Benito Juárez

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Benito Juárez
Benito Pablo Juarez Garcia.png
26th President of Mexico
In office
15 January 1858 18 July 1872
Preceded by Ignacio Comonfort
Succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada
President of the Mexican Supreme Court
In office
25 October 1857 15 January 1858
Preceded by Luis de la Rosa Oteiza
Succeeded by José Ignacio Pavón
Secretary of the Interior
In office
3 November 1857 25 October 1857
President Ignacio Comonfort
Preceded by José María Cortés
Succeeded by José María Cortés
Governor of Oaxaca
In office
10 January 1856 3 November 1857
Preceded by José María García
Succeeded by José María Díaz
In office
2 October 1847 12 August 1852
Preceded by Francisco Ortiz Zárate
Succeeded by Lope San Germán
Secretary of Public Education
In office
6 October 1855 9 December 1855
President Juan Álvarez
Preceded by José María Durán
Succeeded by Ramón Isaac Alcaraz
Personal details
Benito Pablo Juárez García

(1806-03-21)21 March 1806
San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, New Spain
Died18 July 1872(1872-07-18) (aged 66)
Mexico City, Mexico
Nationality Mexican
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Margarita Maza (1826–1871; her death)
Alma mater Sciences and Arts Institute of Oaxaca
Profession Lawyer, judge
Signature Firma de Benito Juarez.png

Benito Pablo Juárez García (Spanish:  [beˈnito ˈpaβlo ˈxwaɾes gaɾˈsi.a] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 21 March 1806 – 18 July 1872) [1] [2] was a Mexican lawyer and president of Mexico, of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca.

Mexicans people of the country of Mexico or who identify as culturally Mexican

Mexicans are the people of the United Mexican States, a multiethnic country in North America.

Zapotec peoples ethnic group

The Zapotecs are an indigenous people of Mexico. The population is concentrated in the southern state of Oaxaca, but Zapotec communities also exist in neighboring states. The present-day population is estimated at approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 persons, many of whom are monolingual in one of the native Zapotec languages and dialects. In pre-Columbian times, the Zapotec civilization was one of the highly developed cultures of Mesoamerica, which, among other things, included a system of writing. Many people of Zapotec ancestry have emigrated to the United States over several decades, and they maintain their own social organizations in the Los Angeles and Central Valley areas of California.

Oaxaca State of Mexico

Oaxaca, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca, is one of the 31 states which, along with Mexico City, make up the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 570 municipalities, of which 418 are governed by the system of usos y costumbres with recognized local forms of self-governance. Its capital city is Oaxaca de Juárez.


He was of poor, rural, indigenous origins, but he became a well-educated, urban professional and politician, who married a socially prominent woman of Oaxaca City, Margarita Maza. [3] He identified primarily as a Liberal and wrote only briefly about his indigenous heritage. [4]

Margarita Maza First Lady of Mexico

Margarita Eustaquia Maza Parada, later known as Margarita Maza de Juárez, was the wife of Benito Juárez and First Lady of Mexico from 1858 to 1864, and then from 1867 until her death from cancer in 1871.

He held power during the tumultuous decade of the Liberal Reform and French invasion. In 1858 as head of the Supreme Court, he became president of Mexico by the succession mandated by the Constitution of 1857 when moderate liberal President Ignacio Comonfort was forced to resign by Mexican conservatives. Juárez remained in the presidential office until his death by natural causes in 1872. He weathered the War of the Reform (1858–60), a civil war between Liberals and Conservatives, and then the French invasion (1862–67), which was supported by Mexican Conservatives. Never relinquishing office although forced into exile in areas of Mexico not controlled by the French, Juárez tied Liberalism to Mexican nationalism and maintained that he was the legitimate head of the Mexican state, rather than Emperor Maximilian. When the French-backed Second Mexican Empire fell in 1867, the Mexican Republic with Juárez as president was restored to full power. [5] [6] [7] In his success in ousting the European incursion, Latin Americans considered his a "second struggle for independence, a second defeat for the European powers, and a second reversal of the Conquest." [8]

