April 24, 2022

In the auspices of International Women’s Day, the Banco de México Museum presents the temporary exhibit, Women of sun, women of gold: Effigies from the Tehuantepec Isthmus, focusing on the culture and strength of women from the Tehuantepec Isthmus, who serve as an inspiration in Mexican numismatics as well as the arts.

Through three thematic sections, the exhibit highlights representations of these women in Mexican numismatics, and notes their presence as icons of feminine strength and protagonists of the arts.

The presence of women in Mexican numismatics

Women from the Isthmus have accompanied our numismatic history since 1900, when the Banco de Oaxaca included on the front of its 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100-peso banknotes, the full-length portrait of a woman from Tehuantepec surrounded by ostentatious designs alluding to the region’s iconography

A central focus in this section is María Estela Ruiz Velázquez, born in 1911 in the town of Santa María Jalapa del Marqués, in the Tehuantepec Isthmus, Oaxaca, who, after winning a regional dress contest by unanimous vote, caught the attention of then-President Lázaro Cárdenas. The president decided to include her portrait on the 10-peso banknote, in which she is wearing a magnificent typical costume from her native region.

Women from the Isthmus: Icons of feminine strength

The Oaxaca zone of the Isthmus is comprised of the districts of Juchitán de Zaragoza and Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, places in which historically, women have played significant roles in community social life, politics and economics.

Among the traditions of the women of the Isthmus, numismatics is present in their dress, an essential part of which is characteristic gold jewelry. An example is the placement of commemorative centennial coins in gold jewelry, something which continues to this day.

Women from the Isthmus: Protagonists of the arts

Mexican artistic representations from the mid-twentieth century looked to the culture of the Isthmus for symbols of strength and tenacity on the part of women in the face of a society in which the role of men was privileged. For this reason, representations of women from the Tehuantepec Isthmus are reflected in the work of many artists such as Frida Kahlo and Aurora Reyes, for whom women from the Isthmus served as inspiration to depict the search for feminine autonomy and freedom.

Through this exhibit, the Banco de México Museum invites its visitors to become familiar with the culture of the women from the Isthmus and how they have been icons in our art as well as our numismatics.