The year was 1913. La Ceiba was the fastest growing city in Honduras. The Vacaro Brothers Company was growing and its banana exports to the US were on the rise. Yet, Honduras was undeveloped and lacked the proper tools for economic growth. For one there were no banks in Honduras. The Vacaro Brothers Company decided to solve this problem and created their own bank. Thus, the first bank in Honduras, Banco Atlantida, was born in La Ceiba. The first office opened its doors one block from the old Banana dock in town. It was exactly half ways between the dock and the customs house.
In those days, it was easier to travel from La Ceiba to New Orleans that it was to Tegucigalpa. In addition, the Banana Company had their ships departing full from La Ceiba, but always had space in their holds on the southbound trip from New Orleans back to La Ceiba. Taking advantage of this easy freight and available transportation, the building materials for the bank building were all shipped from New Orleans. The result was a lovely building with a strong art deco influence to house the first bank in Honduras. Because La Ceiba is the capital of the department of Atlantida, the bank was named Banco Atlantida.
Soon after Banco Atlantida was born in La Ceiba, they opened a branch in the city of Tela in 1918. Since then, Banco Atlantida has been a pillar for the economy of Atlantida and Honduras. You see, the banana companies needed a bank to help fund their operations, pay their employees and do business. Since there was no printed currency in the country back in those days, the bank would print its own bills! For the banana workers, it meant that they could spend their money in other establishments. Prior to this, they were paid with tokens which they could only redeem at the fruit company store. Banco Atlantida continued to print its own bills until 1950, when the Central Bank of Honduras was established.
Even though over a century has passed since Banco Atlantida was born in La Ceiba, the original building still stands and operates as a branch of the bank. The main offices for Banco Atlantida moved to Tegucigalpa a long time ago. But the first Banco Atlantida office still stands proud on the corner of Avenida San Isidro and First street in La Ceiba. The old marble counters with brass still decorate the teller booths. Fortunately, Banco Atlantida has made a special effort to retain the charm of this historical building in La Ceiba.
Today Banco Atlantida is one of the largest and most financially stable banks in Honduras. It is also a big promoter of art and history. Their main office in Tegucigalpa is home to an art gallery. They also have a virtual museum that hosts the history of Honduran currency. If you are interested in historical facts about Honduras’ financial history, you should visit this online museum. When in La Ceiba, visit the Banco Atlantida original office building. Amazing history that the first bank in Honduras was born in La Ceiba! For all the bad rap that the banana companies still get, there is no doubt that they played a pivotal part in the development of Honduras in the XXth Century. Visit Atlantida is proud to share our heritage with an institution as important as Banco Atlantida.