The forgotten credit union that served thousands of unbanked pasoños (2023)

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As you stroll through El Paso's Segundo Barrio neighborhood, it's hard to resist the legacy of the city's beloved bicycle priest. Father Harold Joseph Rahm came to town in 1952 and served as assistant pastor at the historic Sacred Heart Church for 12 years.

In that short time, Rahm created a legacy that is still celebrated by residents: he founded the Nossa Senhora youth center to serve the underprivileged, created outreach programs for low-income youth, and instead worked with gang members to resolve their differences in the community Ring to solve on the street, with a red bike, to reach needy parishioners.

Today, his efforts are remembered in this Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood through several iconic murals, as well as a street named after him. But one of Rahm's most important contributions to the neighborhood has largely been forgotten: the founding of the Tepeyac Credit Union, a pioneering financial institution that serves the unbanked residents of Segundo Barrio and protects them from loan sharks.

The forgotten credit union that served thousands of unbanked pasoños (1)

It's a legacy largely forgotten by El Paso locals, with several local historians telling El Paso Matters they are unfamiliar with the initiative. But through archival research and an interview with one of the early board members of the credit union, El Paso Matters and Next City began uncovering this story.

It's a story that exemplifies the power of municipal financial institutions to support the underbanked and the impoverished—and shows how such economic initiatives have been a central part of the city's major social justice movements.

The historic neighborhood where Rahm served was known as South El Paso until the 1970s when various bags were referred to as Segundo Barrio, Chihuahuita, and Duranguitodrawn in redof the community, making it difficult for residents to obtain financial services.

"People needed credit and the banks discriminated against southern El Paso at the time," said El Paso historian David Dorado Romo. “In the 1940s there were redlining maps that intentionally missed areas marked red. Because people couldn't qualify for any loans, especially for home improvement, the community had to form its own credit union.”

In 1961, Rahm joined a group of residents and activists to found the Tepeyac Credit Union. According to Romo, one of those contributors was Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado, the prominent Chicano poet from El Paso who was one of the first presidents of the credit union.

"He was one of the people who went around the community reporting that this type of service was available," says Romo, a frontier studies specialist. "Lalo, he was a great activist and also a very well known poet."

Delgado, who died in 2004, is considered to be thegrandfather(grandfather) of the Chicano literary movement, pioneering writings that reflected a commitment to social justice and shed light on Mexican-American heritage and struggles.

"He was our cheerleader," said Felipe Peralta, one of Tepeyac's early board members. Peralta was working with young people at the Nossa Senhora youth center when he was invited to join the board of the credit union. "He always motivated us to do more stuff."

The forgotten credit union that served thousands of unbanked pasoños (2)

Father Rahm and Delgado worked together at the Nossa Senhora youth center, which was located on the premises of theDouglass Grammar School and High School, which served the black students of El Paso from 1891 to 1920. The center, founded in 1953 and located at 515 S. Kansas, served as home to programs for residents of the Second Barrio, including an employment center and the Tepeyac Credit Union.

The building had several names, Peralta said, most notably "KC" - the Knights of Columbus. "In the end, Father Rahm, I don't know how he got it. But that was his surgery.

"It was a place that spawned a lot of social movement," Romo said. “They had a lot of outreach projects for young people, they had the job center – they found jobs for people in Segundo Barrio – and they started the Tepeyac Credit Union. It was a religious welfare project in South El Paso.”

Today, the idea of ​​starting a credit union is unusual. In the past decade, only 25 credit unions have been licensed in the United States, according to Economic Justice reporter Oscar Perry Abelloreportsto the next town. Before 1970, it was common for 500 or 600 new credit unions to open each year.

According to Peralta, Tepeyac only had two employees: office manager Teresa Cordero and Mr. Flores, who was responsible for debt collection.

"[Cordero] did a lot of work for the credit union," Peralta said. "Sir. Flores, whenever he was walking around the didn't see anyone else because it was his job to collect bad debts. I don't remember many people defaulting on their loans.

The forgotten credit union that served thousands of unbanked pasoños (3)

In fact, a 1971 El Paso Times article reported that only 18 out of 1,448 loans had defaulted.

