Pan American Bank | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

Pan American Bank

Good news! In April 2017, the National Park Service (NPS) listed Pan American Bank in the National Register of Historic Places.

The New Formalist building is the second property in unincorporated East Los Angeles to be listed in the National Register and the first for its association with Latinx heritage. The former Golden Gate Theatre (now CVS) was designated first in 1983. 

In 2015, the Conservancy received funding through NPS's Underrepresented Community Grants to prepare a nomination for East Los Angeles' Pan American Bank to the National Register. Eight grants were distributed through the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) to support nominations for historic properties associated with Latinx history in Fresno, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Francisco. 

Pan American Bank was included in Latinos in Twentieth Century California, which is the first statewide Latinx historic context statement to gain approval from the NPS. The document is intented to faciliate nominations of Latinx historic places to the National Register. 

Founded in 1964 and completed in 1966, Pan American Bank continues to be a significant community anchor and cultural touchstone in East Los Angeles. In 2015, Central Valley-based Finance and Thrift Co. purchased the bank and relocated its headquarters to East Los Angeles. In 2016, Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank announced a subsequent merger with Pan American Bank, with the goal of maintaining its community-based mission and commitment to economic justice. 

The Conservancy submitted the Pan American Bank nomination to OHP in September 2016. The State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously in favor of designation at a hearing on February 3, 2017 and forwarded the nomination to the Keeper of the National Register for final approval. 

Read the nomination for Pan American Bank >>

As one of the oldest continuously operating Latinx community banks in the country, the 1965 Pan American Bank building is significant for its association with the economic development of East Los Angeles after World War II. It provided critical bilingual financial services to Mexican and Mexican American residents and businesses, who often faced discriminatory policies at other financial institutions. 

Its co-founder, Romana Acosta Bañuelos, would later become the first Latina Treasurer of the United States under President Richard Nixon. Over the course of her career, she was a strong advocate for gender and racial equality in business and the financial industry. 

In addition, the building's original mosaic mural - titled "Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future" and designed by prominent Mexican artist José Reyes Meza - was an influential precursor to the Chicanx mural movement of the 1960s and 1970s.