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Posted by on March 04, 2022
  • Mural showing President Benito Juarez bringing revolution as the first native Mexican President
    Mural showing President Benito Juarez bringing revolution as the first native Mexican President


Benito Pablo Juarez García is one of Mexico’s most beloved leaders. He was born on March 21, 1806. Today Mexico celebrates his birthday with a national holiday to honor his legacy. Sometimes referred to as the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico, he too came from humble Native American surroundings, found a way to become educated, studied the law, and ended up guiding his nation through troubled times.

The Benito Juarez birthday observations take place on the third Monday of March to create a three day weekend, or "puente" ~ bridge. In 2022 the holiday willactually fall on his Birthday, March 21. Schools, government offices, banks and some businesses will be closed, large chain outlets and grocery stores should be open.

Benito Juarez President of Mexico Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz ..Benito Juarez 
(Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

He was a Zapotec Amerindian born in the small village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca," His parents, Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García were peasants who died when he was three. He described his parents as "Indians of the primitive race of the country.” He worked in the corn fields and as a shepherd until the age of 12. Then one day in 1818 he walked to the city of Oaxaca where his sister worked as a cook. He was looking to educate himself and find a better life. At the time, he was illiterate and could not speak Spanish, only Zapotec. He ended up working as a Domestic Servant. It was there he was befriended by Antonio Salanueva, a lay Franciscan. Salanueva was impressed with young Benito's intelligence and thirst for learning and arranged for his placement at the city's seminary. He studied there but decided to pursue law rather than the priesthood. In fact, later in life, he became a zealous anti-Catholic. He graduated from the seminary in 1827 and went on to gain a degree in law.

Benito Juarez Juárez became a lawyer in 1834 and a judge in 1842. He was governor of the state of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1853, at which time he went into exile because of his objections to the corrupt military dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. He spent his exile in New Orleans, Louisiana, working in a cigar factory. In 1854, he helped draft the Plan of Ayutla as the basis for a liberal revolution in Mexico. Faced with increasing pressure Santa Anna resigned in 1855 and Juárez returned to Mexico.

Following Santa Anna’s demise, Los Liberales or the liberals formed a provisional government under General Juan Álvarez. Some of the reforms enacted curtailed the power of the Catholic Church and the military while trying to create a modern civil society and capitalist economy. The Ley Juárez (Juarez's Law) of 1855, for example, abolished special clerical and military privileges and declared all citizens equal before the law. Later, under the new federalist constitution that was created. Juárez became Chief Justice, under president Ignacio Comonfort.

In 1857 conservatives led by General Félix Zuloaga, launched a revolt with the backing of the military and the clergy where Juárez, Ignacio Olvera and many other deputies and ministers were arrested. Later, Juárez, Ignacio Olvera and many other deputies and ministers were arrested again following another revolt in January 1858. Following this, Comonfort re-stablished the congress, freeing all the prisoners--then quickly resigned as president. Under the new constitution, the chief justice immediately became interim president until proper elections could be made. Juarez took office on late January 1858.

In January 1861, Juárez was finally properly elected president in March for a four-year term, under the Constitution of 1857. Juárez was controversially re-elected President in 1867 and 1871, using the office of the presidency to ensure electoral success and suppressing revolts by opponents like Porfirio Díaz. Benito Juárez died of a heart attack in 1872. He was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, his foreign minister.

Battle of Puebla
During his presidency Juárez heard that the French were to march on Mexico City, he dispatched a young general named Ignacio Zaragoza to stop them. General Zaragoza fortified the town of Puebla with about 4,000 men and on May 5th, a famous battle took place in which the French were defeated. On May 5, 1862, the Mexican army with 4,000 men under general Zaragoza faced a French army of 6,000 men commanded by general Charles Ferdinand de Lorencez. This is commemorated by the Holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

Today Benito Juarez is remembered as being a progressive reformer dedicated to democracy, equal rights for his nation's indigenous peoples, lessening the great power that the Roman Catholic Church then held over Mexican politics, and the defence of national sovereignty. The period of his leadership is known in Mexican history as La Reforma (the reform), and constituted a liberal political and social revolution with major institutional consequences: the expropriation of church lands, bringing the army under civilian control, liquidation of peasant communal land holdings, and the separation of church and state in public affairs.

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