Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

Mexico's president turned the presidential manor into a museum

People line up to enter the Los Pinos Presidential Residence, turned into a museum by order of the new President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in Mexico City on December 1, 2018. REUTERS / Alexandre Meneghini (Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters)

MEXICO – Until Friday, the sprawling wooded complex of Los Pinos was the site of Mexico's Presidential Palace, the most prestigious address of the country – a symbol of power and, for many Mexicans, a monument to excess.

And then, Saturday morning, with the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, his doors were suddenly opened to the public, perhaps the first promise fulfilled by the left-wing leader of Mexico, determined to prove his humility by living in a small house in the capital.

Hundreds of people have crossed the gates admiring the chandeliers, private libraries, vast kitchens of the former presidents of Mexico since 1935. It was a surreal scene. López Obrador's predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, had moved only three days earlier and the rooms were almost empty. In the vacant rooms, signs indicating "Presidential Chamber" and "Presidential Office" were posted.

A guide pointed to a large room and told several visiting journalists, "It was Enrique Peña Nieto's closet."

The bathroom of the former president was also exposed, captured in hundreds of selfies. If López Obrador was trying to prove that his predecessors lived in luxury, he did it.

"It's nice to see that because of its historical significance, but it's also sad," said Pilar Sierra Colin, 50, from a neighborhood in nearby Mexico City. "The men who lived here are the ones who ruined the country."

A flutist and a pianist played in the hall. Officials suggested that this could be a frequent venue for concerts or plays. For the moment, however, the guides and guards seemed slightly out of date, like unconscious real estate agents who were organizing the most bizarre open day in the world.

"Gradually, we will find a way to integrate it into the city," said Antonio Martinez, one of the coordinators of the complex.

There remained some books in the library, a biography of the artist Frida Kahlo, poems of Octavio Paz, photos of Juan Rulfo. A new statue of Peña Nieto had been placed in the garden, next to a row of other former rulers.

Los Pinos, or Les Pins, have welcomed the presidents of Mexico since Lazaro Cardenas moved here in 1934. Ironically, he tried to prove the same point as López Obrador, claiming that the previous presidential residence in the neighboring castle Chapultepec was also ostentatious . But Los Pinos was not a modest home: it's 14 times bigger than the White House, according to Architectural Digest.

"Look at this wood. This is imported. Everything here is the most expensive, the most luxurious. Why can not they spend this money on the Mexican people? "Said Braulio Melquiades, 69, owner of a motor vehicle parts store.

López Obrador often described the symbol motif as excess. During the election campaign, he said, "This residence is haunted. Even by cleaning it, you will not be able to solve the problem of this building. "

Instead, López Obrador said that he was considering "moralizing public life".

"We are going to get rid of the luxury of the government," he said.

But many Mexicans wondered how serious he was about his most radical promises: leaving Los Pinos, selling the presidential plane, dissolving the secret services.

Yet, on the first day of his presidency, Los Pinos was indeed open to the public. Brochures were distributed that read: "Welcome to Los Pinos, citizens of Mexico." He is now overseen by the Secretary of Culture of Mexico,

Some of the visitors came from across the country. Others stopped in the middle of their morning jog. Some wore Mexican flags as capes. At least two men wore López Obrador masks.

A woman exclaimed, "We are the first humble Mexicans ever to have entered this building."

However, some of the visitors to the complex on Saturday morning raised the question of whether it was convenient to turn Los Pinos into a museum – the same criticism that political analysts have been making for months.

"Every other country in the world has a place where leaders can meet, where foreign dignitaries can go. Where will he be in Mexico? "Said Erika Valencia, 22, a student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

For others, it was a glimpse into the private lives of the leaders they had only read, watched, or watched on television, or simply an opportunity to see the kind of house they knew that little Mexicans could afford.

Under the chandelier of the house's hall, 4-year-old Natalia Hernandez was leaning over her mother, 35-year-old Angelica Remigio.

"Is that where the princesses live?" Asked the girl.


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