La Inmaculada Credit Union Ltd. was registered on June 5, 1949.
Approximately, 12 members began this unique financial institution amidst an
atmosphere of colonial rule and the struggle against it. There were no
banks except for the government’s treasury where mostly the few affluent
storekeepers and chicle contractors deposited savings. As most people were
poor, it was common for them to resort to pawning their humble belongings,
borrowing from loan sharks and remaining indebted for life, selling their
produce at a very low price, and even losing their property.
Jesuits, pioneered credit unions in Belize and spread the Credit Union
message from the pulpit. Educational meetings were held in schoolrooms and
film shows attracted much audience at the park.
People responded positively and began saving their 50 cents, and 25 cents,
as every penny counted. The first office of LICU was a small room at La Inmaculada
School and opened a few hours in the evenings. As membership grew, the office was
relocated borrowing a small room of Mr. Alejo Ayuso’s house on Park Street right across
the present office. As our membership and business expanded, it became vital to get independent
by securing our own land and building. Land was purchased from Mr. Alejo Ayuso and a
small wooden building was later purchased from Santiago Castillo. The Cooperative
Department shared this office. The building was later expanded to accommodate our
general meetings. This extension was also used as a classroom to help alleviate the
congestion at La Inmaculada School.
1960s – 1970s
At the same time that the credit union spirit was growing, so was the nationalistic movement. In 1964, Belize attained self-government and the struggle for independence began. Work on the Tower Hill Sugar Factory began in 1964 and 1967 saw the first grinding season for sugar cane. The economy was booming and the financial situation for many improved. This boost in the economy also brought the opening of the first bank in Orange Walk. The increased economic activity had a positive and negative effects on our credit union. The positive effect was that there was enough money flowing. The front wooden building was demolished and replaced with a concrete structure in 1978. The negative effect was that as living conditions improved, the objectives of the credit union were forgotten and some people withdrew, became delinquent, or abandoned the habit of saving
Inauguration of Building
People resorted to the banks where larger loans were given with no savings required. With these conditions our credit union was unable to compete with the banks and consequently our business declined. Additionally, the educational aspect was not emphasized nor encouraged.
The 1980’s were critical years. By this time, cane farmers were experiencing difficult times due to falling sugar prices; consequently, they could not meet payments at the banks where they were paying high interest rates. Delinquency soared and banks began to foreclose on mortgages. Having experienced hard times and good times, many realized that they needed to manage their money better. LICU’s management realized that in order to survive and cater to members financial needs, it was essential to do things differently whilst promoting the credit union philosophy.
LICU now proudly stands as a beacon of hope for many as the hardwork, dedication and commitment of its volunteer Directors, Officers, Management and growing Staff has positively impacted the lives of thousands. LICU has expanded not only in infrastructure and staff, but also in innovative services and benefits such as outreach efforts, promotion of entrepreneurship and offering training and technical assistance.