Today is a Mexican national holiday because former President Benito Juárez was born March 21, 1806.
In the history of Mexico only one indigenous man has been elected president, Benito Juárez, of the Zapotec tribe. Juárez started life with few advantages, in poverty. His parents died when he was small and his grandparents not long after. His uncle raised him until he was 12, then Benito moved to Oaxaca to live with his older sister. Since Benito proved to be very intelligent, a priest suggested he study at seminary.
He spoke very little Spanish until he entered the Santa Cruz seminary. Once he finished his studies, Juárez decided not to become a Catholic priest, but an attorney instead. He continued his studies and graduated from law school in 1834. He was on the Oaxaca City Council. In 1841 he was made a judge and was famous for his fairness in cases for indigenous rights. By 1847, he was Governor of Oaxaca. Juárez lived in a tumultuous time in Mexico history with foreign invasions and internal coups; Texan revolt, US-Mexico War, French invasion, and Mexican military take overs.
When Santa Anna became dictator of Mexico in 1853, Juárez left in exile to the United States. He helped draft the Plan de Ayutla, which ended Santa Anna’s dictatorship. Under the new elected government, Juárez became Minister of Justice. He was famous for developing the Ley Juárez. The 1855 Juárez Law declared: all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law, including clerics and the military. This diminished their power, because they were not allowed to act above the law. Conservatives balked at the reforms and staged a coup. Civil war continued 1857–1860. (Juárez was president 1858-1860 for his side of the divided country.)
Mexicans elected Juárez president for the 1861–1864 term. However, the French invasion began in 1862. Juárez was president during the famous Cinco de Mayo battle with the French, where the Mexicans won the battle at Puebla, but lost the war. In 1863, the French arrived in Mexico City. 1864, Emperor Maxmilian and Empress Charlotte arrived in Mexico. By 1867, the Empire fell. New elections were held and Juárez won the Presidency once again. He was in office until his death in 1872.
Juárez’ most famous quote is: “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz”. This means, “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.” That sounds like wisdom to me.
Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! Olé! –Rebecca