23Next» Cite This SitePrint Article Benito Juárez Biography
( 1806 – 1872 )
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(born March 21, 1806, San PabloGuelatao, Oaxaca, Mex.—died July 18, 1872, Mexico City) national hero of Mexico, president of Mexico (1861–72), who, for three years (1864–67), fought against foreign occupation under the emperor Maximilianand who sought constitutional reforms to create a democratic federal republic.
Juárez was born of Indian parents, both of whom died when he was three years old. When he was 12 he leftthe uncle who was caring for him and joined his sister in the city of Oaxaca, where he began his formal education.
He originally studied for the priesthood, but in 1829 he entered the OaxacaInstitute of Arts and Sciences to study law and science. In 1831 he received his law degree and also won his first public office, a seat on the municipal council. Impeccably honest, he never used publicoffice for personal gain, and his modest way of life reflected his simple tastes even after his marriage in 1843 to Margarita Maza, a Oaxaca girl 17 years younger than he. Politics soon became hislife's work: he was a member of both the state and national legislatures, he became a judge in 1841, and he served as governor of his state, a post that brought him into national prominence.
Duringthese years in politics Juárez began to formulate liberal solutions for his country's many problems. The road to economic health, he concluded, lay in substituting capitalism for the stifling economicmonopoly held by the Roman Catholic church and the landed aristocracy. He also believed that political stability could be achieved only through the adoption of a constitutional form of government basedon a federal system.
But the return of the conservatives to power in the elections of 1853 doomed imminent reform in Mexico. Many prominent liberals were exiled, including Juárez. From December...