…but, I kinda find this interesting.
In 1967, I spent the Summer in Oaxaca, Mexico, with my Spanish teacher and two girls.
Don’t get any ideas, that’s not where we’re goin’.
Sally Wall, who I will post about in depth at a later date, was way ahead of her time. She, her husband at the wheel, her two children, and three high school students left Centerville, Ohio in a brand new 1966 Ford Station Wagon, pulling a trailer with a sign that said “Oaxaca or Bust”.
We didn’t bust.
The Summer was great, and it spiked my interest in Mexican History. I love it.
Which brings me to my point.
Today is the birth date of Benito Juarez, commonly known as “The Abraham Lincoln of Mexico.” And today, in Mexico, it’s a National Holiday! Party, Fiesta, etc.
He was born outside of Oaxaca, the quaint, colonial city where we were staying. He’s a hero in Mexico, he’s a god in Oaxaca.
He was actually born in the village of San Pablo Guelatao in 1806. So, you guessed it, he’d dead too.
He described his parents as “indios de la raza primitiva del país,” which is to say, Indians of the original race of the country…ish, my Spanish no es bueno anymore, so I might have transpangulated it incorrectly. Note to Peggy: please verify!! Both of his parents died when he was three, and his grandparents a year or so later. He was brought UP by an uncle, er, tio.
Though a peasant, who only spoke his native Zapotec language, he walked to Oaxaca at the age of 12 and worked as a servant for a Franciscan. The Franciscan realized the kid was smart, and enrolled him in the seminary, preparing him for the priesthood.
But, Benito didn’t want to be a priest, he wanted to be a lawyer.
After finishing seminary, Juárez became a lawyer in 1834. By 1841, he was a judge. All of this was amazing, because he was an indigenous person. A native, a real Mexican. The high born Spanish who’d conquered Mexico weren’t too happy with the peasants climbing the ladder, social or economical.
A mere six years later, he became governor of the state of Oaxaca, and remained in that post until 1852. The following year, he went on the lam went into exile.
The corrupt military dictatorship of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, yeah, the same bastardo who killed Davey Crocket at the Alamo, was none to happy with his “liberal leanings”. Translation: Hey, we were here first, and we’re sick of you douchebags ruining everything.
So, he spent his exile in New Orleans, Louisiana, making cigars! In 1854 he helped plan the basis for a liberal revolution in Mexico.
And he went home.
The liberales, or liberal government that took over when Santa Anna resigned in 1855, led a period of Mexican History known as “La Reforma”.
From 1855 until 1862, there was “a revolution a day” in Mexico, and for a longish period, Juarez was El Presidente. Wartorn and broke, he placed a moratorium on all foreign debts. This totally pissed the French off, which we all know is just so darn easy and so much fun to do, and they, meaning Emperor Napoleon III decided it was time to intervene, set UP a pUPpet government and get his cash back.
After all, the US was busy fighting the War of Northern Aggression War Between The States Civil War, and Lincoln wouldn’t or couldn’t invoke the Monroe Doctrine.
So, in comes Napoleon’s troops, The Archduke Maximillian and his soon to be crazy wife Carlota, and voila, they are Emperor and Empress – seriously, presto, shazaam, Juarez out, Max in.
But, Benito didn’t go away. He just moved – north – three times.
Once the American Conflict had ended, the new President, Andrew Johnson, recognized the Juarez government, tried to invoke the Monroe, but congress said no. The war was just over and they were all pissed off about the Reconstruction fight, and none to cooperative with Andy. But, Andy and a few of his buddies, like Union hero General Phil Sheridan, managed to lose a few guns and some ammo near, or actually across the Rio Grande.
Juarez gathers his new arms, his new army, and voila, presto, shazaam, Juarez is back in power.
BTW, he was really ticked off too. Maximillian was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by firing squad. Even with all the pleas from other nations of the world, Benny decided that Max had to go, and anyother interlopers had to be given a warning. You know, UP against the wall…
So, Max was shot, several times, against a wall in Queterro.
These days, regardless of who’s in power, Benito Juárez is remembered as being a progressive reformer and a hero. His dedication to democracy, equal rights for his nation’s original peoples, lessening the grip that the Roman Catholic Church held over Mexican politics, and the defence of national sovereignty, are his greatest legacies.
He is known as the father of La Reforma, or The Reform. And he never gave UP. He died of a heart attack at this desk.
The most important thing he did was remove the quasi-feudal system that was in place. Hence the Abe Lincoln comparrison. He freed the “slaves” of Mexico.
His most famous quote: “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” Which is to say…and again…my Spanish… “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”
Which sounds pretty good to me!