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According to its charter, Monterrey became the capital of the Mexican state of Nuevo León on September 20, 1596. Located 565 miles (930 km) north of Mexico City, this small, relatively insignificant outpost on a frontier only weakly held against hostile Indians and changed little during its first 250 years. In the twenty-first century, Monterrey is the dominant metropolitan center of northeastern Mexico and is characterized by a rapidly growing population and an expanding industrial economy. Its population of 3.5 million makes the city the third-largest in Mexico, and, excepting the industrial complex focused on Central Mexico and Mexico City, it has the highest concentration of manufacturing in the country. Monterrey has earned this distinction by taking advantage of some important factors. These include effective transportation links to other parts of Mexico, the proximity of metallic ores to support a century of industrial development, and an entrepreneurial spirit characteristic of the regiomontanos, as citizens of Monterrey are called. The regiomontanos are known for their commitment to hard work, self discipline, ambition, and frugality.

Situated in the dry basin of the Río Santa Catarina, the city lies at an altitude of 538 meters (1765 ft). Monterrey has a subtropical climate, with warm, wet summers and cool, dry winters. The city is ringed by mountains that give it a dramatic backdrop but also trap air, exacerbating the atmospheric pollution. In the mid-nineteenth century, and especially during the United States Civil War, Monterrey began a textile industry that traded to some degree with the Confederates. Real change to its economy began, however, when the railroad reached Monterrey in 1888, and the city soon became a hub for rail lines reaching out in all directions.

Monterrey's heavy industrial development began in 1890 when the Cervecería Cuauhtémoc opened and quickly grew into the largest and most important brewery in Mexico. Its success also provided the investment capital for such related industries as Vidriera de Monterrey in 1899. In 1903 Latin America's first iron and steel plant opened in Monterrey, and the industry was well-established by the 1920s. Other new businesses contributed to the city's rapid growth, and Monterrey's 1900 population of 50,000 had increased to nearly 80,000 by 1910. Monterrey now has a diversified economic base, and the city is a major financial, manufacturing, and transportation center for the country.

Another significant contribution to Monterrey's successful economy has been its business community, especially the Garza and Sada families, who have dominated the Monterrey economy since the early 1900s. Through intermarriage and strategic business decisions, these families built a powerful unified coalition—known as the Monterrey Group—that was involved in virtually every aspect of the city's commercial life. The regiomontanos have stringently opposed any socialist orientation or communist influence. In 1973 communist guerrillas assassinated the Monterrey Group's chief officer; fearing a communist victory in the resultant political struggle, area businessmen dissolved the Monterrey Group. Today, the Garza and Sada families continue to play significant roles in the commercial scene of Monterrey. Furthermore, along with northeastern and western Mexico, Monterrey is a stronghold of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), adherents ofwhich are often at great odds with policies of the central government in Mexico City.

See alsoNuevo León .


Cerutti, Mario. "Division capitalista de le produccion, industrias, y Mercado interior: Un studio regional: Monterrey (1890–1910)." In El Siglo XIX en México, edited by Doménico Síndico and Mario Cerutti. Mexico: Claves Latinoamericanas, 1985.

Riding, Alan. Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans. New York: Knopf, 1985.

Saragoza, Alex M. The Monterrey Elite and the Mexican State, 1880–1940. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1988.

Scott, Ian. Urban and Spatial Development in Mexico. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982.

                                John J. Winberry

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