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Jarabe Tapatio – Capturing Tradition and Dance on a Coin

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1997-Mo 5 Peso Jarabe Tapatio, Mexico, PCGS PR69DCAM. Click image to enlarge.

Coins are an artform that can capture a moment in time. Sometimes that art is simple and left for interpretation, but other times it can be elaborate – simply beautiful in its depiction. This is true of the Mexico 1997 and 1998 5 Pesos silver coin commemorating jarabe tapatio. The culturally significant dance, often dubbed the national dance of Mexico, is steeped in tradition and history, and it’s captured in a single moment on a coin.

Originating in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, the dances known as jarabe originate from the 1700s. Originally performed by two female dancers, so as not to offend the Catholic Church, it evolved into a dance for mixed-gender couples. The jarabe was later banned by the government of Spanish Mexico, finding it morally offensive. But the ban had the opposite effect, making the dance more popular and part of the rebellion against the Spanish government that controlled Mexico.

Illegal dances of the jarabe tapatio were performed in public squares and neighborhoods as a form of protest. After the Mexican War of Independence, the jarabe would be performed at large fiestas to celebrate the independence of Mexico. The jarabe tapatio and other dances emerged as part of Mexican culture, continuing to be performed and even taught at schools throughout Mexico.

1998-Mo 5 Peso Jarabe Tapatio, Mexico, PCGS PR68DCAM. Click image to enlarge.

Image courtesy of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Public Domain. Click image to enlarge.

So how does one capture a dance and impress that image into metal? Designing such a coin requires skill and precision. Those who perform the Jarabe Tapatio often wear period clothing, which moves as much as the dancers themselves. On the coin, the woman wears a long traditional dress; the movement of the dress flowing as she grasps the cloth with one hand and looks back at her dancing partner, one foot facing the opposite direction she is looking, the other raised off the invisible ground and pointed downward – the tiny tassels of her scarf flowing in the movement of that moment in dance. The man, dressed in tight-fitting pants that wrinkle with the raise of his leg and the bend of his knee, has his arms back and head down while his scarfs flutter to the movement. With this still image impressed into the coin, the fervent movement of timeless dance, period clothing, and display of human art is forever captured for the ages.

The Jarabe Tapatio coin was issued as part of the Ibero-American Series and is the third issue in the series to commemorate traditional dance of the Ibero-American countries. Made exclusively in proof, the coin was minted for only two years, with the 1997 having a mintage of only 8,011 coins and the 1998 a minuscule mintage of just 3,000. With the small mintage of the coins, many of which are hindered by condition issues, high-end graded pieces in PR69 can reach above $500.

From art, to protest, to revolution, to celebration, to tradition, to love and culture, the jarabe tapatio is danced for many reasons. The Mexico 1997 and 1998 Jarabe Tapatio 5 Pesos is a symbol of this dance, a moment frozen in time. It could be a moment from any time and place, a dance having been performed by any two people, and that only enhances the beauty of this magnificent piece.

Latin American