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Depicting the deeper meanings of currency

July 23, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.

Brett's blog:
As a relatively new foreign traveler, the first significant cultural difference I noticed between Costa Rica and the United States was the depictions on each country’s respected currency. After I had exchanged dollars for colones, the bright colors and intrinsic designs on the Tican currency captivated me. The Banco Central de Costa Rica Museum rekindled the unusual Costa Rican “effectivo,” drawing my fascination. The museum’s display of the 5,000 colones bill simplifies and explains the significance behind the decorative artwork. The inspiring colones bill provokes thought regarding what cultural impact and conclusions one draws from the décor of a country’s currency. Since the nation’s entire populace handles and exchanges currency daily, its décor speaks volumes about how the government and people perceive the country and what cultural imprint the bills leave. The government prints the monetary supply and has the power to display any message, so analyzing and understanding why each bill is significant to its particular country becomes important.

In Costa Rica, the Tican currency’s presentation promotes cultural awareness and creativity, while American currency emphasizes political power and formalization. Although, the two messages contradict one another, the differing depictions reflect the mindsets and values of each corresponding government. The people of Costa Rica demonstrate their perceptions through popularizing the noteworthy cultural influences, such as foremost artisans, writers and poets of the time. The colorful artwork and variety of influential cultural figureheads on the colones reflect the notion that Costa Ricans have and always will be a people of many appreciated talents. The American dollars primarily enshrine political figureheads and lack creativity and color; the currency relies heavily on formulaic designs to ease printing and transform the citizens into a politically driven culture. However, the Costa Rican colones act as an inspiration and reminder that the people will remember and respect all cultural influences, not solely the political ones.

Brett Fitzgerald, a finance and accounting major, will be a sophomore this fall. He is studying abroad in Costa Rica this summer.