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The Pensil Mexicano is a Baroque garden so important that its name is still applied to six different surrounding neighborhoods. These were nearly all parts of the parish of Santa María Magdalena Atolman. After the garden was created in 1766, it slowly came to dominate its area. It can be understood as a predecessor to Six Flags. Similarly, residents of that part of Tlalpan will refer to their part of the City as the “Six Flags area.”
The garden should also be understood in the context of the Calzada Mexico-Tacuba. This was also noted at the time as a string of Tivolis, that is, gardens for pleasure and entertainment. The idea was imported from the Europe of the day and was important to the New Spanish elite. “Pensil” is simply an archaic Castillian term for an elaborate and fanciful garden.
Photos: Maritza Ríos / Secretaría de Cultura de la Ciudad de México
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
The garden was christened the Pensil Americano in 1795 when a book claimed it had been visited by the Virgin of Guadalupe. It thus bloomed prolifically nearly year-round. Originally some 11,000 square meters were profusely decorated and set aside for the strolling and frollicking of those seeking natural respite from the City. The property had come under the ownership of Don Matías de Gálvez y Gallardo. He would be viceroy of New Spain from 1783 to October 1784. At his death, the property passed to his son, Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, the famed accomplice of George Washington. He’d been made an honorary citizen of the USA in thanks for his important defeats of the British, particularly in Florida. When he became viceroy (1785), he’d already been at work improving the property for sometime. Most of his attention was focused on his other home, the Chapultepec Castle of today.
The changing of the name, from Pensil Americano to Pensil Mexicano, was during the USA invasion. This was to prevent seizure of the property as it had once belonged to a citizen of the USA. Despite numerous property transfers in the 19th century, it was still resplendent enough to attract the Emporer Maximiliano and wife, Carlota, in
Very little remains today. But one can witness the entranceways to the main orchard. These are topped by arches with a barely visible coat of arms. Warehouses were built on the site of the former orchards and these damaged much of the property’s appearance. Parts of the chapel, its tower, and some areas of the gardens themselves are still preserved within.
Sources cited on this page:
Rafael Fierro Gossman, November 2, 2015,
Grandes Casas de Mexico, El Pensil Americano