Mucho Monterrey

I wanted to get from Las Vegas to Acapulco. There is a direct flight from Las Vegas to Monterrey. There are also direct flights from Monterrey to Acapulco (on Viva Aerobus, Aviacsa and semi-defunct but still operating, Magnicharters), so I thought, why not go check out Monterrey.

Monterrey has to be one of the least known big cities in North America. I hadn’t even heard of it until about a year ago when I kept noticing that many of the airlines I was looking at for flights flew to Monterrey. After doing a few quick google searches I kept seeing BEAUTIFUL pictures of the city and the surrounding mountains, which appeared to be right on top of the city itself.

Next I wikipedia’ed it and it very quickly became apparent that this was a culturally significant, modern and cool city. Other factoids that grabbed my interest were stats stating that Monterrey was the “safest� city in all of Latin America. Which is saying a lot, as you could drop your wallet in cities like Santiago, Santo Domingo or Managua and virtually be assured that a few minutes later someone would be running along behind you, “Senor! Senor su moneda!�

I take most statistics to be circumspect and I assume all government statistics to be guilty of falsity until proven innocent, especially in the area of ‘crime statistics’, seeing as how the government is the biggest criminal enterprise in every jurisdiction. Nonetheless, I found that stat to be interesting.

So, I always kept Monterrey in mind as a potential stop over en route one way or another and got my chance last week in Las Vegas.

I’ve been here a week already (man time is flying, is it just me??) and Monterrey has not disappointed. The city is really beautiful. Just do a Google Image search for Monterrey and you’ll see a multitude of beautiful shots, from the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains which frame the city to the architecture, statues and parks within the city itself.

There is sort of a main hotel area where most of the hotels are in the centro. The hotels all are within walking distance of the main walking/shopping street, which is nice. The walking street is similar to those in most cities, including Santa Monica and Sydney, Australia… only difference is, of course, much less mentally insane and street people here in Monterrey than in socialist countries such as those.

There is an ‘old city’ part of town, known as Barrio Antiguo, which is within walking distance from centro. This is a really cool part of town. It is full of restaurants, pubs, bars, discos and tatuajes (tattoo) shops. This area is similar to the old town in places like Montevideo, but I give Monterrey extra marks for just being cool. Mexicans, in general, usually have such a great style, but it is even more so in Monterrey. Everyone was so damn cool there I almost felt like I didn’t belong! From the usual Mexican rich kids to the plethora of funky, stylish, engaged college students (Monterrey has numerous schools and is generally known as a college town). The Mexican rich kids seem to like a disco called Uma, in Barrio Antiguo. The school kids can be found at places such as Coco Loco and Zocalo.

Being so close to the Texas border, Monterrey is, by far, the most Americanized Mexican city I’ve been to. This has its positives and negatives. On the positives, a lot of people here actually speak some English, which is NEVER the case anywhere else in Mexico, so for those whose Spanish is less than fluent, it is a nice benefit. Negatively, the city is laid out a lot like an American city. Meaning, having a car is almost a necessity to get around. There are lots of taxis though, so that is not a problem. But the town is very car centric, from the hotel check-in asking me if I needed a parking space to the multitude of parking lots around the city.

This is a working and school town. Monterrey isn’t thought of as a tourist town, but I’d definitely consider it a great town to visit for a weekend if not longer.

The people, in general, are very nice and friendly… which is normal for Mexico. The taxi driver, on my way to the airport, was a good snapshot of the style here.

Taxi Driver (TD): Where you from?
Me: Canada
TD: Frio
Me: Si
TD: Monterrey is beautiful
Me: Si
TD: Everyone nice
Me: Si
TD: Chicas bonitas
Me: Si
TD: Legs
Me: Si
TD: Ass
Me: Si, bueno

That is just the normal type of conversation and the normal way of talking in these parts where not much matters other than women, tacos and tequila.

