Benito Juárez is a significant figure in Mexican history and we see his name in many places in Puerto Vallarta. There are streets named for him, an entire colonia (neighborhood), schools, businesses. Born on March 21, 1806, the birthday of Benito Juárez is celebrated every year in Mexico on the third Monday in March. Banks will be closed and many workers will have the day off.
Benito Juárez is probably the most important representation of Mexican nationalism. He stands for resistance to foreign intervention. He is the premier model of a leader who would not allow meddling from outside his territory and will always be revered for this reason. We can only hope that Andrés Manuel López Obrador will follow the example of Benito Juárez.
Benito Juárez came from very humble roots, a poor boy raised in the mountains of Oaxaca, born to Zapotec peasants who both died from natural causes when Benito was only three years old. Benito Juárez was raised by an uncle after his grandparents also died; he worked until he was twelve years old, picking corn and herding sheep. Though he could only speak the indigenous language of Zapotec, he took off on his own, walking to Oaxaca City to find his sister, who worked as a cook in the home of Antonio Maza, and was lucky at the time to be hired in the same household. Recognized for his intelligence and quest for knowledge, Benito was accepted to a seminary where he completed studies in record time. Too young to be ordained, he continued his schooling at the Oaxaca Institute of Sciences and Arts and graduated in 1834 with a degree in law. His destiny was political office and he was elected to the city council of Oaxaca in 1831 before he even finished school. In 1841, he was appointed as a civil judge.
Benito Juárez maintained his position against the United States in the Mexican American War but when he could see it was lost, he refused to assist Santa Anna, which caused the exile of Juárez to New Orleans. With a resistance group, he was able to return to Mexico and eventually structured La Reforma, which after many struggles led to his being acknowledged as the President of Mexico in January 1858. He was later elected in 1867 and again in 1871. He thwarted the invasions of both Prussia and France and has fondly been compared to Abraham Lincoln.
Benito Juárez will always be known for his position as a progressive reformer, who was committed to democracy; his opposition to the Catholic church and organized religion; and his objective for equal rights for the indigenous natives of Mexico.
This year, the third Thursday of March falls on the 21st. Puerto Vallarta will have many celebrations on this day for the beloved Benito Juárez.