My Coin’s Story: José Pérez and the Five Centavos

December 16, 2014 By ekr

**Every day this week we will highlight submissions from the My Coin’s Story Young writing contest. Young Numismatists were asked to write a historical fiction story based on a favorite coin. The winners will be revealed on the blog on Friday, Dec. 19. 

By Avery Batson

I was sitting, useless, on a dusty desk beside a boy’s bed. In the beginning of my life, I was owned by a wealthy Mexican woman in Mexico City. Then on my way to the market, I fell out of her bag and landed on the manure smelling street. I would have been stomped flat by the up-coming horse if a ten-year-old boy hadn’t run onto the street and grasped me. He brought my metallic body to his shabby shack in poverty-stricken Tlaxcala. I learned later that the boy, José Pérez, saw my glinting body and was so frantic for money he risked himself to save me. 

Now, I live by his bed. Every day, the boy would scold me, “¿Por qué (Why) do you have to be five centavos? Why can you not be a peso? I need the money! How do you think I can buy carne asada with five centavos?” It was torture.  However, the poor boy had a worthy cause; he wasn’t greedy. It was his papa’s birthday the next day and the Pérezes were tired of endless beans and rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I felt very sorry for José, who was trying to earn 1000 centavos by the end of the day to buy delicious carne asada. I was especially sorry when his papa came home that night with horrible news.

“Hola (Hello), I’m home!” called a back-bent and earthy-smelling man. He was José’s papa, a farmer, earning little if anything. José, keeping me in his hand, and Maria, José’s mama, rushed down creaky, rotting stairs and hugged the dirt-covered man. At dinner, the man, Arturo by name, told the family about inflation. Pesos and centavos were losing value. If José was going to buy carne asada, he would need to do it quickly.


The next day was Dia De La Indepencia, and Papa’s birthday. José had given up hope for buying carne asada, and decided to spend me and his holiday allowance, ten centavos, for papa’s favorite candy, mints. Dia De La Indepencia is celebrated because it represents the anniversary of Mexico’s independence from Spain. Dia De La Indepencia is my favorite holiday because an important activist is displayed on my shiny brass front. Her name is Maria Josefa, also known as La Corregidora.



The fastest road to the candy shop was deserted because there was a parade happening elsewhere in town, so José traveled alone. José was just about to enter the candy store when I noticed a pile of pesos and a leather object with golden adornments. I knew that was what José wanted, so I wiggled out of his hand and rolled to the pile. The boy hastily followed. When he got to me, he saw the money, but was honest and didn’t steal it. Instead he looked around and saw a ten year old girl, well dressed, sitting by a tree, sobbing. José approached the girl and asked, “What is wrong, Niña (Girl)?” The girl looked up and told José about how she was sent by her grandma to get a Dia De La Indepencia meal. She said that she took her Grandma’s expensive purse, along with her own pesos. Then she said, “The purse and my pesos slipped out of my hand while I was skipping and I looked everywhere. I have to bring that purse back! I’ll be grounded for months!” José looked to the pile of coins and said, “I think I know where your purse and pesos are.” After the girl and her purse were reunited, she was ecstatic. José said goodbye and started to leave, but the girl stopped him. She said, “Niño (Boy), take some pesos. You are a life saver.” José thanked the girl with all his heart and went to the market to get papa’s Dia De La Indepencia/ birthday meal.

1877 mexico 5 centavos obverse
mexico 5 centavos reverse
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