It seems almost every town in Mexico has an Avenida de Benito Juarez or something similar. So who is this guy and why all the hubbub?
Benito Pablo Juarez Garcia was born in Oaxaca and initially became a lawyer and helped Oaxacan farmers with disputes with landowners. He reluctantly entered politics and was known to be a simple and extremely honest man and did not give in to the corruption in government. He was eventually elected governor of Oaxaca and had a very liberal stance, however, he was in favor of a guerilla resistance towards the United States during the war. Because of his liberal views, he was exiled to New Orleans, Louisiana by the dictator, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, and worked in a cigar factory until he was able to return after the collapse of Santa Ana’s government.
Mexico was in disarray after the collapse and there was an intense struggle for power at the time but eventually, Benito Juarez emerged as the new president of Mexico. When Napolean tried to establish a Mexican empire under Archduke Maximilian, Juarez vehemently denounced any Monarchy or a foreign nation trying to take over power in Mexico. Maximilian was eventually caught and executed by firing squad.
Over the years, Juarez helped establish a constitutional democracy for Mexico and fought for equal rights of the Indian people. He promoted better education for Mexicans and access to healthcare while also reducing the control of the Catholic church had over the country.
Today Benito Juarez is celebrated as Mexico’s greatest hero. He helped rebuild the nation and fought for liberal reform. He built railroads and schools and introduced the first liberal constitution of Mexico in 1857, which guaranteed free speech, free press, the establishment of legal privileges, and the right to organize.