Benito Pablo Juárez Garcia (Gueletao, 1806 - Mexico City 1872) was a Mexican statesman. A member of the liberal faction, he was president from 1858 to 1872. He is often considered Mexico's national hero and one of the country's greatest presidents. His most notable achievements include introducing and defending separation between church and state and repelling the French who tried to set up a puppet government in the country.
Juárez was born in San Pablo Guelatao, in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico on March 21, 1806. He was one of the very few Native Americans ever to become president. Juárez was a Zapotec Indian educated as a middle-class liberal On July 31, 1843, Juárez married Doña Margarita Maza, catholic lady of Italian descent.
Juárez became a lawyer in 1835, on 1847 he became governor of Oaxaca and on 1857 became the Minister of Justice. During the period known as Mexican Reform laws sponsored by the Liberal Party curtailed the power of the Roman Catholic church and the military. Juárez on 1855 decreed a law which separated church and government; this law was "...the spark that produced the flame of the Reform that in later times would consume the decaying structure of abuse and prejudice...". This launched the War of Reform fought from December 1857 to January 1861. Between 1859 and 1863, Juarez proclaimed the Laws of Reform.
From 1862 to 1867 Juárez led the Mexican opposition to the French intervention (2nd Mexican Empire). When Civil War was over, the United States invoked the Monroe Doctrine to give diplomatic recognition to Juárez' government and supply weapons and funding to the Republicanism forces. On 1867 Emperor's forces were defeated and Archduke Maximilian was sentenced to death (June 19) and executed at the Cerro de las Campanas, Querétaro. Juárez entered Mexico City on July 15, 1867.
The McLane-Ocampo Treaty (formally the Treaty of Transit and Commerce), negotiated on 1859 in Veracruz, could be the only important mistake in Juárez' government. Fortunately it was never ratified by the US Senate.
Juárez was a Mason since 1845, member of the National Mexican Rite; he spoke of the law as "my sword and my shield." Much as George Washington was a redeemer from the tyranny of England, so Benito Juárez accomplished the final emancipation from the colonial age. Masonry was the vehicle enabling these men to bring about freedom and independence. (1).
Juárez died while in office on July 18, 1872, in Mexico City. He received from most of the countries of America the recognition as "Benemérito de las Américas”.
- The Civic Religion of Benito Juárez The Cross and the Compass by Sara Frahm.