Aztec Hoe Money

Description
This copper tajadero (Spanish for chopping knife) was a form of money used in central Mexico and parts of Central America. Also known as Aztec hoe or axe money, this standardized, unstamped currency had a fixed worth of 8,000 cacao seeds – the other common unit of exchange in Mesoamerica. This piece was made around 1500, about 20 years before Spain began to colonize Mexico. During the early colonial period, in an economy where minted coins were in short supply, tajaderos like this one were still being exchanged for goods by native Mexicans. Meanwhile, the Spanish colonists were using gold dust, nuggets, and silver bars or sheets as currency. Where were the many millions of pesos minted in Mexico going? After 1535, minted money was one of Mexico's biggest exports, along with indigenous agricultural products like textile dyes, cacao, and vanilla. The gold and, especially, silver pesos that originated in Mexico's mines were sent to Spain to pay for manufactured goods produced in countries like England, France, Holland, and later, China. These imports were expensive – only the wealthier Spanish colonists and the indigenous aristocracy could afford them. Their wealth was based in part on the tributes paid by indigenous men and women and by the increasingly large population of free people of African descent. The history of all these peoples intersected and blended during a centuries-long process of dramatic social reorganization and economic exploitation that imposed an often violent or coercive exchange of language, labor, technology, and genes.
Description (Spanish)
Este tajadero de cobre era una forma de moneda que circulaba en el centro de México y partes de América Central. También conocida como moneda-hacha o moneda-azada azteca, esta divisa estandarizada, sin sello, tenía un valor fijo de 8.000 semillas de cacao – a otra unidad común de intercambio en Mesoamérica. Esta pieza fue elaborada alrededor del 1500, unos veinte años antes de que España comenzara la colonización de México. Durante el período colonial temprano, en una economía en la que había escasez de monedas, los mexicanos nativos aún se servían del intercambio de estos tajaderos por otros bienes. Entretanto, los españoles utilizaban polvo de oro, pepitas y barras o láminas de plata como moneda circulante. ¿A dónde iban a parar los cuantiosos millones de pesos que se acuñaban en México? El dinero acuñado en México, posteriormente a 1535, era uno de sus principales productos de exportación, junto con otros productos agrícolas aborígenes, como tintes, cacao y vainilla. Los pesos de oro, y especialmente de plata, que se originaban en las minas de México se enviaban a España para costear la importación de bienes manufacturados por países como Inglaterra, Francia, Holanda y más tarde China. Estos artículos importados eran caros – solamente los colonos españoles más afluentes y la aristocracia indígena podía afrontarlos. Su riqueza se basaba, en parte, en los impuestos que pagaban los hombres y mujeres nativos y la creciente población de descendientes africanos libres. La historia de estos pueblos se entrelazó y mezcló a lo largo de un proceso centenario de dramáticas reorganizaciones sociales y explotación económica que impusieron un intercambio a menudo violento de idioma, trabajo, tecnología y genética.
Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
hoe money, Aztec
Physical Description
bronze (overall material)
Measurements
overall: wt. 61.97 g
place made
Mexico
country
Mexico
political area
Mexico
México: México, Zapotec region
ID Number
NU*292434.0002
catalog number
71.38.18
accession number
292434
subject
Native Americans
Economics
See more items in
Armed Forces History: National Numismatic Collection
Mexican America
Coins, Currency and Medals
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Title (Spanish)
Tajadero Azteca
Credit Line
Superior Stamp and Coin Company

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