Who is Benito JuáRez?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Benito Juárez was the president of Mexico for five consecutive terms, from 1858 to 1872. He is Mexico's only full-blooded indigenous President in history and is remembered as a great leader. Benito Juárez helped defend Mexico against the French occupation beginning in 1862, eventually overthrowing the Empire headed by Maximilian of Habsburg and restoring the Republic.

Benito Juarez was governor of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1853.
Benito Juarez was governor of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1853.

Benito Juárez was born on 21 March 1806 in San Pablo Guelatao, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He became a lawyer at the age of 29 and a judge seven years later, and he served as the governor of Oaxaca from 1847 to 1853. When military dictator Santa Anna regained the Mexican Presidency in 1853 after a period of exile, Juárez, a liberal, went into his own exile in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked at a cigar factory. Juárez and other Mexican liberals drafted a plan to remove Santa Anna from office in 1854, and Santa Anna resigned the next year. Juárez returned to Mexico, where the liberals formed a provisional government and began introducing political and social reforms.

In December 1857, conservatives led a revolt against the liberal government, and civil war ensued. Benito Juárez was arrested, but later led liberal forces to victory. As President, first elected in 1858, Juárez continued to issue reforms and modernize the country. In late 1861, after Juárez suspended interest payments on foreign loans due to Mexico's poor economy, the French Army under Napoleon III invaded. The first victory of Mexican forces against the invaders is commemorated on its anniversary by the Mexican national holiday Cinco de Mayo.

Maximilian I, an Austrian, was installed as Emperor of Mexico in 1864. The United States did not recognize his sovereignty and supported Mexico throughout the French occupation. French troops finally withdrew late in 1866, and Maximilian was executed the following year.

Benito Juárez was reelected twice after the occupation and continued to serve as President until his death of a heart attack on 18 July 1872. Juárez is remembered as an inspiring leader and reformer, and he is commemorated with a national holiday on his birthday in Mexico, as well as with monuments throughout Mexico, the United States, and Guatemala.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments


@anon161194 "Mexican-American" born in California? How is this possible? Would this not make you an "American" by birthright or were your parents here illegally?


@anon161194 - I think it is really important that Americans, Mexican Americans and Mexicans try to learn as much as they can about each other's culture and history.It's especially important because we are neighbors.

Maybe since you are a Mexican-American, you can tell us if the Cinco de Mayo celebration we have here in the U.S. - with food, parties, parades and what not is celebrating the victory battle against the French, or is it just a fun holiday that we adopted?

Another question - do Mexican-Americans celebrate Mexico's independence day from Spain. What is that day?


anon158509 - I would tend to agree with anon161194. The United States needs neighbors with strong leaders. Benito Juarez was leading his country to modernization and reform.He put together social and economic reform, which did a lot to help his people.

When the French invaded Mexico at a time when Mexico was a little weak, the United States didn't recognize the new French leader, Maximilian.

The day when the Mexican military came back and won their first battle against the French leader, came to be called Cinco de Mayo. If I am correct, the Cinco De Mayo that Mexican-Americans and other Americans celebrate is just a fun holiday, not really related to the battle.

The article talks about Juarez being a great Mexican leader, and his birthday is celebrated in Mexico, but not in the U.S. But, there are monuments to celebrate him here in the U.S.


I think your comment is racist. It is good to have history and culture in our midst. After all, you came from somewhere else! Sincerely, Mexican-American born in California


I don't think he should be on my american calendar. My calendar was made in the usa. Why would i care?

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