Monterrey Mexico

Monterrey was founded in 1596 by Spanish Conquistadors. For 300 some odd years, it was a sleepy little town until independence, and it was made the capital of Neuvo Leon state. After a couple of wars with the United States, where its proximity to the border made it pretty vulnerable to the invasions, it grew tremendously as part of the worldwide Industrial Revolution and became the major steel producing city in Mexico. Home to a few important colleges and various other industries helped by the steel mills, it was very prosperous until the 1970's when, much like in the US, steel manufacturing took a huge hit, and the area started to wane in prosperity and stability.

In the later 2000's, the area became the home of Los Zetas drug cartel, a notoriously violent and controlling group that virtually owned the city. They were hit hard by the Mexican Army and internal strife after the leader was removed and the cartel splintered into smaller factions that are still present and make the city somewhat dangerous to this day.

The Arrival

I flew in from the Dallas on American to spend the weekend with my good friend David. It was a quick and uneventful flight, which when you realize it's just as far as Brownsville, starts putting things in context spatially.

Customs is strange; they have a randomizer at the customs officer's desk. Green, you can go through; red, everything gets checked. I was green. I then went outside and ordered an Uber as the airport is quite a long distance from the downtown, and I really didn't fancy taking a bus.

Monterrey

In many ways, it is a very legitimate and quintessential Mexican industrial city that fell on hard times and is coming back. To the south of the Rio Santa Catarina is San Pedro Garza Garcia which is where the rich people live; it's mostly insulated from the problems north of the river, and is where my friend lives. I stayed on the river itself at the Sheraton Ambassador. There were very strong suggestions to not go out after 9pm in the area of the hotel.

Just east of there is the original pueblo, and many of the buildings are still standing. Farther east is the old canal to the primary steel mill district that they turned into a very lovely park area that is quite safe during the day. Many families, kids of all ages playing Pokemon Go, amusement attractions; it was beautiful and very nice, if a long walk through the city to get there.
Weather from the mountains
North of the hotel is the main city and the parks to the museum district. There were some very good museums such as history and art with a pre-columbian focus you do not see in the USA. It is also the regional capital, with the old state capitol and various government buildings framing the park.
Mexican History
North of the museum and government district is just the residential area of the city, and it can turn interesting very quickly. Markets are guarded by the federal police, which are more trusted than local law enforcement generally.
That looks familiar

Near the hotel was a pedestrian shopping area along Jose Maria Morelos street. It was very close to Independence day, and they were putting on plays concerning important people from the revolution. A lot of this area has little parks and statues dedicated to the heroes of Mexican independence. Even with the recommendations to be indoors north of the river after 9, it was surreal to see Mariachis on the street corners and rose vendors, so you can serenade your date from your car at 1am.
Miguel Hidalgo

Summary

Monterrey is a real Mexican city, with very little traditional touristy draw. At the time, the security situation was still very fluid and when David and I had planned to go to the clubs, we could not as it was communicated that night the cartels would be out in force, so we went to dinner instead.

The city is split into 2 parts, Monterrey, where the working class go about their days, and San Pedro Garza Garcia, where the upper class live.

The class structure is definitely in play here.

Tips: This is still potentially dangerous for northern visitors. Get a good hotel, by the river or south of it. Do not go north of the river after dark. Do not flash any signs of affluence, such as jewelry, watches, money, etc. Keep aware of your surroundings even when you pull out your cell phone. During the day, things were calm and pleasant and I didn't really feel out of place at all during that time.

Comments

Eric Reisinger - 2020-05-30
Excellent post. Question how safe did you feel being out and about of that town?


Rob - 2020-05-30 From the Real Rob
During the day, not too much. I did research areas, and I knew not to go up to the bus station area. I stayed in mainly by the river. At night, there were times I was a bit wary as traffic got held up on the primary bridge but David said it would be fine (he was driving), and it was.