"I even remember borrowing money to buy my second car," Peralta said. "If I remember correctly, at one point we had over a million dollars. Helped many people generate their credit. Once they have borrowed from us, we entrust them with a little more money. It has really helped a lot of people.”

A March 1961 newspaper article in the El Paso Herald-Post indicated that Tepeyac Credit Union had a potential membership of 30,000, including parishioners in the parish of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and staff and employees of Our Lady's Youth Center.

"Much time, effort, and sacrifice has gone into organizing this unique credit union," the article reads. "Recognizing the problems associated with starting a credit union that serves a large group of low-income, volunteer workers, employees of the El Paso Chapter of Credit Unions, and many others dedicated to the task of solving these problems."

Father Rahm and a man named Ed Morrisey have piqued the interest of potential members, the El Paso Herald-Post article said, while others held workshops to explain the idea and principles of a credit union.

"Tepeyac Federal is recognized as a pioneering credit union," the news clip reads. “Before the Constitution, its prospective members did not have access to the credit union benefits and services. Veteran credit union officials now believe that the Tepeyac Federal Credit Union will not only succeed but serve as a model... for organizing similar credit unions elsewhere.”

The efforts of these activists helped found El Paso's Chicano Mexican-American civil rights movement, Romo said.

"They addressed directly needs in the community that this city, state or federal government did not meet," he added. "When the La Raza Unida Party was organized in 1972, (Delgado) stood up and read his poetry to begin the whole conference."

In El Paso, the credit union built on the heritage of Mexican Americansmutual societies. Focused on economic cooperation and community service, these mutuals flourished from the 1890s.

"It worked a bit like credit unions," Romo said. "Anytime people in the family had an emergency illness, definitely for funerals. They were almost like community insurance groups. Here on the border between Mexican-American communities, there is a long tradition that dates back to the late 1800s.”

Information on key figures within the credit union is hard to come by, but a few names stand out in interviews and newspaper clippings. Peralta remembers John Falke — identified as the president of the credit union in a 1967 clipping from the El Paso Herald-Post — as an important part of Tepeyac.

"He was a veteran or soldier and did a lot of the groundwork," Peralta said. "He would do his best to pull this off."

Another Tepeyac institution was Henry Rayas, who served as chairman and is shown for his involvement in newspaper clippings from the early 1960s. Peralta suggested that Falcon and Rayas may have started the credit union.

"(Rayas) and his wife had 18 children," he recalled. "Once the kids were grown and a bit more responsible, they would come and volunteer there."

Peralta herself remains active in the community. He is a board member of Los Exes De La Bowie and Friends, a nonprofit organization that helps people with affordable housing.

"Everything I was lucky about was because of El Segundo Barrio," he said. “After that I joined the Chicano movement. My degree was pedagogy. My goal was to teach in the public schools in southern El Paso. But when I was doing my classes as a student, I found I was going insane. These children were in such bad shape that I knew I couldn't help them. So I tried to help them with other things like the apartment.”

Today, the Tepeyac credit union is no longer in operation. The exact date Tepeyac ceased serving the public is not clear, nor is the reason why it closed. The most recent financial statement filed with the National Credit Union Administration is dated December 31, 2003 and shows total assets of $194,730, 220 members and one part-time employee.

"I wonder what happened to [Tepeyac]," Peralta said. "We were doing so well."

He recalls board meetings that also served as the credit union's committee to approve loans. “It was a really effective operation. It was one of the best things we've ever had. Looking back now, I see something I think we should have continued.”

This story was co-published withnext cityas part of our unionEquitable Cities Reporting Fellowship for Borderland Narratives.



What are the oldest credit unions? ›

1909. April 6, 1909 – St. Mary's Cooperative Credit Association, the first U.S. credit union, opens in Manchester, New Hampshire, with assistance from Alphonse Desjardins.

