Bank Company Marks Milestone In Mercedes
The Rio Grande Valley’s longest serving National bank is in Mercedes, a journey that began 102 years ago.
Today’s Texas National Bank is a financial descendant of the First National Bank of Mercedes, which got its start in 1920. The charter that got the latter bank started over 100 years ago was to be celebrated in 2020 in grand fashion, but then COVID-19 happened, cancelling nearly all public events two years ago. It was a celebration delayed but not forgotten.
On March 24, community leaders and residents along with banking executives from around the Valley, gathered for an early evening event at the Texas National Bank branch in Mercedes. It’s just down the street from where the original First National did business. The heritage of the original Mercedes bank from which all Texas National banks descended was commemorated both historically and in personal accounts.
Saul Ortega, the chief executive officer of TNB, recalled his growing up days on Baseline Road just outside of Mercedes. His father was a farmer and Mexican immigrant who made almost daily trips to the old First National on Texas Avenue in Mercedes.
“It was the only bank he ever had,’’ Ortega told the large crowd gathered in the lobby of the TNB bank in Mercedes on Texas and Business 83.
The banking CEO likes to tell the story of how all the tellers knew his father’s account number, which all of these years later, Ortega can recount in a heartbeat. He heads up one of the nation’s few Hispanic-owned banking companies in the United States, this son of a Mercedes-area farmer who was inspired to seek a professional career during his boyhood trips with his father to the old bank on Texas.
“Mercedes is where this bank, (TNB), is from,’’ Ortega said of his company, which has eight banks in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, and mortgage and corporate offices in Edinburg. “We have a strong history and this (Mercedes) bank is the cornerstone of that history.’’
The history Ortega spoke of came into written view when he and Lorri Marchant of the Mercedes Historic Preservation Commission unveiled a beautiful black with silver letters marker inside the bank lobby on March 24.
“Texas National Bank, originally First National Bank of Mercedes, founded in 1920 for more than 100 years of continuous service to the people of Mercedes and for the contribution to the growth and vitality of our city,’’ the marker states.
“The history of this bank is special, 102 years, just think of that,’’ Mercedes Mayor Oscar Montoya said at the March 24 event. “For all of those years, this bank has operated as a vital part of our city’s economy and has been a trusted part of this community.’’
Joe Quiroga, TNB’s president, alluded to the challenges of those many years of service. He spoke of the original bank getting through the Great Depression, and then in more recent times, TNB making its way though the Great Recession of 2008, when making banking companies closed amidst the collapse of the U.S. housing market.
“For the bank to have endured through all of that, it’s a testament to all of you, our customers, and to Mercedes, that we can be here today to celebrate,’’ Quiroga said.
The bank president noted that TNB is growing across the Valley from its Mercedes roots. In 2021, TNB opened its first bank in Cameron County, a branch in Brownsville. A new branch was built just the year before, in San Juan, and it all adds to a network of banks that also includes locations in Edinburg, McAllen, Mission, Elsa, Weslaco, and of course, Mercedes.
- Ricardo D. Cavazos