Juárez, Benito

Juárez, Benito

(bānē`tō hwä`rās), 1806–72, Mexican liberal statesman and national hero. Revered by Mexicans as one of their greatest political figures, Juárez, with great moral courage and honesty, upheld the civil law and opposed the privileges of the clericals and the army. A lawyer, he was governor of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1852. In 1853 he was imprisoned for his opposition to Santa AnnaSanta Anna, Antonio López de
, 1794–1876, Mexican general and politician. He fought in the royalist army, but later joined Iturbide in the struggle that won independence for Mexico (1821). Santa Anna then entered upon a long and tortuous political career.
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. After a period of exile in the United States, Juárez was a chief figure in drawing up the Plan of AyutlaAyutla
, town (1990 pop. 6,214), Guerrero state, S Mexico. Its full name is Ayutla de los Libres [Ayutla of the free]. It is the commercial center for an agricultural, cattle-raising, and lumbering area.
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 and in the subsequent revolution that overthrew Santa Anna. Juárez became minister of justice in the new government and issued the Ley Juárez, which, with the Ley Lerdo (see Lerdo de Tejada, MiguelLerdo de Tejada, Miguel
, d. 1861, Mexican liberal statesman, a leader of the Revolution of Ayutla, cabinet member under Juan Álvarez. As minister under Comonfort, he initiated the Ley Lerdo (1856), a law providing for the forced sale of all real property of the Roman
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), attacked the privileges of the church and the army. The conservatives rose against the liberal constitution of 1857. When ComonfortComonfort, Ignacio
, 1812–63, Mexican general and president (1855–58). He was one of the leaders in the Revolution of Ayutla, which in 1855 overthrew Santa Anna and installed Juan Álvarez in the presidency.
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 resigned, Juárez became acting president. He showed his mettle as a high-minded leader of the liberal revolution, which transferred political power from the creoles to the mestizos and forged Mexico's national consciousness. Forced to flee to Guanajuato, then to Guadalajara, and finally to Veracruz with his government, he resisted the conservatives, and ultimately the liberals were successful in the War of the Reform (1858–61). After establishing the government in the capital, Juárez was immediately faced with new difficulties. The intervention of France, Spain, and Great Britain because of unpaid debts to their nationals was followed by the French attempt to establish a Mexican empire (1864–67) under MaximilianMaximilian,
1832–67, emperor of Mexico (1864–67). As the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, he was denied a share in the imperial government by his reactionary brother, Emperor Francis Joseph.
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. Juárez, with the adherence of such notable Mexicans as Ignacio Manuel AltamiranoAltamirano, Ignacio Manuel
, 1834–93, Mexican novelist and poet. Altamirano came from a poor family of indigenous descent, and after gaining his formal education he joined Benito Juárez in the struggle against Maximilian.
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, continued gallant resistance to the French soldiers and moved his capital to El Paso del Norte (later renamed Juárez city). The Mexican people rallied to Juárez, and the empire fell. Reelected in 1867, he instituted the program of reform in full force, but political divisions among the liberals hampered real accomplishments, and by his political maneuvers Juárez somewhat tarnished the glory gained by his defense of Mexico. He was again elected in 1871. An insurrection against him by Porfirio DíazDíaz, Porfirio
, 1830–1915, Mexican statesman, a mestizo, christened José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz. He gained prominence by supporting Benito Juárez and the liberals in the War of the Reform and in the war against Emperor Maximilian and the
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 was being suppressed when Juárez died.

Bibliography

See biography by U. R. Burke (1894); studies by W. V. Scholes (1969), I. E. Cadenhead, Jr. (1973), L. B. Perry (1978), and C. A. Weeks (1987); R. Roeder, Juárez and His Mexico (1947, repr. 1968).

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