La Reforma or the Liberal Reform was initiated in Mexico following the ousting of centralist president Antonio López de Santa Anna by a group of liberals under the 1854 Plan de Ayutla. From the liberals' narrow objective to remove a dictator and take power, they expanded their aims to a comprehensive program to remake Mexico governed by liberal principles as embodied by a series of Reform laws and then the Constitution of 1857. The major goals of this movement were to undermine the power of the Catholic Church in Mexico, separate church and state, reduce the power of the Mexican military, and integrate Mexico's large indigenous population as citizens of Mexico and not a protected class. Liberals envisioned secular education as a means to create a Mexican citizenry. The liberals' strategy was to sharply limit the traditional institutional privileges (fueros) of the Catholic Church and the army. The law prohibiting the ownership of land by corporations targeted the holdings of the Catholic Church and indigenous communities - confiscating Church land. Indigenous community lands were held by the community as a whole, not as individual parcels. Liberals sought to create a class of yeoman farmers that held land individually. No class of individualistic peasants developed with the Liberal program emerged, but many merchants acquired land. Many existing landowners expanded their holdings at the expense of peasants, and some upwardly mobile ranch owners, often mestizos, acquired land previously held by communities. Upon the promulgation of the liberal Constitution of 1857, conservatives refused to swear allegiance to it and, instead, formed a conservative government. The result was a civil war known as the Reform War or Three Years' War, waged between conservatives and liberals for three years, ending with the defeat of the conservatives on the battlefield. Victorious liberal president Benito Juárez could not implement the envisioned reforms due to a new political threat. Conservatives had sought another route to regaining power, resulting in their active collaboration with Napoleon III's plans to turn the Mexican Empire into the main American ally of the French empire. Mexican conservatives offered the crown of Mexico to Habsburg archduke Maximilian. The French invasion and republican resistance to the French Intervention in Mexico lasted from 1862-67. With the defeat of the conservatives and the execution of Maximilian, Juárez again took up his duties as president. In this period from 1867 to 1876, often called the "Restored Republic" liberals had no credible opposition to their implementation of the laws of the Reform embodied in the 1857 Constitution.

President of Mexico Head of state of the country of Mexico

The President of Mexico, officially known as the President of the United Mexican States, is the head of state and government of Mexico. Under the Constitution, the president is also the Supreme Commander of the Mexican armed forces. The current President is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office on December 1, 2018.

Ignacio Comonfort President of Mexico

Ignacio Gregorio Comonfort de los Ríos, known as Ignacio Comonfort, was a Mexican politician and soldier. He became President of Mexico in 1855 after the outbreak of the Revolution of Ayutla that overthrew Santa Anna.

He is now "a preeminent symbol of Mexican nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention." [9] Juárez was a practical and skilled politician, controversial in his lifetime and beyond. He had an understanding of the importance of a working relationship with the United States, and secured its recognition for his liberal government during the War of the Reform. Although many of his positions shifted during his political life, he held fast to particular principles including the supremacy of civil power over the Catholic Church and part of the military; respect for law; and the de-personalization of political life. [10] In his lifetime he sought to strengthen the national government and asserted the supremacy of central power over states, a position that both radical and provincial liberals opposed. [11] He was the subject of polemical attacks both in his lifetime and beyond. However, the place of Juárez in Mexican historical memory has enshrined him as a major Mexican hero, beginning in his own lifetime. [12]

His birthday (March 21) is a national public and patriotic holiday in Mexico, the only individual Mexican so honored.

In Mexico there are three major kinds of public holidays:

Fiestas Patrias in Mexico originated in the 19th century and are observed today as five public holidays.

Early life and education

Juarez with his sister Nela (left) and wife Margarita. Juarez.jpg
Juárez with his sister Nela (left) and wife Margarita.
Casa de Juarez, the Maza residence to which Juarez fled in Oaxaca City, now a museum Museo de Sitio Casa de Juarez - 9.JPG
Casa de Juárez, the Maza residence to which Juárez fled in Oaxaca City, now a museum

Juárez was born on 21 March 1806, in a small adobe house in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, located in the mountain range now known as the Sierra Juárez. His parents, Brígida García and Marcelino Juárez, were Zapotec peasants and died of complications of diabetes when he was three years old. Shortly afterward, his grandparents died as well, so after that his uncle raised him. [13] [14] He described his parents as "indios de la raza primitiva del país," that is, "Indians of the original race of the country." [14] He worked in the cornfields and as a shepherd until the age of 12, when he walked to the city of Oaxaca to attend school. [7] At the time, he could speak only Zapotec. In the city, where his sister worked as a cook, he took a job as a domestic servant for Antonio Maza. [7]

Adobe Building material made from earth and organic materials

Adobe is a building material made from earth and organic materials. Adobe is Spanish for mudbrick, but in some English-speaking regions of Spanish heritage, the term is used to refer to any kind of earth construction. Most adobe buildings are similar in appearance to cob and rammed earth buildings. Adobe is among the earliest building materials, and is used throughout the world.

San Pablo Guelatao Municipality and town in Oaxaca, Mexico

San Pablo Guelatao is a town and the seat of the Municipality of Guelatao de Juárez, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is part of the Ixtlán District in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca region.

Sierra Juárez, Oaxaca mountain in Mexico

The Sierra Juárez is a range of mountains in Oaxaca state, Mexico between latitudes 17°20'-17°50'N and longitudes 96°15'-97°00'W, with an area of about 1,700 km². It is part of the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca. The range is separated from the Sierra de Zongólica to the north by the Santo Domingo River, flowing through the Tecomavaca Canyon. It stretches south-eastward to the Cajones River and the Sierra de Villa Alta. The mountains are in the district of Ixtlán de Juárez in the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca region. The range is named after Mexico's only indigenous president, Benito Juárez, who was born here in 1806 in the small village of San Pablo Guelatao. The heavily wooded area is about 62 km (39 mi) from the city of Oaxaca on Federal highway 175, heading towards Tuxtepec.

