Hola a Todos! ( hi all! )
I moved to Monterrey about 2 mounts ago, and as I mentioned in my previous article, I found it very much not popular among tourists and travelers, as it way out of the traditional tourist path and has a long history of cartel wars. But as every place has its own unique vibes and DNA, I found Monterrey very interesting place to visit, let me try and convince you by a few facts about the most forgotten city in Mexico.
The history of Monterrey goes back to 16th century, where it was founded by Diego de Montemayor, a Spanish Sephardic Jew, who looked for a safe place to escape from the European Jewish prosecution. Something about the demographic facts of the place made the poor guy to believe that this might be just the right place for the Jewish salvation. Unfortunately reality showed the opposite as the Jewish population of Monterrey today summarized by myself, another approx. 40 families and a few “Krav maga” instructors (martial arts that surprisingly popular here). During the years of Spanish rule, Monterrey remained a small city, and its population varied from a few hundred to only dozens. The city was a place that facilitated trade between San Antonio (now in Texas), Tampico and from Saltillo to the center of the country. Tampico’s port brought many products from Europe, while Saltillo concentrated the Northern Territories’ trade with the capital, Mexico City.
The mountains surrounding Monterrey contain many canyons, trails and roads that cross deserts and forests suitable for hiking, rock climbing and repelling. This area actually considered a top destination for rock climbers. The Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains south of the city are included in the “Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey” (National Park), which was added to UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Program of Biosphere Reserves in 2006.
Northern Mexican cuisine is mostly famous for its “ “carne asada” Pice creameak ( grilled steak in Spanish) , what can I say they just love their cows here. Another weird but well known dish in this area as the Cabrito (baby goat). But no meter what the lonely planet say, the people here are still truly loyal to their Tacos, in flour or corn tortillas, beef, pork or chicken – tacos it is by far the most popular snack food in the country!
Following the” “back to basic” fusion trends the Monterrey “gente” (people on Spanish), love to spend their weekend in a few quite interesting contemporary Mexican restaurants where soft shell crab or ants larvae with aioli chipotle sauce can be tastefully presented on a novo-traditional plates. Those foods following the “Oaxacanian” influenced (Oaxaca – another state in Mexico) considered highly sophisticated and the prices of dining in such place are accordingly high.
The green – organic trend seems to put its sights on the fashionable and young parts of the city, there are more than a few little coffee shops that won’t embarrass even the hippest Brooklyn establishments. Here you can taste the delicious organic version of the “café the de olla” (local way to make coffee with brown sugar and spices) artisanal pastries, and also some of the best vegan dishes with slight Mexican influences.
Little stands with the local version of the fruit sorbets called the “nieve” (ice cream in Spanish) spread all over the city. Here you can find variety exotic fruits flavors like sour sop and papaya; it’s totally natural, and incredibly good (and cheap).
What to do, entertainment and nightlife
After a few harsh years, when violence shut down the city’s night life, it is finally waking up. Trendy night clubs such as “Pepper” or “Republica” are here to be found. These typical LA style clubs include the whole package of a popular ritzy places with long lines, restrict face control and over the top interior design. If you don’t know the PR person don’t even try to get in, what can I say, if I would to be into sleazy pick mood and bad pop music I would be highly disappointed. Those spots are also perfect to mingle with some of the glamorous rich youth of Monterrey. Local “fresas” (Mexican nick for rich girls) can be noted carefully walking on their high heels with their perfectly done hair and make-up. Among other night attraction many wine bars and salsa clubs with life music can be found around the city. It might sound little weird but Monterrey known for its movie theaters, and for a good reason as those equipped with extra comfy fully reclining lazy boys and full food service such as you were sitting in your own living room.
During the hot season, on Sundays, the fashionable youngsters of the city are gathering in the center of San Pedro for a food trucks and outdoor movie hang out. Here you can try some of the best gourmet fast foods: Square turkey burgers, pork belly sandwiches, almost authentic Philadelphian cheese steak sandwich, and yummy potato fries in all shapes and colors.
If you feel like getting out of your comfort zone and to know a truly authentic experience, a short taxi ride from the bubble of San Pedro there is a colorful Market located in the heart of Monterrey city. Together with regular food stands there are enormous amounts of “Botanicas” – local herbal stores but the herbs here will not save you from losing your hair or make your food taste better, these are “mystical” herbs, for good luck, good fortune and love… buy the “ snake sperm incent” and your life will be happier.
Social economic segregation
Like in a lot of developing countries here in Mexico and especially in Monterrey there is huge gap between the rich and poor. This gap is noted in every aspect and it’s an organic part of a modern culture and life, almost like there were two different countries existing one next to each other with nothing in common but the language (and the love to tacos). This problem has also deep historical roots, going back the beginning of the AD, when the Mexican lands were ruled by the great tribes of “Maya” and “Aztec. Historically, the Spaniards that came here instilled themselves as a superior race while the local indigenes residence where left in the bottom of the cultural and social economical scale. In spite the amalgamation during the years, those differences continues to exist up till today .They exist to the point that some people here still live out of 5$ a day while others sustain an over the top life with annual country clubs fees of 100K a year…
Here in Monterrey the segregation is even more apparent, there is clear geographical separation (part of it due the crime rates in the bad parts of town). The poor here live up the mountain with no access of public transportation, while the rich enjoy there luxury life in skyscrapers and fancy houses, driving comfortably around the city with their extra shiny cars.
Northern Mexico generally has a bad reputation so if you are holding within 2012 version of the lonely planet, this area will be perhaps the least recommended to visit. However, for those who have the courage to deviate from the traditional touristic path, Monterrey might be just the place to be.