How many credit unions have failed in 2023? ›

Causes of credit union failures

Nationally, two have gone under already in 2023, and on average seven failed in each of the prior five years, according to data compiled by the National Credit Union Administration, a federal agency akin to the FDIC or Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

How many credit unions failed since 2008? ›

Wholesale credit unions, also known as corporate credit unions, invest money for retail credit unions and provide them with check clearing and other services. Since the start of 2008, 66 retail unions have failed, compared with more than 290 banks or savings institutions.

What was the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934? ›

June 26, Anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act

was enacted during the depths of the Great Depression, in 1934. The law enabled credit unions to be organized throughout the United States under charters approved by the federal government.

What is the hardest credit union to get into? ›

So if you find a new way to qualify, please leave a comment. Progressive Credit Union - You must be recommended by another member. This might be the most unique credit union requirement, and it also seems to be the toughest.

What is the richest credit union? ›

The largest credit union in the U.S. is Navy Federal Credit Union, with $156.65 billion in assets. As of 2022, the U.S. credit union industry has a market size of $103.3 billion.

Are credit unions safer than a bank? ›

Why are credit unions safer than banks? Like banks, which are federally insured by the FDIC, credit unions are insured by the NCUA, making them just as safe as banks. The National Credit Union Administration is a US government agency that regulates and supervises credit unions.

Are credit unions safe from banking collapse? ›

Credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Just like the FDIC insures up to $250,000 for individuals' accounts of a bank, the NCUA insures up to $250,000 for individuals' accounts of a credit union. Beyond that amount, the bank or credit union takes an uninsured risk.

What happens to credit unions if banks collapse? ›

Credit unions are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), and it offers coverage up to $250,000 per share owner, per insured credit union, for each account ownership category.

What happens to my money if a credit union goes under? ›

If a credit union is placed into liquidation, the NCUA's Asset Management and Assistance Center (AMAC) will oversee the liquidation and set up an asset management estate (AME) to manage assets, settle members' insurance claims, and attempt to recover value from the closed credit union's assets.

Are credit unions in decline? ›

The number of federally insured credit unions declined to 4,760 in the fourth quarter of 2022, from 4,942 in the fourth quarter of 2021. In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were 2,980 federal credit unions and 1,780 federally insured, state-chartered credit unions.

Do poor people use credit unions? ›

Many credit unions provide valuable access to financial services for people of all income levels, including those underserved or unserved by traditional financial institutions.

Were there credit unions during the Great Depression? ›

In 1934, Congress passed the Federal Credit Union Act, which allowed for federally chartered credit unions. The growth of credit unions accelerated during the Great Depression, as more Americans, forsaken by banks, joined with their neighbors to provide one another basic options for saving and borrowing.

What is the credit union Membership Act of 1998? ›

The Credit Union Membership Access Act of 1998, HR 1151, was signed into law by the President on August 7, 1998. This Act authorizes multiple group chartering for Federal credit unions, and makes other important changes in the Federal Credit Union Act.

What is the Federal credit Reform Act of 1990? ›

The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (FCRA) allows special budgetary treatment for federal loans made to non-federal borrowers. Specifically, the subsidy cost of the loan (cash outflows minus inflows) is reflected in the budget in the year the loan is made.

Which bank gives 7% interest on savings account? ›

Unity Small Finance Bank

For Savings Accounts, Unity Bank offers an interest of 7% p.a. for deposits greater than Rs 1 lakh and 6% p.a.

What is the easiest credit union to get into? ›

Credit unions with easy membership requirements
  1. Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union Superior Money Market Account. ...
  2. Alliant Credit Union. Alliant High-Interest Checking Account. ...
  3. Bethpage Federal Credit Union. Bethpage Federal Credit Union Certificate Account. ...
  4. Blue Federal Credit Union.
6 days ago

What is the largest credit union in the world? ›

Being CEO of Navy Federal Credit Union is a bit different from running any other financial institution — and not only because it's the largest credit union in the world. The job requires an intimate knowledge of the military lifestyle.

