Bank Company Celebrates 100 Years After Its Birth In Mercedes
The Rio Grande Valley’s most historic and still surviving national bank traces its start back to Mercedes.
First National Bank of Mercedes opened in 1920 and one hundred years later it lives on in Texas National Bank. The original charter that got First National started would carry through a name change to Mercedes National Bank in 1985, and then in 2005, after another acquisition, would become Texas National Bank.
One of TNB’s seven community banks is in Mercedes on Texas Avenue – and just down the street from the original First National building from which it descended. The old building still stands and today is a venue that hosts parties and celebrations. The words “First National Bank’’ are still plainly visible above the entrance.
Edna Rincon Martinez remembers the old bank quite well. Martinez grew up in Mercedes and recalls as a child reaching up on her tip toes to scoop candy from bowels in the bank lobby. It left quite an impression. Martinez today is senior vice president of TNB and oversees the running of its community bank in Mercedes.
Saul Ortega remembers First National of Mercedes quite well in his own right. His father – Jose Platon Ortega – was a farmer north of town and made almost daily trips to his bank in downtown Mercedes. His father went so often that the son recalls the tellers knowing his account number by memory.
“Vienticinco, cuaraneta dos, diecinueve,’’ Saul Ortega says today from the corporate office of Texas National Bank in Edinburg.
The boy who grew tagging along with his Dad to First National of Mercedes is today the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Texas National Bank. He was inspired by the Mercedes bank to become a banker and over a lengthy career has become the overseer of the company which originates from his father’s old bank.
“I pinch myself sometimes,’’ Ortega said. “Never in his wildest dreams could have my Dad imagined all of this.’’
There’s lots of history and feeling at TNB that goes back to First National on Texas. Ortega and TNB President Joe Quiroga are leading the efforts in 2020 to celebrate 100 years of banking in the Valley with a year’s worth of events to commemorate the milestone. Both bank executives are clear that Mercedes will be an integral part of the celebrations.
“We’ve have some longstanding customers that go back to First National of Mercedes,’’ Quiroga said. “The community support we’ve been fortunate to have over the years started back in Mercedes.’’
Texas National is planning to hold an event in the historic Mercedes bank building in mid-2020 as part of the yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of the original bank charter. Quiroga is asking customers who may have old First National bank books, bags, checks and other physical memories to bring them to TNB banks in the Valley so they can be displayed.
The spirit of First National lives on in Texas National. The original bank’s motto was “The Friendly Bank,’’ a motto that Martinez and Ortega witnessed and experienced growing up. Today, the two bank executives are infusing that spirit into TNB’s culture. Go to TNB’s website, and at the top, it says, “We Are Friendly!’’
The old First National Bank lives on.
- Ricardo D. Cavazos