Who was Benito Juárez and what did he do?
Each president in the history of Mexico leaves a particular mark, however, there are characters whose mark is very deep. This is the case of Benito Juarez Garcia, who was born on March 21, 1806 in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca. He was orphaned at the age of three and had to migrate due to poverty.
Of Zapotec origin, during his childhood he only spoke his mother tongue, being his uncle who taught him Spanish and to read.
Once established in Oaxaca, Benito lived in the house of his sister Josefa, who worked for Don Antonio Maza. It was in this place that Juárez would meet Margarita Maza, whom he would marry on July 31, 1843. The couple had twelve children, but only five survived.
According to the records, Benito Juárez measured 1.37 in his adulthood, which makes him the president with the shortest physical height. In second place is Francisco I. Madero, who measured between 1.48 and 1.57 meters. While in third place is the dictator Victoriano Huerta, whose height is unknown, but it is known that he was short.
In contrast, the three tallest presidents in history have been Venustiano Carranza, Vicente Fox, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with first, second, and third place, respectively.
First labors in Oaxaca
Initially he worked as a shepherd on a farm, later becoming a bookbinder’s apprentice with the Franciscan friar Antonio Salanueva, who also became his protector and discovered in Benito a great intelligence. Thanks to this, Benito Juárez was able to enter the seminary, but he realized that he did not have a vocation for religious life and he enrolled in the Institute of Sciences and Arts. He came to speak perfect Latin.
At the age of 24, Benito Juárez was a teacher in the Physics Classroom of the Institute of Sciences and Arts of Oaxaca and a year later he became rector. It should be noted that the institute was known for his liberal thinking, which made him break with his Franciscan godfather.
Benito Juárez, political incursion
In 1833 he was named elected local deputy of the Honorable Legislature of the state of Oaxaca. A year later he received the position of interim minister of the State Court of Justice. Later, in 1838, he was appointed interim secretary of the First Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of the Department of Oaxaca. By 1844 he was already working as prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Justice of Oaxaca.
Thanks to his legal-political work, in 1847 he was appointed interim governor of Oaxaca, a position to which he ran again a year later and in which he was re-elected for a period of four years. Among his most commendable actions during his governorship is having doubled the Oaxacan schools from 50 to 100.
In 1853, when Antonio López de Santa Anna came to power, Benito Juárez was banished to Havana after a brief prison term. He subsequently was deported to New Orleans, where he lived by manufacturing cigars. Finally, he returned to Mexico in 1855 and participated in the revolution that overthrew Antonio López de Santa Anna.
Subsequently, he served as Secretary of the Interior and initiated the legal movement that would result in the Reform Laws, which were included in the 1857 Constitution. He also issued the Juárez Law, which definitively separated Church and State.
In 1858 he became interim president after starting a reaction from conservatives. In said administration he took the opportunity to establish the bases of the Secular State and Federalism. When he noticed that his situation in the capital was adverse, he turned Veracruz into his seat of government. From there, Juárez initiated the liberal reforms that would limit the political power of Catholicism.
In 1860 Benito Juárez defeated the conservatives and a year later he was again elected president of Mexico. This new period was marked by the creation of the Civil Registry, the end of clerical privileges, freedom of worship and the expropriation of ecclesiastical assets.
Because the country was bankrupt, Benito Juárez suspended payment of the foreign debt, causing troops from his French, Spanish, and British creditors to land in Veracruz. He reached a payment agreement with England and Spain, but France persisted and his army took Mexico City.
Benito Juárez, last years
Once in power, the French and conservatives imposed on Maximilian of Habsburg as emperor in 1864. Meanwhile, Juárez continued to rule the liberal regions from the north of the country.
In 1867 he again defeated the conservatives and had Maximiliano shot in Querétaro. Likewise, he was re-elected President of the Republic and dedicated himself to the economic recovery of the country, reduced the Army and held dialogue with union organizations.
By 1872, Juárez was already experiencing highly intense rebellions within the liberal movement, mainly the one headed by Porfirio Díaz. Although he tried to be re-elected once more, he did not succeed, as he died on July 18, 1872 in the National Palace, Mexico City.
Most famous phrases of Benito Juárez
- “With the people everything, without the people nothing.”
- “The triumph of reaction is morally impossible.”
- “Between individuals, as between nations, respect for the rights of others is peace”
- “I don’t kill the man, I kill the idea.”
- “Love for God and neighbor, not the hypocritical simulations of practices without truth or feelings (will return peace to the Republic).”
Rodrigo Osegueda Philosopher by training. Contemplate the soul and imagination of Mexico.