His formal education began when a lay Franciscan and bookbinder, Antonio Salanueva, was impressed by Juárez's intelligence and desire for learning. Salanueva arranged for his placement at the city's seminary so that he could train to become a priest. His earlier education was rudimentary, but he began studying Latin, completing the secondary curriculum too young to be ordained. Juárez had no calling to become a priest and began studying law at the Institute of Sciences and Arts, founded in 1827 in the state capital. It was a center of liberal intellectual life in Oaxaca and Juárez graduated from it in 1834. Even prior to his graduation, he sought political office, and was elected to the Oaxaca city council in 1831. In 1841, he was appointed a civil judge. [9]

In 1843, when he was in his late 30s, Benito married Margarita Maza, the daughter of his sister's patron. The family was of European origin and part of Oaxaca's respectable society. With the marriage Juárez gained social standing. Margarita Maza accepted his proposal and said of Juárez, "He is very homely, but very good." [15] Their ethnically mixed marriage was historically unusual, but not often noted in standard biographies. However, Enrique Krauze notes that "In this uncommon instance, a white woman had been conquered by an Indian, not a native woman by a Spaniard." [16] Their marriage lasted until her death from cancer in 1871. Juárez and Maza had twelve children together, five of whom died in early childhood; Juárez also fathered two children with Juana Rosa Chagoya before he married, Tereso, who was close to Juárez during his expatriations and fought in the Reform War, and Susana, who was adopted and attended her step-mother's death. [17] [18] His wife's remains are buried in the Juárez mausoleum in Mexico City.

Political career

Early political career in Oaxaca

Valentin Gomez Farias, who instigated a liberal reform in 1833, which Juarez supported. Valentin Gomez Farias, portrait.JPG
Valentin Gómez Farías, who instigated a liberal reform in 1833, which Juárez supported.

Juárez's experiences in political life in Oaxaca were crucial to his later success as a leader. His political affiliation with liberalism developed at the Institute of Arts and Science and his ability to rise in Oaxaca state politics was due to the lack of an entrenched political class of criollos, Mexicans of European descent. The relative openness of the system allowed him and other newcomers to enter politics and gain patronage. [19] He developed a political base and gained an understanding of political maneuvering. Following Juárez's graduation as a lawyer in 1834 and service as a civil judge in 1841, he became part of the Oaxaca state government, led by liberal governor Antonio León (1841–45). [20] He became a prosecutor in the Oaxaca state court and was then elected to the state legislature in 1845. Juárez was subsequently elected to the federal legislature, where he supported Valentín Gómez Farías, who instigated liberal reforms including limitations on the power of the Catholic Church. With the return to the presidency of Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1847, Juárez returned to Oaxaca. [9] [21] He was elected governor of the state of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1852. During his tenure as governor, he supported the war effort against the U.S. in the Mexican–American War, but seeing the war was lost, he refused Antonio López de Santa Anna's request to regroup and raise new forces. This, as well as his objections to the corrupt military dictatorship of Santa Anna, led to his exile to New Orleans in 1853, where he worked in a cigar factory. [22] [23] Other Santa Anna opponents were also in exile there, including Melchor Ocampo of Michoacan, who was fiercely anticlerical. [24] In 1854, Juárez helped draft the liberals' Plan of Ayutla, a document calling for Santa Anna's being deposed from power and the calling of a convention to draft a new constitution. Faced with growing opposition, Santa Anna was forced to resign in 1855.

The Liberal Reform and Civil War of the Reform

Juan Alvarez, liberal strongman, who formed a provisional government after the ouster of Santa Anna in 1855. Juan Alvarez.PNG
Juan Álvarez, liberal strongman, who formed a provisional government after the ouster of Santa Anna in 1855.

With Santa Anna's resignation, Juárez had returned to Mexico and became part of the activist liberales (Liberals). A provisional government was formed under General Juan Álvarez, inaugurating the period known as La Reforma, the Liberal Reform. Juárez served as Minister of Justice and ecclesiastical affairs, and it was during this time that Juárez drafted the law named after him, the Juárez Law, which declared all citizens equal before the law and restricted the privileges (fueros) of the Catholic Church and the Mexican army. President Alvarez signed the draft into law in 1855. [25] The Reform laws sponsored by the puro (pure) wing of the Liberal Party curtailed the power of the Catholic Church, confiscating Church land, and restricting the military, while trying to create a modern civil society and capitalist economy based on the model of the United States. The Ley Juárez was subsequently incorporated into the Mexican Constitution of 1857, but Juárez had no role in that document's drafting, since he had returned to Oaxaca where he served again as governor. [25]

The new liberal Constitution of 1857 was promulgated and President Ignacio Comonfort appointed Minister of Government in November 1857. He was then elected President of the Supreme Court of Justice, an office that put its holder as the successor to the President of the Republic. [25] Conservatives led by General Félix María Zuloaga, with the backing of the military and the clergy and under the slogan religión y fueros, launched a revolt under the Plan of Tacubaya on 17 December 1857. Comonfort sought to placate the rebels by appointing several conservatives to the Cabinet, dissolving the Congress, and implementing most of the Tacubaya Plan. Juárez, Ignacio Olvera, and many other deputies and ministers were arrested. The actions did not go far enough for the rebels, and on 11 January 1858, Zuloaga demanded Comonfort's resignation. Comonfort then re-established the Congress, liberated all prisoners and then resigned as President. The conservative forces proclaimed Zuloaga as President on 21 January.

