Justo Sierra Mendez
Justo Sierra Méndez (Campeche, Mexico 1848 - Madrid, Spain 1912). Mexican poet, writer, historian, politician and educator. He was born on Jan. 26, 1848. Sierra is known as 'The Teacher of the Americas'. His father, Justo Sierra O'Reilly, was one of Mexico's foremost intellectuals.
Justo Sierra stands in the select band of historians who played in the life of their country a role equal to their place in its letters. Among his books are remarkable his biography of Benito Juarez and his "Evolución Política del Pueblo Mexicano". He was a member of the Mexican Academy since 1887. As one of the foremost propagandists of his day, Sierra edited and wrote regular columns for several newspapers. Sierra is well known for his voluminous historical and literary works.
Sierra thought was inspired by the positivism of Auguste Comte and Gabino Barreda, believing that Mexico should leave both religion and metaphysics behind and embark on a 'scientific' political system. Positivist thinkers believed that only science could bring progress to Mexico. Although Sierra and his supporters continued to call themselves liberal, the dominant ideology since the final defeat of the conservatives and their foreign allies in 1867, they were less anticlerical and believed a strong government was more important than personal and civil liberties. Sierra proposed to found a 'National Liberal Party' to unite the country's leading politicians. In 1892 the so-called "Partido de los Científicos" was founded, with Justo Sierra Méndez as one of its leading figure. This group of intellectual people provided Porfirio Díaz with a positivist political ideology.
Sierra was also one of the first supporters of the theory of evolution in Mexico, overseeing the publication of the Spanish first translations of Charles Darwins books in the country. Sierra liked to compare biologic evolution with Mexico's political and social evolution, and published The social evolution of the Mexican People, a history of Mexico from a positivist point of view. Sierra opposed the social darwinism of Herbert Spencer however.
Elected to the Mexican Congress in 1872, he quickly gained a reputation as a formidable debater. He served 2 years on the Supreme Court prior to his designation as subsecretary of justice and public education in 1902. From 1905 to 1911 he served as the Secretary of Public Education and Fine Arts under the Porfirio Díaz government. In 1910 he participate in founding the National University of Mexico, the predecessor of the current National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
After Díaz, Francisco Madero chose Justo Sierra to serve as the Mexican ambassador to Spain. He died there in 1912; his remains were returned to Mexico, where president Francisco I. Madero himself presided over his magnificent funerals. He is buried at The Rotonda of Illustrious Men in Mexico City.