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  HOME | Business & Economy (Click here for more)

Traditional Mexican Savings System’s Popularity Grows

TUCSON, Arizona – The recession has made “tandas,” also known as “cundinas,” a traditional savings system, increasingly popular in Arizona’s Hispanic neighborhoods, with technology helping to spread the use of the savings pools.

“The tandas or cundinas are the same thing, and they are becoming ever more important for the economies of many Hispanic families,” Arizona State University anthropology professor Carlos Velez Ibañez, who has been studying the phenomenon since 1970, told Efe.

Technology has added a new twist to the savings pools, with “electronic cundinas” being organized on Web sites that can bring together people from across the United States, the professor said.

The savings pools are a tradition in immigrant communities and among first-generation Hispanics, with women serving as the organizers in the majority of cases.

“The modernization of the traditional cundina system is being undertaken mainly by the second- or third-generation children of immigrants, who learned about this system for saving from their parents or grandparents,” the professor said.

“We’re now seeing cundinas for a car or even a house on the Internet,” Velez Ibañez, who plans to publish a book about the savings pools next year, said.

Even though savings pools have been organized via the Internet, the traditional form remains the most popular, especially in light of rising unemployment, cuts in work hours and tight credit.

The traditional “tanda,” as the system is known in northern Mexico, usually brings together relatives, friends and acquaintances because it is based on members trusting each other to make the required payments.

Members pay their share, which could be $100, $200 or more, based on what was agreed, to the organizer each week or every two weeks.

The money is collected and the total amount is given to the member who is entitled to it based on a lottery held at the start of the process.

The process is repeated until each member has received the same amount of money.

“The tandas can be for $1,000 or up to $10,000,” Velez Ibañez said.

The traditional savings pool’s popularity, according to the professor, has grown to the point where people from other cultures and countries are joining Hispanic families in them.

The cundinas, a term more commonly used for the savings pools by people from central and southern Mexico, are attractive for many families because they allow them to save, have a large sum of money available for a big-ticket purchase or pay medical bills, the anthropologist said.

For people such as Dulce Moreno, a 32-year-old Mexican immigrant living in Tucson, the savings pools’ most attractive feature is that members do not have to pay high interest rates like with credit cards.

Moreno, a mother of two, told Efe that she has participated in a cundina for two years, using the money to buy a car, pay off debts and even pay for a vacation in Mexico.

“The important thing is for everybody to come through, that’s why it’s necessary to organize it with people who can be highly trusted,” Moreno said.

“Many businesses in Arizona, like in other states, would not exist if the owners had not first participated in a cundina,” Velez Ibañez said. EFE

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