Meanwhile, under the terms of the 1857 Constitution, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice became interim President of Mexico until a new election could be held. Juárez was thus acknowledged as president by liberals on 15 January 1858 and assumed leadership of the Liberal side of the civil war known as the War of the Reform (Guerra de Reforma), (1858–60).

As Zuloaga's men were in control of Mexico City, Juárez and his government fled, first to Querétaro and later to Veracruz, whose customs revenues were used to fund the government's expenditure.

In Veracruz [26]

On May 4, 1858, Juárez arrived in Veracruz where the government of Manuel Gutiérrez Zamora was stationed with General Ignacio de la Llave. His wife and children were waiting for his arrival on the dock of the Veracruz’s port, along with a large part of the population that had flooded the pier to greet him. There, Juárez lived many months without any unexpected occurrences until Miguel Miramón’s attack who finally found and moved toward the port on March 30, 1859. On April 6th, Juárez received a diplomatic representative of the United States Government: Robert McLane.

A treaty between the Conservative and Liberal governments, the McLane-Ocampo Treaty was signed in December 1859, although Buchanan was unable to secure ratification of the treaty by the US Congress. Nevertheless, the aid received enabled the liberals to overcome the conservatives' initial military advantage; Juárez's government successfully defended Veracruz from assault twice during 1860 and recaptured Mexico City on 1 January 1861.

Nationalization of the Wealth of the Clergy

On July 12 of 1859, Juárez decreed the first regulations of the reform: “The Law of Nationalization of the Ecclesiastical Wealth.” This prohibited the Catholic Church from having properties in Mexico. [27] Because of Juárez's Law of Nationalization, the Catholic Church and the regular army supported The Conservatives but the Liberals had the support of several state governments in the north and central-west and the administration of US President James Buchanan.

Due to the initial weakness of the Juárez administration, conservatives Felix Maria Zuloaga, and Leonardo Marquez had the opportunity to reclaim power. To resolve this, Juárez petitioned Congress to be given Emergency Powers. The liberal members of Congress denied the petition with the main argument being that the country was under a current constitutional government that had been achieved only through a very bloody civil war. It was not consistent for Juárez, who had implemented that constitution, now to wish to violate the legal functions of the constitution by giving himself dictatorial powers. However, two groups of conservatives trapped Ocampo and Santos Degollado respectively and killed them, which focused the attention of the liberals in Congress. This action by the conservatives changed their opinion, and they gave Juárez the money and power that he needed to finish off the conservatives. [28]

Juárez had excellent finances during his administration. His Government achieved budget deficit of 400,000 pesos every month. However he was only able to collect one million pesos by selling the church lands.


Daguerreotype of Benito Juarez as president of Mexico. Benito Juarez 1.jpg
Daguerreotype of Benito Juárez as president of Mexico.

After the defeat of the Conservatives on the battlefield, in March 1861 elections were held with Juárez elected President in his own right under the Constitution of 1857. However, the Liberals' celebrations of 1861 were short-lived. The war had severely damaged Mexico's infrastructure and crippled its economy. Even though the Conservatives had been defeated, they would not disappear, and the Juárez government had to respond to pressures from these factions. He was forced to grant amnesty to captured Conservative guerrillas still resisting the Juárez government, even though they had executed captured Liberals, including Melchor Ocampo and Santos Degollado. In the wake of the civil war and the demobilization of combatants, Juárez The force was aimed at establishing public security, particularly as banditry and rural unrest grew. Many brigands and bandits had allied themselves with the Liberal cause during the civil war. With that conflict concluded, many became guerrillas and bandits again, when the government jobs they demanded as rewards for their services to the Republic were not forthcoming. Juárez's Minister of the Interior, Francisco Zarco, oversaw the founding of the rurales. The creation of the police force controlled by the president was done quietly because it violated federalist principles of traditional Liberalism, which gave little power to the central government and much to Mexican states. The force's creation was an indication that Juárez was becoming more of a centralist as he confronted rural unrest. As a pragmatic solution, the force consisted of former bandits converted into policemen. [29]

Juárez's government also faced international dangers. In view of the government's desperate financial straits, Juárez canceled repayments of interest on foreign loans that had been taken out by the defeated conservatives. Spain, Britain and France, angry over unpaid Mexican debts, sent a joint expeditionary force that seized the Veracruz Customs House in December 1861. Spain and Britain soon withdrew after they realized that the French Emperor Napoleon III intended to overthrow the Juárez government and establish a Second Mexican Empire, with the support of the remnants of the Conservative side in the Reform War. Thus began the French invasion in 1862 and the outbreak of an even longer war, with Liberals attempting to oust the foreign invaders and their Conservative allies and save the Republic.

