Hispanic Entrepreneurs Oral History Project
Summary of Interview
In this interview, Mario Montes, founder of Urban Associates, recounts his early years growing up in El Paso as the grandchild of Mexican refugees, his experiences as a young man in the United States Army, his education at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), and his recipe for business success. Born in 1931, Montes, along with his six siblings, were raised by his grandmother while both parents worked. In spite of the cattle-ranching wealth his grandparents enjoyed while residing in their home state of Chihuahua, in 1910 the Mexican Revolution forced them to flee across the border, leaving everything behind. Montes recall how his parents consequently stressed the importance of both hard work and a college education as a means toward upward mobility. Upon college, from Cathedral High School, Montes enrolled in engineering classes at Texas Western, but the onset of the Korean War in 1950 interrupted his studies when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After attending the Army’s military police school, Montes served for two and one-half years as an M.P. He recounts that his military experience worked to instill self-confidence as well as to perfect his English. Upon his return to El Paso, Montes completed his education, graduating in 1956 with an engineering degree. His many years of working for R.E. McKee Contracting, initially as an estimator and fuel engineer and finally as a project manager, taught him the ins and outs of the business, aiding him and his two business partners when they founded Urban Associates in 1971. In 1990, Montes became sole proprietor of his firm after buying out his partners. Montes continue by sharing his personal business rules and his definition of success. Concluding the interview, he discusses the changes he has seen in El Paso throughout the years, as well as sharing his thoughts on the city’s commercial opportunities.
Date of Interview
Length of Interview
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Interview with Mario Montes by Homero Galicia, 2009, "Interview no. 1525," Institute of Oral History, University of Texas at El Paso.