Though several previous attempts to found a city here failed, in 1596 12 families, led by Diego de Montemayor, settled where the Museo de Historia Mexicana now stands. It wasn’t until after Mexican independence, however, that the city began to prosper as its proximity to the US gave it advantages in trade and smuggling.
In 1900 the first heavy industry in Latin America, a vast iron and steel works (now the site of the Parque Fundidora) rose to dominate the cityscape. More mills followed, and Monterrey became known as the ‘Pittsburgh of Mexico.’ Though many of the smokestacks on the skyline are now idle, Monterrey still produces about 25% of Mexico’s raw steel. The city also turns out around 75% of the nation’s glass containers, 60% of its cement and half of its beer.
The city is famous for and fiercely proud of its entrepreneurial culture. Fortune magazine has rated it ‘the best Latin American city to do business, ’ and over 500 US and Canadian firms base their regional operations here. Economic success and distance from the national power center have given Monterrey’s citizens, called regiomontanos or regios, an independent point of view, and the city resents any ‘meddling’ in its affairs by the central government. Elsewhere in Mexico, people take umbrage at the city’s arrogance, and anyone perceived as codo (cheap) is presumed to be from Monterrey.
Monterrey also commands an excellent international reputation for education, with six significant universities, including the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of Latin America’s best.