The Bank of Mexico has won the Banknote of the Year 2020 award for its beautiful and inspiring Sor Juana 100-peso bill. Other popular entries included Scotland’s tea room-themed 20-pound note and the Bahamas’ carnival five-dollar bill.
Mexico’s banknote—a favourite from the outset in the International Banknote Society competition—features national heroine Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, an accomplished, self-educated nun of the 17th century, renowned as a composer, philosopher and writer of poetry and prose. A protofeminist, Sor Juana is now a key feature of discourse on core themes of Mexican culture including colonialism, right to education and feminist advocacy.
The reverse side of the note celebrates the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site located northwest of Mexico City. Every autumn, millions of butterflies from across North America flock to there, clustering in small areas of the forest in such numbers they bend tree branches with their weight. Come spring, the butterflies commence an eight-month migration, spreading as far as Eastern Canada, during which time four successive generations are born and die. It is currently unknown how they find their way back to the reserve each year.
Mexico’s award-winning entry may provide a template as other countries reconsider how they design and promote new banknotes. The design… combines Hispanic architecture, a famous female Hispanic literary figure, and a tribute to the world’s fragile ecosystem.
Northern Ireland’s 20-pound banknotes featuring street musicians and local flora took a joint-third place alongside the Bahamas’ entry and Fiji’s 50-dollar bills to mark 50 years of independence from British rule. The Scottish 20 took second place.
In previous years, Kazakhstan has the distinction of having won three times, with Switzerland taking the prize twice. Aruba’s 100-florin note won Banknote of the Year in 2019. Other past winners include Canada, the Faroe Islands and Uganda.