If you can remember, and it is a struggle for me, and I was there, We had left the costal town of Tampico and had made our way to Monterrey in Nueva Leon. There is a Monterrey in Texas and while sometimes it is hard to tell you are still in Mexico (all the super sized flags had been taken down because of the Hurricane) and the city is one of the most americanised in all of Mexico we were infact still in the most sothern country in North America.
The mexican version of Monterrey is hot, very hot. It was a very cool summer so the thermerstats only just touched 40 at the hottest part of the day. I feel if the cradle of mankind had been Nueva Leon I think we may have invented the electric hand-held fan before the wheel. I was spending my last 11 days in Lau's house in the trendy suberb of Monterrey called San Pedro Garza Garcia or San Pedro or Garza Garcia, or any combination of those 4 words, for short. Monterrey is set in (translation) the Vally of the Seat so called because one of the peaks looks like a seat, which it does, once you learn that the spanish for seat and saddle are the same word. In this case they clearly meant saddle because if it did look like a seat, in the english sence of the word, then it wasn't a seat I would want to sit on. San Pedro was set in one of the tree covered mountain sides in the shadows of the vally of the M, so named because it looks like an M, though I thought it looked like a W. Here Spanish does have a difference between M and W so this is just a question of point of view, though there is no difference between B and V sounds. With all these points of confusion it is no wonder they kicked the spanish out.
Inspite of these issues San Pedro is simply a beautiful place. The houses on high, surrounded by trees look like the homes of Bond Super villans and the view from the balcony of Lau's own home made would have been a far better present to a Dictator with delusions of grandure than the Eagles Nest. In the early years of colonialisation Monterrey, because of the distances if nothing else, was cut off from the south and thus had to develope itself at its own speed. Looking at it now it seems that speed may have been faster but it didn't come easy. It required nothing less than hard work and dedication. Monterrey was a town of fire and industry, the old steel mill still dominates the sky line. The wealth Monterrey enjoys now was bourn out of hard work and physical labour of the past and is warn on the faces and in the caracter of it's people today.
Lau's father was one of those people. He had worked hard and was now enjoying the fruits of his labour in retirement. He had on display one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Everyone has a DVD collection, some have a collection numbering around 1000 DVD's but how many people numbered their DVD's and listed them in document form? All men wish they had the time and the willpower to complete such a task. You almost certainly need more of the latter than the former to do it but Lau's father had both, Nearer to the gods no mortal may approach.
Monterrey is a town of pragmatism with little given away to tourists. It's recreational activities are there for the people who live there to do and enjoy. The old steel mill has been turned into a museum which we saw and is a popular stop for many, glorifying the forfathers of the city. There is a beaufitul plaza for the locals to enjoy and walk around, which was very pleasent, inspite of the soaring temperatures.
Monterrey has many natural beauties as well. One which we visited was a series of caves dug deep into the mountain. Earth processes take a long time, and what they from can be simply mindbollging!!! Some rock formations inculded the faces of mice, entire coke bottles, seals, toombs, pipe organs and the enevitable face of Jesus. There were many other nautral wonders around but most of them were closed because of Hurricane Alex which had blown through about a month before I arrived in Mexico. While much had been destroyed or blown away but the hurricanes power the city was recovering with impressive speed, I think inkeeping with the caracter of the place and of it's people. When I looked at the town I thought of a heavy weight champ, priviously unblemished by the blows of his opponents that is knocked to the canvas by a savage and chance attack and then rises to his feet still as pristine as before. There is a certain grit about monterrey which will not allow it to be defeated even by the elements.
I was treated to many local customsand treditions whilst I was in Monterrey: Such as a luchtime BBQ which finished at about the same time we would start eating dinner in England. A mexican birthday which envolves the breaking of a Pinyata as well as cake, songs and candels. And a live viewing of Pinewood studio's perenial classic Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. It is to the credit of the artists behind the movie and to the good tast of Mexican people everywhere that this, almost forgotten, piece of British cinema is a landmark family tradition throughout the land, at least I think it is. It certainly was close to the hearts of every memeber of the Lozano family, and that seems to account for over half the population of Mexico.
Alas, from here on, there is no more to follow. My voyage in, around and through Mexico has already come to an end. Mexico is a far to complex place to sum up. All I will say is the Mexico you so often hear about in the news or that forms the 'but' of so many zenaphobic American jokes is not the country I saw. What it is known for, or may be known for, by people who haven't been there isn't how I known it. I will remeber the hospitality I recieved everywhere I went, the sunning natural and human contrasts, Lucha Libre and a strong sence of national herratage and a culture that the people are striving to protect.
While I did have a sence that the country is closing in on a more and more uncertain path, with difficult battles ahead, these are all battles that the good people of Mexico have within them to win, as what they are fighting for is far stronger than what they are fighting against. Any country that as you leave you whish that is where you were travelling to, must be a mighty fine place.
Over and out, many thanks,
Chris. (James rocks!)