The Nacional Monte de Piedad is of interest to international visitors mostly for its main headquarters building on the northwest corner of the Zócalo in Mexico City. Established in Mexico 1774 and 1777, it’s founder was Pedro Romero de Terreros, the first Count of Regla being just one of his titles. His home is a famous landmark, and he owned much of the property surrounding the present day Metro El Rosario.
But the organization’s roots actually go back to the Monte di Pietà movement which began in Perugia, Italy, in 1450. The Franciscan-run Orden de Menores Observantes de San Francisco provided financial assistance in the form of no-interest loans. A Spanish variant was founded in Madrid, and Romero de Terreros brought it to Mexico in the late 18th century.
The building we see today is on the site of the “Old Houses” of Moctezuma II’s father, Axayacatl (1453-1483). Beneath the floors of the Monte de Piedad lie the foundations of the Palace of Axayácatl, which was briefly the quarters of Hernan Cortés’ retinue when they first arrived in Tenochtitlan.
The “New Houses” were across the Zócalo at the site of today’s National Palace. The façade of the current building dates from 1775. The coat of arms of the Count of Regla is still above the main doorway, and a bust of Pedro Romero de Terreros is still inside. A third floor was added in 1948. A small museum occupies what had been a chapel until 1926.
The building was extensively remodeled in 1984 and a fire in 2004 caused some damage. What had been some 35 branches in the Republic grew astonishingly in recent years. Today there are some 200 branches in Mexico with plans to expand to every city in the country.
What operates as a micro-credit and pawn-shop has successfully integrated into much of Mexico’s finance world. It’s especially useful for very poor patrons, and for those without regular access to traditional banks or credit.