Every year, as spring unfurls its vibrant colors across Mexico City, the jacarandas come into full bloom, painting the landscape in shades of purple. This annual spectacle is not merely a natural occurrence but a testament to the enduring legacy of a Japanese gardener whose influence has shaped the city’s aesthetics for nearly a century.

In 1930, the Mexican president expressed a desire to adorn the streets of the capital with cherry trees, inspired by the picturesque scenes he had witnessed in Washington. However, the climate of Mexico City proved unsuitable for cherries to thrive. In response, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs enlisted the expertise of Tatsugoro Matsumoto, a skilled gardener tending to the greenery of Chapultepec, the presidential residence at the time.

Although cherry blossoms were not feasible, Matsumoto suggested an alternative: jacarandas. Thus began a transformation that would leave an indelible mark on Mexico City’s landscape. Despite limited resources during the post-revolutionary era, Matsumoto’s vision prevailed, and jacarandas soon became synonymous with the arrival of spring in the capital.

For nearly a century, residents of Mexico City have reveled in the enchanting beauty of jacaranda season, as the city is blanketed in a carpet of purple blooms. This annual phenomenon serves as a reminder of nature’s capacity to captivate and inspire.

Jacarandas, though not native to Mexico, have seamlessly integrated into the urban fabric, their majestic presence symbolizing hope and renewal. As deciduous trees, they shed their leaves in winter, only to burst forth with resplendent flowers as temperatures rise. Their vibrant purple-blue blooms, reminiscent of amethyst and mauve, evoke a sense of rejuvenation and optimism.

Tatsugoro Matsumoto, the mastermind behind Mexico City’s jacaranda-lined streets, was more than just a gardener; he was a visionary merchant of landscapes. His legacy extends beyond the mere introduction of a species; he cultivated an aesthetic vision that continues to resonate with each springtime bloom.

Despite occasional controversy surrounding exotic species, the jacarandas remain steadfast fixtures in Mexico City’s ever-evolving urban landscape. Their towering presence offers a sense of continuity amid the rapid pace of change, a testament to nature’s enduring resilience.

As Mexico City grapples with the challenges of modernization and environmental conservation, the jacarandas stand as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between progress and preservation. In a world of constant flux, these iconic trees serve as timeless guardians of beauty and tranquility, their blossoms a perennial symbol of hope for generations to come.

For almost a century, the residents of Mexico City have reveled in the enchanting phenomenon of jacaranda season, described by Alberto Ruy Sánchez in his 2019 book “Dicen las Jacarandas” as a “fascinating sorcery” that brings a touch of the Amazon rainforest to the city streets. As the delicate purple blossoms carpet the ground, it’s as if the sky itself has descended to earth in a breathtaking display of color.

Every spring, millions of people flock to the capital to witness this natural spectacle firsthand. The vibrant purple blooms serve as a joyous herald of the warm season, inviting all to embrace the outdoors and bask in nature’s beauty. With each step, pedestrians find themselves immersed in a sea of lavender petals, beckoned to partake in the playful ambiance that the jacarandas exude—a harmonious blend of the exotic and the familiar.


Origin of jacarandas

Jacarandas are not originally from Mexico; their name originates from Guaraní, an Indigenous language predominantly spoken in Paraguay. These majestic trees trace their roots back to the Amazon rainforest, where they first emerged.

The jacaranda flowers form in clusters, boasting an alluring purple-blue hue attributed to anthocyanins, a pigment also present in dahlias, berries, black beans, and sweet potatoes. In 2021, amidst the global focus on pandemic survival, the jacaranda color was dubbed a trend by a Mexican forecasting company.

Describing the color as an auspicious sign of renewal, the shade is compared to a blend of amethyst and mauve, reminiscent of periwinkle.


Tatsugoro Matsumoto

The man responsible for the purple spring, Mr. Matsumoto, was one of the first Japanese immigrants to come to Latin America as a free man, at a time when most Asian immigrants in Latin America came either as indentured servants or with contracts to supply cheap labor to plantations, mines and railroads.

Mr. Matsumoto’s Mexican immigration card says he arrived in 1896, and listed “gardener” as his occupation. But in Japan, he was in fact a trained landscape architect who had served the imperial palace, Mr. Hernández explained.

Mr. Matsumoto made his way to the Americas in 1888 at the behest of a Peruvian entrepreneur who wanted a Japanese garden, the first in South America, on his property. “From his faraway native land, the artist brought by ship beautiful plants,” reads a Peruvian volume about the residence where the garden was built. Shortly after seeing his work in Lima, a Mexican mining businessman hired him to create something for his hacienda.

Mr. Matsumoto evolved into a prosperous entrepreneur, catering to various Mexican presidents, ranging from the Francophile Porfirio Díaz to the revolutionary Álvaro Obregón and the nationalist Lázaro Cárdenas. His flower shop, inaugurated in 1898, revolutionized the world of floral arrangements, introducing ornate designs to the upper echelons of society and crafting bouquets for luminaries of the golden age of Mexican cinema.

In recent years, Matsumoto’s botanical expertise has elevated him to the status of a local icon, a silent hero revered for his contributions. However, as extensively documented by Mr. Hernández, his impact transcended mere admiration.

Matsumoto didn’t merely introduce jacarandas to Mexico; rather, he cultivated them, transforming them into integral components of the urban landscape. His visionary approach didn’t stop at recommending a suitable tree for Mexico City’s climate; he imbued its streets with an enduring aesthetic vision that manifests with each springtime resurgence.

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