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MONTERREY

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Through the storms and floods, epidemics and wars that ravaged the Country, Monterrey, the "Sultana del Norte", managed to stand against adversity and, thanks to the hard work of its people, the City kept its growth, until it became one of the foremost and major cities in Mexico, turning out to be a financial giant that today rules over the Northwest of Mexico.

A history of struggle and effort that started in the 16th century, when Don Luis de Carvajal -by then the mayor of Tampico- decided to give birth to a village in a deserted area. This attempt was rewarded with failure, and the place was indeed abandoned until 1596, when Diego de Montemayor founded the city of Nuestra Señora de Monterrey. By then, only twelve Spanish families were established in this young settlement.

The Capital City of the Nuevo Reino de Leon -such was the former name of the actual State of Nuevo Leon- was established in a valley in the Sierra Madre, framed by the mountains of La Mitra (2380 m.a.s.l.) and La Silla (1740 m.a.s.l.). Its founders followed the classical design of the colonial cities and raised its main buildings around the Main Square, presently called Macroplaza.

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During its first years of existence, it showed a slow rate of growth, and life in it was extremely tough. Its population -in the late 18th century- hardly exceeded 250 inhabitants. But it turned out to be that the uncouth nature of Monterrey was keeping a considerable wealth in store: natural gas. A resource that in due time would sustain the growth of the city over the forthcoming years, transforming into one of the most important industrial cities in the Country.

Although its present features make some people assert that it resembles a North American city -due to its industrial progression and to the many sprouting enterprises- Monterrey is also one of the most cultured and conservative cities in Mexico, and regardless of the great distance that separates it from Capital City of the Country (957 kilometres), its sons are proud wardens of their home Country.

Nowadays, Monterrey -the third City in importance in Mexico- produces more than 50 per cent of the total manufactures exported by the Country. This prosperity reflects upon its lively cultural activities and on the modernity of its new buildings, whose architectonical futuristic designs bring contrast and ostensibly enhance the aged grace of its colonial buildings.

A city of contrasts: antique and modern mingle at ease in here. Restless on its centre, its core, its marrow, its showy and attractive heart. The unique Megaplaza, containing a lighthouse tower of more than 70 metres height, lightening the city with its beams during the night. A Baroque styled Cathedral, built in the 17th century. The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Museum of Modern Arts, regarded as one of the best in the world of its kind.

A urbane heart that holds evidence of the centuries of past history in Monterrey, and that assembles, in its grounds, many different concepts and architectonical designs. This is a core in which old buildings still endure, as the Palacio de Gobierno, done in a neoclassical style which construction began in the late 19th century, presenting a façade made in pink quarry stone.

But Monterrey not only offers asphalt and cement to its visitors, but natural paradises, superb refuges of wildlife, with forests of pines and evergreen oaks and numbers of adventurous possibilities: trekking, climbing, rappel, mountain biking and horse riding, among other activities in the wilderness.

The strength of nature often reveals in plenty other ways. As in its canyons, like the Huasteca, which sheer cliff walls attract more daring climbers by the day. Or the caves of Garcìa, namely the largest caves in Mexico, a forest of stalactytes and stalagmites, on a point located 80 metres high, which can be overcome aboard an elevated cable tram.

Back in the city. Into its restless nights, swarming with nightclubs, restaurants and other nocturnal establishments, where diner becomes a real pleasure, an edible feast that relies upon meat, assuming the form of some superb dishes like cabrito asado, the fritada de borrego and the all Mexican flavoured tortillas de maiz, that are so well complemented with the traditional Gloria de linares, a desert based on goat's milk.

Monterrey can surely be regarded as a destination filled with uncounted attractions. Its modern face cannot be an excuse to dismiss it from your travelling schedule. On the contrary, it turns out to be a stage that will fully justify your choice, because its streets comprise both faces of Mexico. Its past, filled with history, and its present, boldly challenging the future.

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