Mexico’s Presidential Estate Opens Its Doors, With Access And Symbolism For All

By Jorge Valencia
Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 9:01am
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018 - 7:33pm

Audio icon Download mp3 (7.07 MB)

Jose Candido Flores
Jorge Valencia/KJZZ
Jose Candido Flores (center) directs the student group Banda Sonemos of the state of Morelos as they perform in the presidential estate in Mexico City. The estate, known as Los Pinos, or "The Pines" in Spanish, opened to the public on Dec. 1, 2018.

MEXICO CITY — Youth ensembles and fiddle and guitar players performed to crowds in Mexico’s grassy and leafy presidential estate this month, an unusual scene in what had been the home to heads of state since 1934.

Los Pinos, or "The Pines" in Spanish, opened to the public when new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was inaugurated on Dec. 1, a symbolic gesture that has resonated with many. An estimated more than 200,000 people visited during its first month open, according a Culture Ministry spokesman.

Eva Villarreal, a Mexico City native, visited Los Pinos the day of inauguration day and saw the bedrooms and offices of former presidents, their former cars and a golden eagle, which is depicted on the country’s coat of arms. Los Pinos spreads over 150 acres and has 13 buildings.

RELATED: Future Of Mexico’s Energy Reforms Uncertain Under New President

"I feel happy, moved, with hope,” Villarreal said. “It’s a moment to celebrate.”

López Obrador made a show of many symbolic gestures in the 12 years he ran for president and in his first weeks in office, said said Carlos Illades, a historian at the Metropolitan Autonomous University in Mexico. He campaigned on an agenda of austerity and zero tolerance for corruption, promised to live in more modest quarters than his predecessors, got rid of his protective service and put the presidential plane up for sale.

Music teachers performing
Jorge Valencia/KJZZ
Los Marineros, a group of music teachers from the town of Tepalcatepec in the state of Michoacan, perform Son Planeco in the presidential estate in Mexico City.

Before his first public address as president, López Obrador received a cleansing ritual from members of indigenous communities. One priest burned leaves in a stone goblet and brushed the president with a handful of herbs, while another handed him a cane and said the country was placing trust in him. Lopez Obrador knelt before the priests and the crowd looking on.

“These type of gestures have resonance,” Illades said. “In terms of popularity, they pay great dividends.”

Indeed: López Obrador’s party, Morena, swept in congressional and local elections this year. And by mid-December, López Obrador’s popularity at 66 percent, according to one poll, compared to former President Enrique Peña Nieto, who exited at a popularity of 16 percent.  

"Of course, it's a honeymoon, and a sort of patriotic moment," said Amy Glover, a Mexico City-based political analyst and a U.S.-Mexico dual citizen. “He has complete control of the congress. Perhaps he has too much control.”

Fernando Gonzalez Perez, a Mexico City native and retired shoe salesman, visited the presidential estate on opening day, and watched a student orchestra perform "Danzón No. 2," a popular Mexican composition. He had long wanted to visit Los Pinos and said he wanted to return to look around more carefully, he said.

“It’s like visiting a city in Europe,” Gonzalez Perez said. “It’s too much to explore in one day.”

Welcome sign
Jorge Valencia/KJZZ
"Welcome, people of Mexico, to Los Pinos," reads a sign near an entrance to Mexico's presidential estate.

If you like this story, Donate Now!