Doña Bella:
the lender from the Bronx

The Dominican who lives to lend money
to Latinos without access to banking system.

I am going to Leo’s house and on the way there I’ll be dancing in my car.

And then I’m going to the beauty salon to pick up some more money and get my hair done.

This is Ivelisse García, a 48-year-old Dominican woman who lives in the Bronx, New York.

She caters to low-income clients, mostly friends and acquaintances who are undocumented immigrants.

Her business operates in a gray area of the banking system.

She charges a minimum of at least 20%.

The law prohibits loans with an interest rate above 16%.

I like to feel like I am helping others when I give them loans.

I define myself as a community lender, I’m not in this to become a millionaire.

My friends from the neighborhood asked me if I could lend them money, and that is how I got started.

The word spread and people started asking about me.

To get into the lending business you need to have capital. I have a safe and I am the only person that knows where the safe is.

I make my own rules. For example, I only lend to people that I know.

People who tell me that they have an emergency in their home country.

Sometimes people are afraid or sometimes they say my immigration documents are not in order.

I can’t make a deposit in the bank or I can't apply for a credit card.’ Which is why they call me to lend them money

I imagine having a regular business, like some of the banks that lend people money at low interest.

We are helping each other out and we must acknowledge that. But it really is a business to help others, not to take advantage of them.

As an informal lender, Ivelisse García considers that she is offering a service to the Latino community in the Bronx.But as we mentioned earlier, this market exists because her clients need an alternative system to finance their basic needs. Ivelisse describes herself as an entrepreneur. She believes that your business is not based on greed but in helping people.

Producción y edición: Mónica Cordero, Constanza Gallardo y Alma Sacasa

Entrevistada: Ivelisse García

Tecnología usada: HTML, CSS y JavaScrip

Este es un proyecto de la clase Craft 2 Periodismo y Redacción Avanzada, Programa Bilingüe de la Maestría de Periodismo de CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Instructores: Luis Trelles y Miguel Paz. Cristina Maldonado (Research), Davo Galavotti (Coach de Interactivo).

Producido en Nueva York