Monterrey weather is a bit different than I am used to from all the coastal areas I normally inhabit. Monterrey actually has seasons. The winters can actually get below freezing, quite regularly, in the evenings while the summers are extremely hot. It was 42c today! I looked at the weather and prepared myself mentally before going outside but after 20 minutes of walking around I realized I had barely broken a sweat. I briefly started to panic. My sweat glands are broken! They are broken! But then I realized, it’s a dry heat here… again something I’m not used to on all my coastal adventures. In places like Acapulco I would have had to stop and buy a new shirt after twenty minutes of walking about in the hot sun. But in Monterrey it was actually quite comfortable.

Another thing Monterrey has reinforced for me is the size of Mexico. A lot of northern Norte Americanos just kinda look at Mexico as a small country at the bottom of the continent. I’ll tell you, after having spent nearly a year just trying to sail all the way down the incredibly long west coast and having now visited dozens of Mexican cities, all with their own cultures, styles and unique geographical locations, this country is HUGE. It is huge and incredibly diverse.

If you’ve been to, say, Cancun, and figure you’ve “seenâ€? Mexico, give your head a shake. First, the Cancun that most people see (the tourist zone) isn’t even really Mexico. I call it Florida del sur. It’s basically just a place where American college kids can go so they can feel like they have traveled the world, while they eat at McDonalds, stay at the Holiday Inn and, gasp, drink a Corona, what a crazy, exotic adventure! And secondly, as I just said, this country is geographically, economically and culturally huge and diverse.

In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve spent well over a year travelling around Mexico now and there is still a half dozen places I can think of, off the top of my head, that I haven’t been to yet but am very interested in checking out. Including Veracruz, Puebla and Guadalajara. Mainly because I have met fantastic girls who said they were from those places. I’ve also heard Guadalajara is really beautiful and unique.

Well, hopefully in the next few days I’ll get possession of my new condo and continue on my semi-residency in Mexico and can easily hop a $50, one hour flight to any of those places to check them out.

On a side note, however, I personally believe Mexico, the country, will likely dissolve in the next five years. Why? The great majority of the money in this country is derived from oil production. Oil production that has been declining at shocking rates. The Cantarell oil field, long thought of as one of the world’s biggest producers has gone from full production to almost negligible production in a matter of months! In a few more years it’ll likely be completely dry.

There are so many geopolitical variables involved that it is impossible to guess the future. Will Mexico start to collapse, and then the US will try to take it over? Or will it collapse and a new, free state be born? Anything is possible.

So, knowing that the country could go through a major upheaval, you ask, why would you buy a place there now? Are you kidding, the best thing that could happen to any country is to have its government dissolve! I was driving to Burma once in Western Thailand when I heard a coup broke out in Bangkok… I couldn’t have driven back any faster! Going to shoot all the politicos and bureaucrats? Not without me you’re not!

I have no doubt that if the nation-state of Mexico collapses there will be a few interesting days/weeks/months as the natural order of things coalesces after years of corrupt bureaucracy. No problemo. As long as I can keep my satellite TV and internet connection running, and someone is still making tacos al pastor in the neighborhood, I’m good.

As a super side note, I expect similar things for many of the nation states on the planet over the coming months and years as banks collapse, currencies collapse (first and foremost the USD, of course) and famine and energy crisis’ (who predicted all this, btw? points at self, smugly) roll through the planet. If you haven’t bought gold, silver and some agriculture and energy stocks, yet, I don’t know what else I can tell ya. Time is running out.

In the meantime I just arrived back to a place that is beginning to feel like “a home� (I could never just have one), Acapulco, every time I return. My Mexican love affair continues…

Now hopefully at some point they finally finish my closing documents. They told me initially it would be 2 weeks… 3 weeks max. Well, it’s been 3.5 weeks so far and still nothing. But, as Siu Yin told me, “It’s hot and mucky down there. And they sleep all afternoon, what do you expect?”.

Right, as usual, she is!