Monterrey: More Than Business and Industry
Actually another world, as different from the central plateau as it possibly can be, Monterrey is considerably more than business and industry, though its well-earned fame does seem to center on steel, cement, paper, beer, glass and banking.
Settled in the 16th century - when Luis de Carvajal brought 100 Jewish families converted to Catholicism and spared by royal grant from the insidious Inquisition - community leaders not only took names that referred to birds or flight (Garza and Aguilar are good examples), but they also made instant provision for hospitals, universities, artisan guilds and administrative structure. Nothing has changed. It only got bigger. Except that with prosperity and a tradition for discipline coupled with good living, came two phenomena: strict values and a mind for culture. Thus we have the great museums of Monterrey today.
Outstanding is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO), a fine example of Mexican modern architecture in the Barragan tradition, by the celebrated Ricardo Legorreta. It was built on a downtown city block, right on the vast Macroplaza next to the Cathedral and surrounded by Colonial, Neo-Classic and Art-Deco buildings - a charming contrast in styles. The complex is introduced by an outsized bronze dove, the work of sculptor Juan Soriano. Not only a showcase for vanguard exhibits, many of the artists were discovered and promoted by Monterrey magnates. The setting is also the latest vogue for weddings and receptions, following the example set by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA) in New York.
Another remarkable architectural accomplishment is the ALFA Cultural Center, also known as "The Planetarium." Built around a striking elliptical cylinder and beautifully equipped with exhibit halls, the Planetarium houses science and technology displays, an auditorium, and gardens and fountains that are illuminated at night.
Museum of Monterrey
The Museum of Monterrey, on the other hand, probably the area's most complete institution of its kind, is set in a former brewery and offers contemporary as well as traditional art. It also includes exhibits of a more general nature: sports, history, transport.
The Glass Museum in the Vidriera de Monterrey is one of the great surprises, housed in the original headquarters of the old factory, which has since graduated to magnificent mirror-glass corporate headquarters. Displays include apothecary glass, stained glass, engraved glass, traditional glass (such as rare pulque pitchers), cut crystal and, in the attic, a panorama of art in glass, mostly abstract sculpture.
The City of Museums
Also dazzling is the Museum of the restored Government Palace, a Greek revival marvel in glowing pink-and-beige stone quarried from the surrounding hills. Also delightful is the Centenario Museum of Culture and History in the opulent suburb of Garza Garcia. No other city - not other world capital - boasts so many museums. Museum of the Automobile, the State Pinacotheque, Museum of History of the Bishopric, Fauna and Natural History, Technological Museum. Then there are the corporate and family collections. One of the most beguiling, however, the Berabe de las Casas Museum of Paleontology, Anthropology and History, is located in the nearby town of Mina ("mine") with its houses of vintage adobe, low-slung and close to earth.
Modern and Dramatic
This is the sunswept land, with voluptuous peaks thrust from the desert floor, of blue skies and the unexpected appearance of water in springs or flashfloods. Yet the desert, no longer devoid of flamboyant green, has become an oasis of startling modernity, with hotels, shopping centers, theaters, the dramatic Supreme Court, a new Shrine of Guadalupe. Even the parking lots are modern and dramatic.
Yet of all the above-mentioned, no institution is as well-loved and celebrated as the local culinary specialty, not only a dish but an occasion: for families, for revelry, for hospitality. Known as "cabrito," the tender meat of a young goat, no more than 28 days old and never having been fed except with its mother's milk, may be grilled, roasted or baked. This is definitely a land of meat and hearty appetites. New Zealand lamb or Scottish salmon are no novelty, but as any of the locals will tell you, there's nothing like a good slab of grilled beef "arrachera." "The truth is," continues our source, "people here delight in hopping on their private plane and heading for Paris for dinner. But they secretly carry 'chile piquin' in their overnight bag."
By Carol Miller
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