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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Neighborhood Mint in health

There have been changes to the flag during history but the coat of arms has always featured a majestic eagle holding a serpent on top of a cactus. The current coat of arms was designed in 1968 by Helguera. Legend says that the Aztecs, then a nomadic tribe wandering throughout Mexico, were waiting for a sign from the gods telling them were to build their capital city. Their god, Huitzilopochtli told them to search until they found a place where they saw an eagle, devouring a serpent while perched on a prickly pear tree, growing out of a rock submerged in a lake. After wandering for two hundred years, they saw this mythical eagle on a small island in Lake Texcoco and built their capital, Tenochtitlan, where the main plaza in Mexico City is now located.

Over the years the three colors of green, white and red on the flag have remained the same but the meaning of the colors has changed. The green stripe represents Independence from Spain or can signify Hope. The white stripe represents purity of the Catholic faith or Unity. The red stripe represents Heroes blood or Religion.

When the flag of Mexico is paraded in front of a crowd, bystanders raise their right arm, place their hand on their chest parallel to the heart. The hand is flat with the palm facing the ground. This salute is known as the El Saludo Civil de la Bandera Nacional. On February 24 each year a national celebration, Dia de la Bandera, Flag Day is held. This commemorates this day in 1821, when all the factions fighting in the Mexican War of Independence joined together to form the Army of Three Guarantees.
The U.S. Consulate General Chiang Mai is a one of a quickly diminishing number of historic properties serving as diplomatic posts for the United States government overseas. In an era of non-descript office blocks, the Consulate evokes an earlier time of pergolas draped in riotous explosions of bougainvillea, the subtle scent of frangipani, and the gentle breeze of a slowly turning ceiling fan. Once the royal residence of the last prince of Northern Thailand, Chao Kaew Nawarat, the history of the Consulate allows its staff to justifiably say they work in a very special place.

Previously known as the Chedi Ngarm, or Beautiful Pagoda Palace, the Consulate grounds have a number of distinct historic buildings, some over 100 years old. The first royal notable to take up residence was Chao Dara Rasmi, Princess Consort of His Majesty King Chulalongkorn, Rama V. In 1914, four years after the death of Rama V, Princess Dara Rasmi returned to her family home of Chiang Mai and resided in a teak house located within the compound. She later moved to another residence in the nearby village of Mae Rim and her brother Major General Chao Kaew Nawarat, the ninth and last Prince of the Northern Thai Lanna Chuen Jet Ton dynasty, moved into the royal compound. Prince Kaew Nawarat built a house on the grounds of the royal compound in 1923 as a wedding gift to his daughter Chao Siriprakai Na Chiengmai. In 1926 Princess Siriprakai’s home would host the visit of the ill-fated Majesty King Prapoklao, who was later deposed in 1934, and Queen Ram Pai Panni. Consulate staff and the sections of the consulate’s communications center presently occupy that residence.

The happiness of the King and Queen’s visit would be soon forgotten in 1933 because of the death of Princess Dara Rasmi. Her coffin lay in state at the Chedi Ngarm Palace from December 1933 to April 1934. Later that same year, Prince Kaew Nawarat would replace the old teak residence with a new home, now the Consul General’s residence. The house, designed by an Italian architect, was built in the then popular Anglo-Burmese style. A Chinese-style sala, or pavilion was also built. The sala now serves as the waiting room and offices of the Consular section. Prince Kaew Nawarat was not able to enjoy his new home for long as he died in June 1939. His body lay in state in the sala from June to July 1939, in the same place that today’s applicants for visas and citizen services wait.

The death of Prince Kaew Nawarat closed a chapter on the history of the royal residence. The government of Siam no longer recognized the semi-autonomous principality of northern Thailand, once part of the great kingdom of Lanna that had been founded in 1296 by King Mengrai. The central government established direct control from Bangkok and the Chedi Ngam property was sold to the Office of the Royal Crown Properties.

In September 1, 1950, a new chapter of the history began with the signing by U.S. Ambassador Edwin F. Stanton and Thai Deputy Minister of Finance Sawet Piamphongsarn of a lease for Chedi Ngarm Palace and grounds. The Consulate still maintains its lease with the Office of Royal Crown Properties.

Through the diligent efforts of Consul Harlen Y.M. Lee (in office from 1982-1985), the Consulate became a Consulate General in 1986 and it continued its close association with Thai royalty. In January 2003, the Consulate had the privilege to host the visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn.

With Foreign Service life requiring constant moving from post to post and the growing homogeneity of the mission buildings, few Foreign Service officers gain any sense of attachment to or appreciation for the offices in which they work. At the U.S. Consulate General in Chiang Mai, the beauty and history of the classic teak buildings serve as a reminder of how fortunate the Consulate staff is to work in a former royal residence.
Being a student of US coins, I was fascinated as to the role politics played in the coinage of our money, establishment of mints, and whom the mints employed. The authors drill down deep into the personalities and motives of the individual players. Additionally, I was fascinated to learn that Dahlonega was the site of the first American gold rush, not California. The Dahlonega mint never did produce the coinage anticipated by its developers for numerous reasons, which is also explained. I wouldn’t recommend this book to the fainthearted. If you are history buff, coin collector, or a student of politics, this is a good read. If you are not, stay away.

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