French Intervention (1862–67)

Although Mexican forces under Ignacio Zaragoza won an initial victory over the French on 5 May 1862, the Battle of Puebla, celebrated annually as Cinco de Mayo, forcing the French to retreat to the coast for a year, the French advanced again in 1863, and captured Mexico City. Juárez and his elected government fled the capital and became a government in exile, with little power or territorial control. Juárez headed north, first to San Luis Potosí, then to the arid northern city of El Paso del Norte, present day Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and finally to the capital of the state, Chihuahua City, where he set up his cabinet and government-in-exile. There, he would remain for the next two and a half years. Meanwhile, Maximilian von Habsburg, a younger brother of the Emperor of Austria, was proclaimed Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico on 20 April 1864 with the backing of Napoleon III and a group of Mexican conservatives.

Before Juárez fled, Congress granted him an emergency extension of his presidency, which would go into effect in 1865, when his term expired, and last until 1867, when the last of Maximilian's forces were defeated.

Sculpture of Juarez in the Historic Center of Oaxaca. Juarez holds a Mexican flag with one hand and with the other is pointing at Maximilian's Crown which remains in the soil, representing the defeat of imperialism. Paseo Juarez "El Llano" 04.JPG
Sculpture of Juárez in the Historic Center of Oaxaca. Juárez holds a Mexican flag with one hand and with the other is pointing at Maximilian's Crown which remains in the soil, representing the defeat of imperialism.

In response to the French invasion and the elevation of Maximilian as emperor of Mexico with the support of Mexican Conservatives, Juárez sent General Plácido Vega y Daza to California to gather Mexican American sympathy for the plight of republican Mexico. Maximilian offered Juárez amnesty and later even the post of prime minister, but Juárez refused to accept a government "imposed by foreigners" or a monarchy. The government of the United States was sympathetic to Juárez, refusing to recognize Maximilian and opposing the French invasion as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but its attention was entirely taken up by the American Civil War. Juárez's wife, Margarita Maza, and their children spent the invasion in exile in New York where she met several times with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who received her as the First Lady of Mexico. Although much has been made of a connection between Juárez and Abraham Lincoln, the two presidents who shared humble social origins never met and exchanged no correspondence. [30] Following the end of the war, U.S. President Andrew Johnson demanded the French evacuate Mexico and imposed a naval blockade in February 1866.

When Johnson could get no support in Congress, he allegedly had the Army "lose" some supplies (including rifles) "near" (across) the border with Mexico, according to U.S. General Philip Sheridan's journal account. [31] [ page needed ] In his memoirs, Sheridan stated that he had supplied arms and ammunition to Juárez's forces: "... which we left at convenient places on our side of the river to fall into their hands". [32]

Faced with US opposition to a French presence and a growing threat on the European mainland from Prussia, French troops began pulling out of Mexico in late 1866. Maximilian's liberal views cost him support from Mexican conservatives as well. In 1867, the last of the Emperor's forces were defeated and Maximilian was sentenced to death by a military court (a retaliation for Maximilian's earlier orders for the execution of republican soldiers, actually the original "Black Decree" was from Juárez – who had people executed, without trial, for "helping" his enemies whereas Maximilian often pardoned people who had actually fought against him). Despite national and international pleas for amnesty, Juárez refused to commute the sentence, and Maximilian was executed by firing squad on 19 June 1867 at Cerro de las Campanas in Querétaro. His last words had been "¡Viva México!" His body was returned to Vienna, Austria for burial.

Restored Republic

Logo of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, founded in 1868. ENPlogo.jpg
Logo of the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria, founded in 1868.

The period following the expulsion of the French and the revolt of Porfirio Díaz in 1876 are now commonly known in Mexico as the "Restored Republic". The period includes the last years of the Juárez presidency and following his death in 1872, that of Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada. Juárez did not leave power following the end of the French invasion. He won in a relatively clean manner the 1867 election and immediately requested and obtained special powers from Congress to rule by decree. Despite being forbidden to do so by the 1857 constitution, Juárez once again ran for re-election in 1871.

He began instituting major reforms that had constitutional force because of the Constitution of 1857 that could not be implemented due to the War of the Reform 1858–1860, and the French Intervention (1862–67). One such reform was in education. An elite preparatory school was founded in Mexico City in 1868, the National Preparatory School.

Amid fraud charges and widespread controversy, he was re-elected for a new term in 1871. During his last two terms, he used the office of the presidency to ensure electoral success, obtain personal gains and suppress revolts by opponents, such as Porfirio Díaz.

On February 7, 1866 Juarez was elected as a Companion of the Third Class (i.e. honorary) of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). MOLLUS is a hereditary military society originally composed of officers who served in the Union armed forces during the American Civil War. Juarez was one of the very few foreigners to be elected to membership in the Order. He was assigned MOLLUS insignia number 156.


Tomb of Benito Juarez. The remains of his wife Margarita Maza are buried in the same mausoleum. PanteonSanFernando20141102 ohs05.jpg
Tomb of Benito Juárez. The remains of his wife Margarita Maza are buried in the same mausoleum.

Juárez died of a heart attack on July 18, 1872, while reading a newspaper at his desk in the National Palace in Mexico City, aged 66. He was succeeded by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, the head of the Supreme Court and a close political ally.


