History of Monterrey

Mother Earth Travel > Mexico > Monterrey > History

It being one of the oldest cities in the country, Monterrey has a rich historical background which shows the strength and sheer determination of its inhabitants. The people of Nuevo León, determined to make something of the hard and rough soil of the country, have managed to turn this region into one of the most prosperous in the country, both economically and culturally.

Although, as far as we know, no pre-Hispanic people settled permanently in this land, we do know for a fact that nomad chichimeca tribes settled temporarily in every corner of these lands and left many interesting cave paintings and petroglyphs we now have the chance to visit in places such as Cañón de la Huasteca and Mina.

Although, from 1530, several Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors interested in the mineral resources of the region made various attempts to establish a city there, it was not until 1596, when Don Diego de Montemayor arrived with twelve families and settled in the valley, that the Ciudad Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey was founded. Some of the houses dating back to the beginnings of the city can still be visited today in the area known as the Barrio Antiguo.

The place chosen for the settlement was the natural fountain "Ojo de Santa Lucía, which provided the new town with clean water. Today this place has been turned into a tourist attraction that celebrates with a symbolic river, the water discovered in a dry land and with the Plaza de los 400 años, the historical tradition of the city.

The region was part of the Nuevo Reino de León. Due to it quicky development, the Pope Pío VI ordered in 1777, the Obispado de Linares setting. The bishop Fray Rafael José Verger who prefered to remain in Monterrey city, planned to buit a summer house in Loma de Vera, which is what is now known as the Palacio del Obispado.

However, the evangelisation had started a long time before and by that time, there were already many temples and churches in the area. The construction of the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey was officially started in 1770, but would not be finished for another sixty years, in 1833. In the meantime, the temple of the convent of San Francisco served its purpose. Other churches from the period are the Capilla de los Dulces Nombres and the Templo del Sagrado Corazón, both of them in what is now the city centre of Monterrey.

In spite of its distance from the centre of the country, Monterrey played an important role in different periods of Mexican history. José Herrera, leader of the independence movement, was the first great historical figure of the city, and contributed to the birth of the Free and Sovereign State of Nueva León, as part of the Mexican Republic in 1824.

The North American and French invasions caused turmoil in the country. Nevertheless, the naming of general Bernardo Reyes as provisional governor, transformed the region. His firm ideas and strict discipline and created an authoritarian regime that lead to the stability required to establish the grounds for the industrialisation and economic development of Monterrey.

It was in these times of prosperity that the Palacio de Gobierno, now to the North of what is known as the Macroplaza, was built. Another interesting construction from the period is the stand in the Plaza Zaragoza, with its bronze sculptures commemorating the four seasons, as well as the first banks in the city.

1910 brought battles all over the country. The revolution was at its peak and Monterrey was no exception. On the 24th of April, 1914, the rebel troupes took the city and overthrew the federal forces. A short time after, Francisco Villa, 'el Centauro del Norte' would arrive.

Trade and industry have been the most important factors of the city's modern history, as of Mexican modern history. Two of the oldest factories are the Cervecería Cuauhtémoc (Cuauhtémoc Brewery) and the Compañía Fundidora de Fierro y Acero de Monterrey (the foundry). Founded towards the end of the 18th century, both of them are very much part of the city's tradition and play an important role in the cultural life of its inhabitants.

The former is now the Museo de Monterrey and the Salón de la Fama; where the latter used to be, there is now the Parque Fundidora, with an important congress centre (Cintermex), an amusement park (Plaza Sésamo), a technology museum and a show centre (Auditorio Coca Cola).

Monterrey is famous for its educational institutions. The concern regarding a decent education goes back as far as 1870, with the opening of the first Escuela Normal. Eventually several universities were established in the area. The Universidad de Nuevo León opened in 1933; the ITESM in 1943; and finally the Universidad Regiomontana and the Universidad de Monterrey both opened in 1969.