In the middle of a developing country, Monterrey is the leading industrial city of its nation and home to some of Mexico’s wealthiest. As the base of many international companies, it generates impressive GDP and is one of the most developed cities in the country. Even a latin american journalist, Joseph Contreras recognises that “Monterrey surely sits on the cutting edge of its Americanizing future”. (2009)
So as a young student and explorer of the world, what exactly did I think of such a ‘Beta World City’ in the midst of my Mexican travels?
When I was asked my first impressions of the city by my friends living in Monterrey, I gave a reply that almost offended their patriotic sentiments towards their city.
“It’s a city that’s trying to be big.”
The smile dropped ever so slightly from Cesar and Rafa’s face with this reply. But from my perspective, this opinion is 100% justified and not in the least offensive. I mean we all strive to be our best, right? And when a city has put in the effort, it shows.
I was probably better off saying –
It’s a city that is developing rapidly and in the process is successfully encouraging its citizens to enjoy the balance between business and family.
Which is also very much the truth.
( So to Cesar and Rafa – being big isn’t necessarily the objective, but perhaps more of an unavoidable future for a Global City 😉 )
Let’s go back six years. Driving along the busy highway, in the midst of traffic, Cesar explains the Narco history of his city and the regulations that were once in place to protect the citizens. About six years ago the government decided to drive out the threatening narco leaders. In the process many people were killed, Cesar had restricted schooling hours, witnessed individuals hanging dead from a bridge and the people lived within an unsafe ambience.
But now, that is well in the past and Monterrey has reached a favourable position.
When I arrived in Monterrey about 6:30pm, I was taken straight from the airport to Las Banderas Monumentales, proudly displaying the grand flag of Mexico (the tallest in all of the country):
From everything I’ve seen in the world, that screams patriotism the loudest.
After eating in the barrio antiguo, I then got a tour along Santa Lucía, an artificial river running 2km through Monterrey. (Apparently there’s not enough nature in this grand city.) Lights, artworks and petite restaurants line the river, creating a pleasant atmosphere to brighten up the night.
Note I used the word ‘apparently’ in the last paragraph. The rest of my weekend was spent hiking through a few of the many beautiful mountains surrounding the city. On Day 1 of the weekend I went up into the clouds in Parque Ecologico Chipinque.
The day ended with a tour from Rafa through one of the best universities I have seen in the world, the Tec de Monterrey. Maybe it was the on campus Bambi that sold me, or the many international flags holstered in honour of each of the visiting exchange students currently at the university, but I was impressed. The unique architecture of the buildings, the campus layout, an inbuilt large tv screen and the facilities it offered appeared to be of superior quality.
Day 2 of the weekend I went to visit the clear blue cascades in the park of La estanzuela. You can swim and drink the water! In fact, people thought it was so magical they used the water as a wishing well and threw in money that Pepe fortunately found as he was swimming around.
The day ended with a stroll through the grand park, Parque Fundidora. Families were out, children were playing, couples were walking hand in hand and people were hoping off their boat tour at the end of the Santa Lucía river. It was a very relaxed and happy atmosphere.
“¿Que es eso barrio allá?” I ask Cesar as we drive along the highway and I spot dull coloured buildings, cramped together and crowding around the base of one of the many mountains.
“Otro colonia.” Cesar replies. But it is a little more than just another suburb. I soon learn that this is the not-so-pretty side of a Global City. On one side of the highway sits tall buildings, business offices and government buildings with well maintained paint and a neat finish, while the other side .. well it’s quite the opposite. In fact, Cesar tells me there was talk of putting a wall around this “other suburb” to stop its image ruining the appearance of Monterrey.
With a city growing as rapidly as Monterrey it’s hard for everyone to keep up, especially in a country as diverse as Mexico – mountains on the fringe of the city, Narcos a part of its recent history, America only a few hours away and over a million people living in the one place.
But I was impressed. I spent an enjoyable weekend – I had interesting company, I learnt a lot, did some exercise, ate good Mexican food and witnessed the ongoing growth of a Beta World City.