Monument to Juarez in central Mexico City, built by his old political rival Porfirio Diaz to commemorate the centenary of Juarez's 1806 birth. Mexico.DF.HemicicloJuarez.01.jpg
Monument to Juárez in central Mexico City, built by his old political rival Porfirio Díaz to commemorate the centenary of Juárez's 1806 birth.

Today Benito Juárez is remembered as being a progressive reformer dedicated to democracy, equal rights for his nation's indigenous peoples, his antipathy toward organized religion, especially the Catholic Church (motivated by his adherence to Freemasonry), [33] and what he regarded as defense of national sovereignty. The period of his leadership is known in Mexican history as La Reforma del Norte (The Reform of the North), and constituted a liberal political and social revolution with major institutional consequences: the expropriation of church lands, the subordination of the army to civilian control, liquidation of peasant communal land holdings, the separation of church and state in public affairs, and also the almost-complete disenfranchisement of bishops, priests, nuns and lay brothers, codified in the "Juárez Law" or "Ley Juárez". [34]

The Benito Juarez statue in Washington, D.C., a gift of the Mexican people to the people of the U.S., 1968 BenitoJuarezStatue.JPG
The Benito Juárez statue in Washington, D.C., a gift of the Mexican people to the people of the U.S., 1968

La Reforma represented the triumph of Mexico's liberal, federalist, anti-clerical, and pro-capitalist forces over the conservative, centralist, corporatist, and theocratic elements that sought to reconstitute a locally-run version of the old colonial system. It replaced a semi-feudal social system with a more market-driven one, but following Juárez's death, the lack of adequate democratic and institutional stability soon led to a return to centralized autocracy and economic exploitation under the regime of Porfirio Díaz. The Porfiriato (1876–1911), in turn, collapsed at the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.

Historical memory

Juárez Complex National Palace

In the National Palace in Mexico City, where he lived while in power, there is a small museum in his honour. One can see the furniture and objects he used.

ComedorDeBenitoJuarez.JPG EstudioDeBenitoJuarez.JPG Alcoba - Benito Juarez.jpeg

Sala, Comedor, Estudio y Alcoba de Don Benito Juárez.

Juarez statue in Bryant Park, Manhattan, donated to the City of New York by the state of Oaxaca. A bilingual (English and Spanish) quotation reads "Respect for the rights of others is peace." Bryant Park, New York City (May 2014) - 09.JPG
Juárez statue in Bryant Park, Manhattan, donated to the City of New York by the state of Oaxaca. A bilingual (English and Spanish) quotation reads "Respect for the rights of others is peace."


Juárez's famous quote continues to be well-remembered in Mexico: "Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz", meaning "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace". The portion of this motto in bold is inscribed on the coat of arms of Oaxaca. It is quoted in truncated form in stone on the Juárez statue in Bryant Park in New York City, "Respect for the rights of others is peace." This quote summarizes Mexico's stances towards foreign affairs.

Another famous quote: "La ley ha sido siempre mi espada y mi escudo", or "The law has always been my shield and my sword", is a phrase often reproduced as decoration inside court and tribunals buildings. [42]


See also

Further reading

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José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican general and politician who served seven terms as President of Mexico, a total of 31 years, from February 17, 1877 to December 1, 1880 and from December 1, 1884 to May 25, 1911. A veteran of the War of the Reform (1858–60) and the French intervention in Mexico (1862–67), Díaz rose to the rank of General, leading republican troops against the French-imposed rule of Emperor Maximilian. Seizing power in a coup in 1876, Díaz and his allies, a group of technocrats known as "Científicos", ruled Mexico for the next thirty-five years, a period known as the Porfiriato.

Manuel González Flores President of Mexico

Manuel del Refugio González Flores, commonly known as Manuel González, was a Mexican military general and liberal politician who served as the 31st President of Mexico from 1880 to 1884. Before initiating his presidential career, González played important roles in the Mexican–American War as a lieutenant, and later in the Reform War as general on the conservative side. In the French intervention in Mexico, González fought for the Mexican Republic under the command of General Porfirio Díaz. He supported Díaz's attempts to gain the presidency of Mexico, which succeeded in 1876. He served as Mexican Secretary of War in the Díaz administration from 1878 to 1879. Díaz could not be re-elected to the presidency in 1880, since the basis of his coup against Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada was the principle of no-reelection, so Díaz worked for the election of his political client González, who would be weak rival should Díaz run again. His presidency from 1880 to 1884 is marked by a number of major diplomatic and domestic achievements, which historian Friedrich Katz considers to be no less than "the profound transformation" of Mexico. Although the González presidency has been considered corrupt, that assessment is colored by the difficult financial circumstances in 1884 and by Díaz's campaign to discredit his successor, paving the way for his own re-election in 1884.

Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada President of Mexico

Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada Corral was a jurist and Liberal president of Mexico, succeeding Benito Juárez who died of a heart attack in July 1872. Lerdo was elected to his own presidential term later in 1872 rather than remaining successor due to his previous office of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Juárez's political rival liberal General Porfirio Díaz had attempted a coup against Juárez, but his Plan de la Noria failed and Díaz was eliminated as a political foe during Lerdo's 1872-76 term, giving Lerdo considerable leeway to pursue his program without political interference. Lerdo was more successful than Juárez in his final years as president in pacifying the country and strengthening the Mexican state. He ran for another term in 1876 and was elected, but was overthrown by Porfirio Díaz and his supporters under the Plan of Tuxtepec, which asserted the principle of no-reelection to the presidency. Lerdo died in exile in New York in 1889, but Díaz invited the return of his body to Mexico for burial with full honors. Not counting Miguel Miramón, an unrecognized president during the Reform War, he is the first president of the recognized presidents that was not born during Spanish colonial rule.

Miguel Miramón Mexican politician

Miguel Gregorio de la Luz Atenógenes Miramón y Tarelo, known as Miguel Miramón, was a Mexican conservative general and politician. He served as anti-constitutional interim conservative President of Mexico in opposition to the constitutional president, Benito Juárez of the Liberal Party. He was one the youngest rulers and the first not born during Spanish colonial rule.

Félix María Zuloaga President of Mexico

Félix María Zuloaga Trillo was a Mexican general and a Conservative leader in the War of Reform. In the late 1850s and early 1860s, Zuloaga served as unconstitutional interim conservative president of Mexico in opposition to the constitutional president Benito Juárez of the Liberal Party.

Juan Álvarez President of Mexico

Juan Nepomuceno Álvarez Hurtado de Luna, generally known as Juan Álvarez, was a general, long-time caudillo in southern Mexico, and interim president of Mexico for two months in 1855, following the liberals ouster of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Álvarez had risen to power in the Tierra Caliente, in southern Mexico with the support of indigenous peasants whose lands he protected. He fought along with heroes of the insurgency, José María Morelos and Vicente Guerrero in the War of Independence, and went on to fight in all the major wars of his day, from the "Pastry War", to the Mexican–American War, and the War of the Reform to the war against the French Intervention. A liberal reformer, a republican and a federalist, he was the leader of a revolution in support of the Plan de Ayutla in 1854, which led to the deposition of Santa Anna from power and the beginning of the political era in Mexico's history known as the Liberal Reform. "Álvarez was most important as a champion of the incorporation of Mexico's peasant masses into the polity of [Mexico] ... advocating universal male suffrage and municipal autonomy."

Reform War 1858-1861 armed conflict in Mexico

The War of Reform in Mexico, during the Second Federal Republic of Mexico, was the three-year civil war (1857–1860) between members of the Liberal Party who had taken power in 1855 under the Plan of Ayutla, and members of the Conservative Party resisting the legitimacy of the government and its radical restructuring of Mexican laws, known as La Reforma. The War of the Reform is one of many episodes of the long struggle between Liberal and Conservative forces that dominated the country’s history in the 19th century. The Liberals wanted to eliminate the political, economic, and cultural power of the Catholic church as well as undermine the role of the Mexican Army. Both the Catholic Church and the Army were protected by corporate or institutional privileges (fueros) established in the colonial era. Liberals sought to create a modern nation-state founded on liberal principles. The Conservatives wanted a centralist government, some even a monarchy, with the Church and military keeping their traditional roles and powers, and with landed and merchant elites maintaining their dominance over the majority mixed-race and indigenous populations of Mexico.

The military history of Mexico consists of several millennia of armed conflicts within what is now that nation's territory and includes activities of the Mexican military in peacekeeping and combat related affairs worldwide. Wars between prehispanic peoples marked the beginning of Mexico's military history, the most notable of these fought in the form of a flower war. After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, indigenous tribes were defeated by Spain, thus beginning a three century era of Spanish dominance. Mexico's struggle for independence began primarily in the 19th century, and was marked by internal conflict of early rulers after defeating the Spanish in 1921. The Mexican–American War in the mid 19th century ended in the defeat of Mexican forces, and the loss of two-fifths of the national territory. In the remainder of the 19th century, a series of conflicts began in Mexico, as the War of the Reform and the defeat of the French during their intervention in Mexico marked events in that era.

Plan of Ayutla

The Plan of Ayutla was the 1854 written plan aimed at removing conservative, centralist President Antonio López de Santa Anna from control of Mexico during the Second Federal Republic of Mexico period. Initially, it seemed little different than other political plans of the era, but it is considered to be the first act of the Liberal Reform in Mexico. It was the catalyst for revolts in many parts of Mexico, which led to the resignation of Santa Anna from the presidency, never to vie for office again. The next Presidents of Mexico were the liberals, Juan Álvarez, Ignacio Comonfort, and Benito Juárez. The new regime would then proclaim the 1857 Mexican Constitution, which implemented a variety of liberal reforms.

Melchor Ocampo Mexican politician

Melchor Ocampo was a mestizo by birth, a radical liberal Mexican lawyer, scientist, and politician. He was fiercely anticlerical, perhaps an atheist, and his early writings against Roman Catholic Church in Mexico gained him a reputation as an articulate liberal ideologue. Ocampo has been considered the heir to José María Luis Mora, the premier liberal intellectual of the early republic. He served in the administration of Benito Juárez and negotiated a controversial agreement with the United States, the McLane-Ocampo Treaty. His home state was much later renamed Michoacán de Ocampo in his honor.

