San Pedro Garza García: The Early Days

Los Tubos Monument

Los Tubos Monument

La Rotonda

La Rotonda

Cruise the commercial avenues of San Pedro Garza García, the most affluent of the suburbs that ring Monterrey, Mexico, and you’ll see plenty of names familiar to Americans: Starbucks, Applebees, Home Depot, Walmart, Costco, HEB (the Texas grocery chain with over 150 U.S. stores) along with plenty of American fast-food franchises. Often called San Pedro or Garza García for short, the suburb has been synonymous with success from the beginning. While its 1940’s genesis was the result of collaboration between a group of influential regiomontanos (residents of Monterrey), the individual most responsible was Alberto Santos González who first envisioned a small garden city in the valley southwest of Monterrey. Today, seventy years after the first homes were built in Colonia del Valle (Neighborhood in the Valley), over 125,000 sampetrinos (residents of San Pedro Garza García) call the valley home. Urban development sprawls in all directions, including into the air where skyscrapers tower thirty floors or more.

Gamesa Logotype 1925

Gamesa Logotype 1925

Over the last century and a half, Monterrey has transformed itself into the industrial powerhouse of Mexico, thanks in part to entrepreneurs like the Santos González brothers. In 1919, Manuel, Ignacio and 18-year-old Alberto started a flour business. Six years later, they moved into cookies, crackers and pasta. Today, Gamesa, a PepsiCo subsidiary, is the number one producer of cookies and pasta in Mexico. When 71-year-old Alberto Santos Hoyos, son of the founder, died of a heart attack last February, he was president of Santos Enterprises and a life-long sampetrino.   

According to Juan Ignacio Barragán in San Pedro Garza García: Génesis de un Municipio de Vanguardia, Alberto Santos González first began to envision Colonia del Valle one day in the 1930’s while riding a Mexico City-bound train through the valley of farms and imposing views southwest of Monterrey. The earliest farm had been the Hacienda San Pedro. In 1882, the small town of Garza García was incorporated. Don Alberto visited River Oaks in Houston and Highland park in Dallas, communities similar to his vision. He rallied other business owners of the day, and by 1943 they shared a vision and a plan. Two years later, it consisted of sixteen fashionable homes on spacious lots in the style of American suburbs. Nowadays, the municipality is a conglomeration of colonias that extend for miles around the original Colonia del Valle.  

Early Colonia del Valle home

Early Colonia del Valle home

When my parents-in-law, moved their growing brood to Colonia del Valle in 1961, they had a clear view of the huge Rotonda a block and a half away. Today, the immediate area is almost entirely commercial. The house was long ago remodeled into an upscale hair salon. The former front and back yards provide paved parking.  Across the street, the three original homes were razed and replaced by a multi-storied hotel.

A stone’s-throw away and still at the center of it all, is the Rotonda alternately known as Paseo de los Duendes (Walkway of the Elves) which the founders platted as the heart of their garden community. There, below towering shade trees, the two largest boulevards, Calzada San Pedro and Calzada del Valle, intersect and twelve lanes of traffic merge in a circular pattern with plenty of horn honking and breath-taking near fender benders. Above the vehicle traffic, joggers and walkers cross on pedestrian bridges that connect the walking trails which run the length of the wide, medians on both calzadas. There has been one change which would likely please the Don Alberto. Some years ago, the latter avenue was officially renamed Calzada del Valle Alberto Santos

Next week: San Pedro today.

 

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