His name was a legend. It was so famous that he didn't even have to mention it when visiting the town. Although he was known by his former neighbors as the Mexican, Brewer, or Millionaire, he arrived in the village unaware that the millionaires were there. His employees on the other shore of the Atlantic knew him as the boss, or as he prefered to be called, "the boss", since he retained his accent and Spanish, even though he had spent almost 70 years in Mexico. . Before crossing the pond, he was just Pablo, an orphan boy hailing from Vegaquemada, Leon, and then Fray Pablo for the four years he spent as a novice at the Dominican monastery San Juan Bautista de Corias, Asturias. He became Don Pablo, the wealthy Indian, in America. He was the same one who forever changed the fate of the global beer industry and, through favours, many of his family members and countrymen. He was the one who oversaw the establishment of Corona beer, the most popular Mexican beer, and was also the head of one of Mexico's largest business groups for the past four decades.
Pablo Diez Fernandez (1884-1972), who was born in Mexico, never forgot about his native Vegaquemada nor Leon nor the Virgen Del Camino. Legend says that he was a child who visited the sanctuary of the Leonese patron saint and made a promise that if he succeeds, he would make improvements to that small church when he grew. He finally fulfilled his promise in 1955 when he returned from Spain with a blank cheque book and was willing to pay for the construction a new basilica, a school, and a Dominican convent at La Virgen del Camino. In 1905, the friars of the order lent him the money to purchase the passage to America. They also helped him again when he needed a loan to finance his business ventures in Mexico City.
In a small bakery, he began his career as an accountant. Another Spaniard was also working in that Mexican industry at the time: the Navarrese Braulio Goyeneche (1860-1932), who owned 80 bakeries as well as two flour mills in Veracruz and the federal district. This potentate would become a mentor, then a partner in Pablo Diez's business ventures. Maria del Carmen Reyna, Jean-Paul Krammer, and Jean-Paul Krammer tell in the book "Notes for Mexico's beer history" (2012) that Iriarte met Diez in 1911 when Diez hired Leonese to manage one of his stores. Don Pablo met there along with Martin Oyamburu Arce and Miguel Oyamburu Arce. Together they started a business in 1913 related to baking: "Leviatan y Flor", the first country-wide compressed yeast factory.
Pablo Diez, Antonino Fernandez; an Image of Cerveceria Modello and a Photo of Pablo Diaz
It is no surprise that these entrepreneurs turned their attention to beer after so many cereals and yeast were involved. There were approximately forty Mexican breweries at the time. The drink was growing in popularity rapidly, but it required large capital to purchase specialized machinery and hire master brewers from overseas. BraulioIriarte becomes involved in the mess, and in March 1922 he founded Cerveceria Modelo S.A. with several wealthy Spanish emigrants of Cantabrian or Asturian heritage. The country's delicate political situation causes an economic crisis, which results in a decrease in capital and the departure of its first shareholders. Pablo Diez and Iriarte, his Navarrese compatriots, helped him finance his participation from the profits of the yeast factory. He was elected to the Modelo board in November 1922.
The partners were determined to brew the best Mexican beer and bought the equipment in Chicago. They also brought a Missouri master brewer who had brewed the first Corona and Modelo consignments in 1925. This second brand will bring them international fame. Corona Extra beer, which was known in Spain as Coronita until 2016, is now available in 180 countries. It is the third most well-known Mexican export after Cantinflas or the mariachis. Its popularity can be attributed to the boy from Vegaquemada, who became the new president in 1932 after BraulioIriarte's death. Don Pablo also bought Cerveceria del Pacifico and Compania Cervecera de Toluca to expand the company. Wolfgang Probst was hired by Don Pablo to manage the factory, improve product quality, and expand the range of beers they brewed. Grupo Modelo was the industry leader when the Mexico City plant produced 10,000 liters per day in 1931.
Don Pablo, like a good Indian returned to his homeland from time to time. In Bonar, Don Pablo would meet Rosario Guerrero in 1916. From the same spot, he would also bring his relatives and friends to Mexico. Nemesio Diez Rodriguez from Portilla de la Reina was one of them. Another Antonino Fernandez Rodrguez from Cerezales del Condado was the other. Nemesio was responsible for the sales department in Toluca and the distributor. Antonino, who was married to Cinia (a niece of Don Pablo), started as a warehouse worker in 1949 and worked his way up to become the general manager of D.F. plant. In 1971, he was elected Chairman of the Board of Directors. This position he held until 2005. He inherited the position from his patriarch and the charitable wish, which led to various initiatives, such as Soltra, a Leonese firm that supports the labor insertion for people with disabilities or Fundacion Cerezales Antonino y Cinia, which is dedicated to local development through culture.
Next time you get a Corona with a slice of lime inside, remember that this branding ceremony was created by a Leonese, a not so tropical mind.