What bank do most billionaires use? ›

Two common perks embedded into these millionaire bank accounts include waived fees and personal bankers.
  • 10 Bank Accounts the Ultra-Rich Use. ...
  • Bank of America Private Bank. ...
  • Chase Private Client. ...
  • Morgan Stanley CashPlus. ...
  • HSBC Premier Checking. ...
  • TD Bank Private Banking. ...
  • PNC Private BankSM Checking. ...
  • Truist Wealth Checking.
Mar 14, 2023

Can I put millions in a credit union? ›

All deposits at federally insured credit unions are protected by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, with deposits insured up to at least $250,000 per individual depositor.

What is the largest black owned credit union? ›

OneUnited, the largest Black-owned bank in the U.S., manages around $625 million in assets.

What are three disadvantages of a credit union? ›

Cons of credit unions
  • Membership required. Credit unions require their customers to be members. ...
  • Not the best rates. ...
  • Limited accessibility. ...
  • May offer fewer products and services.
Sep 16, 2022

Why do people use banks not credit unions? ›

Credit unions tend to have lower fees and better interest rates on savings accounts and loans, while banks' mobile apps and online technology tend to be more advanced. Banks often have more branches and ATMs nationwide.

Can credit unions freeze your money? ›

If you have a credit union account and you file for bankruptcy you could lose your membership, the credit union can freeze your accounts, and more. A credit union is like a bank in that it lends money and allows you to hold checking and savings accounts.

Are credit unions safe in 2023? ›

Credit unions are also subject to stringent regulatory oversight and are insured. It is important to remember that credit unions are an extremely safe and reliable option for your financial needs. On March 10, 2023, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapsed. Two days later, Signature Bank suffered a similar fate.

Where is the safest place to keep your money? ›

Savings accounts are a safe place to keep your money because all deposits made by consumers are guaranteed by the FDIC for bank accounts or the NCUA for credit union accounts. Certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by banks and credit unions also carry deposit insurance.

Which banks are in trouble in 2023? ›

Among these banks were Silvergate Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, and Signature Bank, which collapsed in March 2023 Additionally, undercapitalization, loan quality, and losses on investment securities are common reasons why banks may fail.

Should I withdraw my money from the bank 2023? ›

In short, if you have less than $250,000 in your account at an FDIC-insured US bank, then you almost certainly have nothing to worry about. Each deposit account owner will be insured up to $250,000 - so, for example, if you have a joint account with your spouse, your money will be insured up to $500,000.

Has any credit union ever failed? ›

National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) credit unions had seven conservatorships/liquidations in 2022 and two so far in 2023. While credit unions have experienced several failures in 2022, there were no Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Can banks seize your money if economy fails? ›

The short answer is no. Banks cannot take your money without your permission, at least not legally. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures deposits up to $250,000 per account holder, per bank.

Which credit unions failed? ›

Involuntary liquidations
Credit UnionDate closedStatus
C O Federal Credit Union, Charleston, SC09/17/2021Closed
Defense Logistics Federal Credit Union, Dover, NJ07/01/2021Closed
Indianapolis Newspaper Federal Credit Union, Indianapolis, IN03/31/2021Closed
IBEW Local Union 712 Federal Credit Union, Beaver, PA05/29/2020Closed
75 more rows
Mar 17, 2023

Should I keep all my money with credit union? ›


Your money is safer in a Credit Unions hands because all accounts are federally insured up to $250,000 and backed by the U.S. government.

Can you get kicked out of a credit union? ›

If you are a federal credit union, there is only one way to give a member the boot. And that is through the expulsion process. This NCUA legal opinion letter does a good job of highlighting the expulsion issue as it relates to a member who caused the credit union a loss.

Do credit unions report to the IRS? ›

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and the exempt federal credit unions under its supervision are organizations described in section 501(c)(1) of the Code and are not required to file annual information returns (e.g., Form 990).

What is a weakness of a credit union? ›

Weaknesses of Credit Unions

The membership of a credit union is restricted to a specific community, most often a religion, profession, or geographic location. For a member to be eligible to join a credit union, they must belong to a group listed in the credit union's charter.

How much does the average American have in their checking account? ›

Here is the median and average checking account balances in the US, for Americans who have checking accounts: Median: $2,900. Average (Mean): $9,132.

