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The Best President of Mexico

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Behind every great country there are always great women and men. In our country, that great man was Benito Juárez, considered the best president of Mexico. We honor him on his birthday, March 21st, which is a national holiday.

His vision for Mexico was that individual indigenous Mexicans would assimilate culturally and become full citizens of Mexico and be equal before the law. History has recorded his most famous quote: “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz,” which means “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

Benito Juárez was born in 1806 in San Pablo Guelatao in the state of Oaxaca. He was a Mexican lawyer and the 26th president of Mexico from 1858 until his death in 1872.

His parents were from the Zapotec indigenous people in the state of Oaxaca. They were farmers who passed away when Benito Juárez was only 3 years old. He moved to Oaxaca City, the capital of the state, when he was 12 to live with his sisters, and later, study law and receive a law degree in 1834, the first law degree awarded in the state.

His concern for social issues, and in particular the plight of the indigenous people, led him to support the liberal ideals that had been spreading throughout America since the French Revolution, and to actively participate in politics.

His life in politics began as mayor of Oaxaca City in 1831, two years later he became a congressman and in 1848 governor of the state of Oaxaca. During his time as governor he accomplished many important projects, such as new roads, the renovation of the government palace, many public schools and a geographical map of the state and Oaxaca City. He finished his administration with a positive balance in the treasury.

Because of his strong beliefs in liberal principles in a country ruled by conservatives led by General Santa Ana he went to jail before going into exile in New Orleans in 1853

When he returned to his country – a time of political chaos – Benito Juárez became the minister of justice for Mexico and helped promote the Lerdo Law, which was part of a larger reform movement that began the separation of government and church, a huge step in Mexico’s history.

In 1857, Juárez became President of the Supreme Court of Mexico, which led to his ascent to the presidency of the country in 1858 amidst political turmoil between the liberals and conservatives in the country. Juárez was forced to leave the capital for other locations in Mexico, but was finally constitutionally elected as president of Mexico in 1861.

Napoleon III of France invaded the country in 1862 and in 1864 installed Archduke Maximillian of Austria as emperor of Mexico. Juárez remained the elected president of Mexico in absentia. He and his cabinet had to escape to the north of the country, in what is now the city of Juárez. After three years of battles, Juárez and his liberal army finally defeated Maximillian in the city of Querétaro. With the country impoverished and disunited, he was re-elected in August 1867. Juárez restored the federal Republic and was able to implement the Reform laws.

Not long after he was once again re-elected to the presidency of Mexico, Juárez died on July 18th,1872 of a heart attack. Upon his death, he was declared “Benemérito de la Patria y de las Américas,” or “Meritorious of the Homeland and of the Americas.”

The reforms initiated by Benito Juárez led to the modernization of Mexico in the latter part of the 19th century, but it was his leadership against the French that truly established Benito Juárez as a national hero.


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