Santiago Vidaurri Mexican army general and politician

José Santiago Vidaurri Valdez was a controversial and powerful governor of the Mexican states of Nuevo León and Coahuila between 1855 and 1864. He was an advocate of states' rights. In 1861, he sought an association with the Confederate States of America, which benefited his region economically. Earlier in 1855, he had been a supporter of the Revolution of Ayutla, which brought liberals to power. Vidaurri supported Benito Juarez in the War of the Reform. He later broke with Juarez and supported Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. When the French regime fell in 1867, Vidaurri was captured and executed for his alliance with the French. In Nuevo León he remains an important historical figure.

José María Lafragua Mexican politician

José María Lafragua Ibarra was a Mexican liberal lawyer, politician, diplomat, and writer. He was born in Puebla, 2 April 1813, the son of Lt. Col. José María Lafragua and Mariana de Ibarra and Veytia. He served in as Minister of Interior in the government of liberal President Ignacio Comonfort. He was the first director of the National Library of Mexico and key author of the Mexican Civil and Penal Codes.

Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 constitution

The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1857 often called simply the Constitution of 1857 is the liberal constitution drafted by 1857 Constituent Congress of Mexico during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort. It was ratified on February 5, 1857, establishing individual rights such as freedom of speech; freedom of conscience; freedom of the press; freedom of assembly; and the right to bear arms. It also reaffirmed the abolition of slavery, eliminated debtor prison, and eliminated all forms of cruel and unusual punishment, including the death penalty.

Second Federal Republic of Mexico

The Second Federal Republic of Mexico is the name given to the second attempt to achieve a federalist government in Mexico. Officially called the United Mexican States, a federal republic was implemented again on August 22, 1846 when interim president José Mariano Salas issued a decree restoring the 1824 constitution. Like the Mexican Empire, the First Federal Republic and the Centralist Republic it was a chaotic period, marked by political instability that resulted in several internal conflicts. Mexico's loss of the war with the United States saw half the territory Mexico claimed become part of the United States. Even though Antonio López de Santa Anna played a major role in much of this history, he returned to the presidency yet again, selling northern territory coveted by the United States contiguous to territory it just gained in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The sale of the Mesilla Valley was for many the final straw, and liberals promulgated of the Plan of Ayutla, calling for the overthrow of Santa Anna. Santa Anna went into exile and the liberals set about implementing their vision of Mexico.

The Conservative Party was a Mexican political party that sought to preserve the organization and colonial Spanish values, both in government and in society. Although as a party it was founded in 1849, after the defeat of Mexico in the war with the United States, most of the political ideology directly descended from the Jesuits expelled in the 18th century, and the establishment of a Criollism or Hispanism sentiment, which then emerged and were strongly influenced by conservative European thoughts. It also advocated the preservation and supremacy of the Criollos élite culture over those of mestizo or indigenous. It was a party of the élite, established by white landowners and aristocrats. The Conservative Party disappeared in 1867, after the fall of Maximilian I of Mexico.

Reform laws

The Reform laws were a set of anticlerical laws enacted in Mexico between 1855 and 1863, during the governments of Juan Alvarez, Ignacio Comonfort and Benito Juárez that were intended to limit the privileges (fueros) of the Roman Catholic Church and the military. The laws also limited the ability of Catholic Church and indigenous communities from collectively holding land. The liberal government sought the revenues from the disentailment of church property, which could fund the civil war against Mexican conservatives and to broaden the base of property ownership in Mexico and encouraging private enterprise. Several of them were raised to constitutional status by the constituent Congress that drafted the liberal Constitution of 1857. Although the laws had a major impact on the Catholic Church in Mexico, liberal proponents were not opposed to the church as a spiritual institution, but rather sought a secular state and a society not dominated religion.

Juárez Law was decreed during the liberal reform, named after the Mexican liberal leader Benito Juárez, who became the president of Mexico in 1861. This law took away the special privileges of the Catholic clergy as well as the Mexican military, such as the fuero exemptions. In addition, Juarez Law stated that members of the clergy and the military must be in the jurisdiction of the civil courts and the common law. So essentially, all Mexican citizens were made equal under this law. This law was created under the liberal objectives of equality to be carried out under it. It brought hope that there was change happening. When the law was first established by presidential decree, the increasingly unpopular Mexican president at the time, Ignacio Comonfort, proclaimed the immediate effect it had on the nation. "Yesterday and today feverish rumors were running in this capital of an imminent revolution...To support this law is a duty of the present administration..." On the other hand, days after the Juárez Law was established, the conservatives came out with the slogan "Religion and Fueros!" in order to counter the law and show support to the Catholic Church.


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Political offices
Preceded by
Ignacio Comonfort
President of Mexico
15 January 1858 – 10 April 1864
Succeeded by
Juan Nepomuceno Almonte
José Mariano Salas
as Regents
Preceded by
President of Mexico (in exile)
10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Maximilian I of Mexico
as Emperor
President of Mexico
15 May 1867 – 18 July 1872
Succeeded by
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada