Fatima Bejarano & Hernan Alejandro Perez Mora
Monterrey, México, from Fatima Bejarano and Hernan Alejandro Perez Mora
As a child, Fatima Bejarano moved around northern México a lot due to her parents’ jobs, but as an adult she came to call Monterrey home. Hernan Alejandro Perez Mora was born and raised in Monterrey. Through a shared love for coffee and dedication to their community, Fatima and Hernan have become good friends, collaborators, and advocates for the beauty of their city—one of the largest and most diverse in all of México. We travel through Monterrey with Fatima’s words and Hernan’s photographs to the places that mean the most to them.
*All photos are Hernan’s, with permission from anyone who is pictured.
Cerro de la Silla
The first place to start on a tour of the city. We live in one of the biggest and busiest states of México. The Cerro de la Silla (roughly translated: “saddle mountain”) is the unmistakable icon of this northern city. Actually, Monterrey is not just one city, but a northern conurbation of several cities where regiomontanos, the name for people from Monterrey (regio for short), live and work.
View of Constitución and Morones Prieto Buildings (Santa Catarina River)
This city is always busy.
But we can find the time to stare for a little bit. La ciudad de las montañas—“the city of the mountains”—would be better called “the city between them.” I was born in the neighboring state of Coahuila, a much smaller and less urbanized area both then and now. Every weekend or so, my parents used to bring us to the city, usually to the shopping malls, bless them. There weren’t as many skyscrapers as there are now, but even then, when driving along the Santa Catarina River, you could feel how busy this place was.
La Estanzuela Natural Park Springs
Just keep it flowing.
Our city is full of contrasts, especially when it comes to the weather: It’s usually always either too hot or too cold. Here, winter is harsh and summer can be downright cruel, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius and up. The natural springs here are less than an hour’s drive from downtown and sadly are about to become a rare sight. Growing droughts due to heavy local contamination and global warming phenomena threaten to dry up our natural resources. The world is changing, and we sure aren’t helping much either.
Building & Light Wires
Just keep growing.
They keep building upwards, though we still don’t know if we will be able to supply the basic needs to everyone in our city. But don’t mind that. Don’t put that on the sales brochure.
This contamination is of a different kind: visual. Sadly, we are used to it in Monterrey.
This is such a gorgeous building—steel and glass, a beautiful combo. This shot was taken from the café where Hernan works, which is one of my favorite spots to write and think. An often shared space. We just recently discovered this shared view.
You need it, OXXO sells it.
Work must be done to achieve goals, and we all are ambitious, a nonconformist bunch of people: workaholics, hereditary multitaskers, natural traders… OXXO’s business strategy is easy as 1,2, 3: Find a need. Then find the solution. Brand it, pack it, sell it. Do it over again. The chain of convenience stores has everything you need, plus a lot of things you don’t need.
The OXXO stores are everywhere in México; in some places there are two on the same street. They offer a variety of goods and services: beer, coffee, toys, bank transactions, pay services, park and concert ticket sales, e-market transactions, and now even tacos and burritos from scratch. Everything is somewhat crammed in the small shop, like it’s the most natural thing to see.
Car in Barrio Antiguo Street
Mexican folk is all the rage. All the people meet on the weekends at the open market of Monterrey’s historic quarter, Barrio Antiguo, with its vintage cars and colorful facades. We are a culture that’s very much influenced by the United States, but make no mistake—we love and are proud of being Mexican, and we show our style and colors like only we know how to do.
Barrio Antiguo used to be the center of nightlife. However, the music and parties dimmed long before the COVID-19 pandemic due to gang violence. A few years later, life bloomed again. Now it’s thriving with colors, and the economy of these streets is again activated. Full of bazaars, restaurants, cafés, and museums, Barrio Antiguo is the place to be.
McDonald’s, Lovin’ It
For all the wrong reasons.
This corner sits on one of the busiest avenues of Monterrey. It is, I think, one of the most photographed sites for people of my generation and younger.
When I was a child, McDonald’s was, for me, the promise of nuggets and maybe even a toy. For my parents, it was a moment of peace. These iconic arches would wake up any kid from the deepest afternoon car-ride slumber, and the aesthetics of the building itself are different from the rest of our city. The restaurant also provides an important reference point: “Meet me at McDonald’s of Pino Suarez—the big one.” Chances are, the person you’re meeting won’t know the name of the street but will know which building you mean.
“Mi Barrio Me Respalda”
Santiago is a barber and a friend of Hernan. Both of them were born and raised in Monterrey.
The attitude in this photo, as Santiago poses on his bike in the middle of the street, exemplifies the strength of this neighborhood. Mi barrio me respalda is a phrase that means “my street holds my reputation.” In a sense, “my community has my back.”
The fierce exterior that Santiago projects mirrors how fiercely loyal we can be to one another as a community in Monterrey. As individuals, we are raised to survive, so being part of a team is not only a necessity for the regio—the bond is stronger than that. Being regio gives us a sense of security, safety, and belonging that few will understand.
San Jose at the Museum
Religion plays a very important role in our story.
La Ciudad Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey was founded in 1596. Yep. That’s our full name. The Metropolitan City of Our Lady of Monterrey.
Catholicism is still the main religion not only of Monterrey, but of all of México. Spaniards traded our ancient gods for a new one, an almighty one, with new codes and taxes. Virgins and saints soon were adopted by Mexicans, who in turn demonstrated their newfound devotion with elaborate, rich, intricate handmade ornaments that many of our churches have on display. The symmetry and emotion of the saints’ faces always mesmerizes us.
Among many crises in the world today, religion faces its own, for many reasons—uncomfortable ones. Religion, politics, and football should be avoided in a conversation, if possible. Well, that’s what our elders used to say. The younger generations tend to differ.
Alfonso Reyes, “La Risca.”
A famously dangerous neighborhood in the city is Barrio Bravo. Stereotypes are hard to change. Still you hear, “Are you crazy? Don’t ever go there!” We seem to know what these streets hold, and we avoid passing through alone or during certain times of the day. But it’s said that crime now doesn’t know about postal codes. Yet we still feel a certain amount of danger ever-present on some streets.
These streets are home, too. And somehow walking through them feels less lonely than walking among the tallest and newest buildings in the commercial zone of Monterrey. How things change.
A view of the Santa Lucia Riverwalk.
One of the biggest city tourist attractions. Running more than 2.5 kilometers, it is the longest artificial river in all of Latin America and one of the 13 man-made wonders of our country.
It connects our main plaza (downtown) with Fundidora Park (another important landmark), and you can walk on it or travel on one of the guided boats. It’s full of beautiful landscapes, and more often than not you can find open art exhibitions and/or cultural festivals along its course.
This monumental flag is located at the Obispado viewpoint. The very first building in Monterrey, and one of the oldest in México, no less, is a palace. The baroque Bishop’s Palace, built in 1787, has been a museum since 1956.
It now holds an important archeological and historical collection, but the sad reality is that the museum is often overlooked. Visitors and locals usually go straight to the flag corridor, which undoubtedly has the very best views of Monterrey. Pro tip: After sunset, the city lights up and gives one-of-a-kind, spectacular sights. Go then to see our city as few have witnessed.