How much money does the average person have in their bank account? ›

While the median bank account balance is $5,300, according to the latest SCF data, the average — or mean — balance is actually much higher, at $41,600.
How much does the average household have in savings?
Average U.S. savings account balance
1 more row
Dec 21, 2022

Can the government see how much money is in your bank account? ›

The Short Answer: Yes. Share: The IRS probably already knows about many of your financial accounts, and the IRS can get information on how much is there.

What is the oldest credit union? ›

1909. April 6, 1909 – St. Mary's Cooperative Credit Association, the first U.S. credit union, opens in Manchester, New Hampshire, with assistance from Alphonse Desjardins. Massachusetts Bank Commissioner Pierre Jay and wealthy Boston merchant Edward A.

Which president got credit for pulling the U.S. out of the Great Depression? ›

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.

What did all in credit union used to be called? ›

Our Story. All In Credit Union started as Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union in 1966 during the height of the Vietnam Conflict.

Who benefits from a credit union? ›

As a democratically run organization, inclusion of its members is the heart of what makes a credit union unique. Credit unions operate for the benefit of their members and only their members.

Why do credit unions restrict membership? ›

Credit Unions are required by law to restrict access to the groups they serve, but many have very simple requirements such as living in an area. A focus on “common bonds” is important in credit unions, which is why fields of membership single out particular groups or communities.

What is the credit Act of 1970? ›

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates the collection of consumers' credit information and access to their credit reports. It was passed in 1970 to address the fairness, accuracy, and privacy of the personal information contained in the files of the credit reporting agencies.

What is the credit Reform Act of 1992? ›

The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1990 (FCRA), which is part of the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA), requires the federal budget, beginning in fiscal year 1992, to account for credit programs so that their costs can be more easily compared with the costs of other federal spending.

What is the Fair credit Act of 1991? ›

The Act (Title VI of the Consumer Credit Protection Act) protects information collected by consumer reporting agencies such as credit bureaus, medical information companies and tenant screening services. Information in a consumer report cannot be provided to anyone who does not have a purpose specified in the Act.

What was the first credit union in the world? ›

Mary's Bank of Manchester, New Hampshire, holds the distinction as the first credit union.

What are the three largest credit unions? ›

No need to go digging through a database. Here it is. These numbers are based on the latest December 2022 data from the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). As in prior years, Navy Federal Credit Union, State Employees', PenFed, and BECU are the largest credit unions by asset size.

What are the three main credit unions? ›

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three main consumer credit bureaus. They collect and store information about you that they use to generate your credit reports, which are used as the basis of your credit scores.

What is the biggest credit union in the US? ›

The Largest U.S. Credit Unions

Navy Federal is the largest credit union in the US and worldwide with more than 11 million members and $157 billion in total assets. The top 10, top 50 and top 100 credit unions hold combined assets of $388 billion, $760 billion and $1.0 trillion, respectively.

Are big banks safer than credit unions? ›

Just like banks, credit unions are federally insured; however, credit unions are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Instead, the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is the federal insurer of credit unions, making them just as safe as traditional banks.

What state has the most credit unions? ›

Texas: 18 CDFI-certified credit unions.

Its larger geographic size and population also holds more credit unions compared to the rest of the nation.

What is a good credit score? ›

Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.

What credit score is most important? ›

FICO® Scores are used by 90% of top lenders, but even so, there's no single credit score or scoring system that's most important. In a very real way, the score that matters most is the one used by the lender willing to offer you the best lending terms.

What FICO score does Capital One use for credit cards? ›

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models.

What is the second largest credit union in the US? ›

Navy Federal Credit Union was the largest credit union in the United States in the second quarter of 2022 in terms of the number of members. The credit union had approximately 11.77 million members as of the second quarter of 2022, and it was followed by Pentagon, which had around 2.85 million members.

How many billion dollar credit unions are there? ›

The number of credit unions in the United States is declining, but the number of credit unions managing assets in excess of one billion U.S. dollars has increased during the period from 2016 to 2021. In 2016, there were 272 credit unions that large, but the number increased to 404 by 2021.

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