Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, April 10, 2006

Viva Monterrey, Part I

I know I promised some stories from my trip to Monterrey, Mexico, but I got sidetracked with last week’s barking moonbat migration. Here’s the first part.

Some of the following information was derived from Wikipedia.

Flying into the airport, my first impression of Monterrey, located in the rugged Sierre Madre Mountains, was that the terrain reminded me a lot of Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Downtown Monterrey is dominated by the dramatic Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Hill), the twin peaks of which do resemble a saddle or even horns.

Driving to my hotel, this impression was reinforced. I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott. Next door was the Hampton Inn and the Fairfield Inn. Up the block there was a 7-11, a Subway, and a Carl’s Jr.

In almost every way, Monterrey is a city that would not look out of place in the U.S. It was nothing at all like my only other visit to Mexico, the rundown tourist trap of Nogales. I think most Americans would be surprised by Monterrey, as it doesn’t fit with many of our preconceptions of what Mexican cities are like. Monterrey is VERY Americanized (Texas is not very far away) and proud of it.

Citizens of Monterrey always seem very anxious to know your opinion of what they consider to be the most advanced city in Mexico. More about this in a future post.

Monterrey is also very big. The urban area has over 3 million people, making it Mexico’s third largest city. However, it doesn’t have a big city feel at all. My Monterrey co-workers were incredibly helpful and friendly. The atmosphere at work was close-knit like a family. When we went out to dinner after work, they would always acknowledge my presence and pepper me with questions about Pullman and my family.

In terms of health, Monterrey does have some smog but is otherwise a very clean city. I never had any problems with “Montezuma’s Revenge” that some Americans experience in Mexico.

Mexico that has a below average crime rate and it is considered the most secure area in the country. I can attest to that. I was in the heart of downtown Monterrey at 11 PM and felt totally safe. In fact, I never felt in danger the whole time I was there (except maybe when riding down the road).

The freeways and transportation infrastructure are modern and traffic isn’t bad, but side streets can be pretty narrow and parking seems like a challenge in some places. There are a LOT of cars in Monterrey (over a million), and I’m convinced half of them are old-style VW Bugs.

One thing that is a bit different in Monterrey is that speed limits, lane striping, and stop signs seem to be totally optional and advisory in nature. Driving on the freeway seemed a bit like the Indy 500.

The city is also home to most prestigious private university in Mexico, the Monterrey Institute of Technology, AKA “The Tec”, The Tec is one of the leading business and engineering schools in Latin America. They even play American-style football there. At dinner one night, we decided the English translation of the team name was “Rams.”

All these attractive qualities about Monterrey have not escaped the notice of American businesses. In my next post about Monterrey, I’ll discuss the triumph of free trade.

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