Thursday, July 12, 2018


This Chilean peso was probably used in the Marianas at one time

During the 1800s, various kinds of money from more than one country were used in the Marianas as legal tender. Because of the abundance of silver in the Spanish colonies of Latin America, many coins came from Mexico, Chile and Peru. Then, because of the many whaling ships (and others) who came to the Marianas from England, the U.S., Australia and other places, coins from many parts of the world entered circulation in the Marianas, too.

In 1902, a businessman on Guam named Vicente Roberto Herrero and his wife Dolores Martinez Pangelinan had quite an assortment of those coins, put in an iron box in their general store, located on the ground level of their Hagåtña home. There was coinage from Spain, Chile, Peru, Mexico, England, the United States, Germany (perhaps via the Northern Marianas, in German hands since 1899) and even China.

One day that year, the Herreros discovered that their money was missing. Someone had entered the home during the night or early morning and run off with the money.

It didn't take long, though, before a man was fingered as the primary suspect. Why? He started throwing Chilean pesos around island.

In May of 1900, the American Governor had declared that only the Mexican peso (or its equivalent in U.S. currency) was legal tender on Guam. So, the Chilean peso was put in drawers or boxes, not to be used in commercial buying and selling anymore. Witnesses testified that by 1902 they rarely saw Chilean pesos in circulation on Guam.

So when this man started gambling with Chilean pesos and sending his son to buy groceries at stores with Chilean pesos, people started to notice. The man in question was quite the gambler, showing up at the Santa Rosa fiesta in Hågat to play card games for money, and playing also in other villages and at the cock fight.

It took the court a year, during which time the man in question spent some months in detention, to decide that the evidence against the suspect was weak. He was finally let go.


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