Homage to Benito Juárez Series 2005

Benito Juarez, a Zapotec Indian, was born and educated in the state of Oaxaca and practiced law there from 1834 to 1846.

In 1847, Benito was elected governor of Oaxaca. Juarez joined the liberal movement, which sought constitutional government, reduction of military and clerical power, and the redistribution of the church’s huge landholdings. The dictator Santa Anna exiled Juarez in 1853.

In 1855, Juarez returned to Mexico and became the minister of justice. He had the Juarez Law enacted, which reduced the power of the army and of the Catholic clergy. Juarez led the liberals as their provisional president in a civil war against the conservatives and clergy known as the War of the Reform (1858-1860). When the liberals won, he was elected to the office of President of Mexico in 1861.

He found that the government was in serious financial difficulty, and stopped the payment on all European loans for two years. The French used this action as an excuse to invade Mexico and to install Archduke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. Juarez directed the war for freedom against France. Then in 1866, the United States all but ordered the French out of Mexico. The French troops withdrew in 1866 and 1867 Juarez’ forces then captured and executed Maximilian and his wife, Carlotta.

Juarez again became the President of Mexico in 1867. He then separated the church and state, established religious toleration, and altered the land system. In 1871, Juarez ran once more for the presidency. Since no candidate received a clear majority at the polls, the Mexican congress decided the issue by re-electing Benito Juarez as President.

Due to the many reforms, which Juarez put in place, he is sometimes called “The Lincoln Of Mexico.”

Comments by Salazar: There is a wonderful display on the second floor of the Palace in Mexico City dedicated to Benito Juarez. One of the few old portraits of Benito Juáre is shown in the Palace. Image 1, shown on this page, is a painting I did, 30 x 50 inches on Stonehenge paper. It is my painting portral of Juarez, and as there is so few photographs or paintings of Juarez and his wife I placed her in my portrait, recognizing how important she was in his life and how they never separated;  how she placed her total support in his mission to improv the lives of the indigenous population of Mexico. Their honesty and work for the people continued all their lives. Benito died, with his head on his desk, at work to the very last moment of his life.

Lincoln lived between 1809-1865 and Juárez between 1806-1872. Both were born poor, both cared more for political power than riches, and both believed law was the best preparation for a political career. Though neither was conventionally handsome, both compensated for a lack of matinee idol looks by radiating an impressive charisma and commanding presence. Though they never met personally, they formed a lifetime mutual admiration society and helped each other whenever they could. Above comments: Source Jim Tuck