Saturday, April 15, 2006
Viva Monterrey, Pt. II
Some of the information below was derived from Wikipedia.
While I was in Monterrey, I was regaled several times with stories of how Regios, as the citizens of Monterrey are called, are known for their thriftiness and industriousness. One story goes that the depression between the two distinctive peaks of the Cerro de la Silla were caused when a Regio dropped a penny and kept digging until he found it!
Monterrey was founded in 1596 by Diego de Montemayor, who settled the area with 12 Jewish families who had been converted to Catholicism so as to escape the Inquisition.
Monterrey also has a long tradition of entrepreneurship and independence. Many of Monterrey’s companies are not state-owned like those found in the rest of Mexico. This has helped to make Monterrey an economic powerhouse and given it the nickname “Sultan of the North.”
Monterrey is a major industrial center, second only to the nation's capital Mexico City. As a result of its strong steel industry, it is often called "the Pittsburgh of Mexico".
Monterrey´s industrialization process was accelerated in the late 19th century by the Compañia Fundidora de Fierro y Acero Monterrey. The Fundidora (“Foundry”) is today a large park, shopping and entertainment complex (see picture above).
Monterrey is also the home of powerful Mexican conglomerates, such as Cemex (world's second largest cement company), Bimbo (bakery), Maseca (food), Banorte. The FEMSA Corporation owns a large brewery, the Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma. This brewery is possibly the largest in Mexico; it produces the brands Sol, Tecate, Indio and several others.
“Bimbo” appears prominently on the jerseys of the Monterrey Rayados soccer team, making it a popular souvenir among Norteamericanos.
In the year 2000, the economic resources of Monterrey accounted for more than $31.3 billion. By the end of 2005, there were more than 13,000 manufacturing companies, 55,000 retail stores, and more than 52,000 service firms. Monterrey accounts for about 95 % of the State of Nuevo Leon's GDP, and 18% of Mexico's manufactured exports come from this city.
In 1999 Fortune magazine voted Monterrey as the best city in Latin America in which to do business. The magazine attributes its economic wealth in part to its proximity with the United States-Mexican border and mentions Monterrey as a significant city with economic links to the United States.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a boon to Monterrey’s economy. Monterrey has become the site of many maquiladoras. Maquiladoras temporarily import component parts from the U.S. or other countries and then export the product, either directly, or indirectly, by selling them to another maquiladora or exporter. The maquiladoras benefit U.S. firms by allowing them to become more competitive in world markets by combining American advanced technology with lower cost labor and benefit Mexico by alleviating unemployment and encouraging foreign investment.
On the road into Monterrey from Apodaca, I passed a HUGE Whirlpool plant. A quick Google search revealed that many of the front-loading washing machines sold in America are made there.
Monterrey was also voted city number 87 (scoring a 92), in terms of Quality of Living, by Mercer Human Resource Consulting on 2005, on their worldwide report. This makes Monterrey the top city in Latin America in terms of Quality of Life (which includes safety, income levels, purchasing power, education opportunities and health services).
I can personally attest to that. While waiting to go to dinner one night, I was dropped off at a large shopping mall called Galerias Monterrey. I was quite surprised. It was in every way the equivalent of a nice American shopping mall in terms of both goods and shoppers.
But Monterrey was a suprise to me at every turn. It is a true testimony to the triumph of free enterprise and globalization. If all of Mexico were like Monterrey, there would be no illegal immigration problem. But it isn't. More on immigration later.