It’s been a bit quiet ’round these parts this past week because I’ve been traveling in Monterrey and haven’t had much of a chance to write. Despite the week not being productive on the blog front, it was in fact awesomely productive on other fronts and the trip was well worth it.
You might recall that I was also in Mexico three weeks ago (I happened upon that awesome ball pit at Universidad Regiomontana, remember?); it was great to go back so soon and spend some quality time both exploring the city and engaging in challenging and rewarding design work. I spent Monday in meetings for the collaboration we’re setting up there (related to the whole desk-dweller-by-day thing) and then Tuesday and Wednesday I co-taught a workshop on human-centered design. And it was fantastic. My co-instructor has a wealth of great knowledge and experience, the participants were enthusiastic and engaged, and best of all they’re embedded in an innovative organization that I know will integrate the approaches and methods we taught them into their daily work. And that’s what makes this kind of engagement supremely satisfying.
On an entirely unrelated-to-work note, one of the special parts of this trip was the chance to explore the city, something I hardly ever get to do when traveling for work. In fact, in the four years I’ve been working in São Paulo, I’ve only ever explored at night, and let’s be honest, mostly only ever explored the inside of restaurants. The thing is, we usually fly in Monday morning and out again Friday evening. We’re in one conference room after another all week, and we just don’t get the opportunity to “pop out” and see the sights… Fast forward a couple of years and here I am, traveling to Monterrey for the second time. I was forced to leave Boston early to avoid the incoming blizzard and had an entire day to explore Monterrey. And my friends Neto and Ceci over at Heron Feuchter were kind enough to show me around and tell me all about what Monterrey has to offer.
It was an undeniably ashen grey day, with fog and a cold damp air seeping through the city and crawling into our bones. So we mostly drove around, exploring the downtown area, stopping in at the Museo de Historia Mexicana for an interesting exhibit on race and caste in Mexico, and wandering along the Paseo Santa Lucía, a riverwalk alongside an oddly-hued, man-made river right downtown.
From there we drove to La Huasteca, a series of limestone mountains and a local climbing area for what is reputed to be some of the best local elote (see here for a description of this delicious seasoned corn with cheese) but the line was too long so we ended up just admiring the beautifully eery, fog-smothered view instead. And then, not willing to give up on our elote, we passed through the tunnel connecting Monterrey to San Pedro, and stopped in the old town center of San Pedro for elote from a street-side cart and stood on the sidelines and watched the local tradition of the Sunday evening community dance, “el baile”, in front of city hall.
It was incredible to watch these (mostly older) couples dance endlessly and watch the (mostly older) community members come together in this way once for this weekly treat. I spent some time thinking about whether this sort of weekly community gathering — with music, food, families and good fun — could ever become a part of our community life in the city and decided that it probably wouldn’t take hold. But I couldn’t shake my interest in the concept. The thing is, we do have something a bit like it in our SOWA market, and I just can’t shake the feeling that if April through October we could have Sunday evening dancing, with live music and food trucks, a lot of great people would show up and it could be a wholesome and energizing community tradition. But I digress… It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday exploring and I was really able to get a feel for this gorgeous city that spreads out and out, reaching as far as the starkly beautiful mountain ranges that encircle it.
Over the course of the week I asked many of the people I encountered about their experience living in Monterrey and where they would live if they could live anywhere in the world. And you know what they said? They each said that given the chance to live anywhere, they’d still choose to live in Monterrey. I think that says something about a city, don’t you?