Benito Pablo Juárez García was a Zapotec Amerindian who served five terms as president of Mexico: 1858–1861 as interim, 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872. For resisting the Frenchoccupation, overthrowing the Empire, and restoring the Republic, as well as for his efforts to modernize the country, Juárez is often regarded as Mexico's greatest and most beloved leader. Juárez wasrecognized by the United States as a ruler in exile during the French-controlled Second Mexican Empire, and got their support in reclaiming Mexico under the Monroe Doctrine after the United States CivilWar ended. Benito Juárez was the first Mexican leader who did not have a military background, and also the first full-blooded indigenous national to serve as President of Mexico and to lead a countryin the Western Hemisphere in over 300 years.
Juárez was born in the small village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, located in the mountain range now known as the "Sierra Juárez." His parents, MarcelinoJuárez and Brígida García were peasants who died when he was three years old. He described his parents as "Indios de la raza primitiva del país," that is, "Indians of the original race of thecountry." He worked in the corn fields and as a shepherd until the age of 12. On December 17, 1818, he walked to the city of Oaxaca looking to educate himself and find a better life. At the time, he wasilliterate and could not speak Spanish, only Zapotec.
In the city, where his sister worked as a cook, he took a job as a domestic servant and eagerly made up for his lack of education. A lay Franciscan,Antonio Salanueva, was impressed with young Benito's intelligence and thirst for learning, and arranged for his placement at the city's seminary. He studied there but decided to pursue law rather thanthe priesthood. He graduated from the seminary in 1827 and went on to gain a degree in law.
Today Benito Juárez is remembered as being a progressive reformer dedicated to democracy, equal rights...
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