Benito Pablo Juárez García (March 21, 1806-Mexico City, July 18, 1872), better known as Benito Juárez, was a Mexican lawyer and politician, of indigenous origin (of Zapotec ethnicity), president of Mexico on several occasions, from January 21, 1858 to July 18, 1872. He is known as the “Benemérito de las Américas”. His famous phrase is: “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace”.
Benito Juárez lived a crucial period in the formation of the Mexican State, considered by many historians as the consolidation of the nation as a republic. Juarez marked a turning point in national history and was a leading protagonist of this era. Despite being a President with no military background, he was a key figure in both the Reform War and the second French intervention. His biography during the years he held the presidency is an outstanding part of Mexico”s history.
Benito Pablo Juárez García was born on March 21, 1806 in the town of San Pablo Guelatao, (a Zapotec word meaning “deep night”), a town located in the mountain range now known as Sierra Juárez and then belonging to the jurisdiction of Santo Tomás de Ixtláncotoyol in the state of Oaxaca (now the municipality of Guelatao de Juárez). He was baptized the day after his birth in the parish of Santo Tomás Ixtlán.
“In the parish church of Santo Tomas de Ixtlan, on the twenty-second of March of the year eighteen hundred and six, I, D. Ambrosio Puche, neighbor of this district, solemnly baptized Benito Pablo, legitimate son and legitimate marriage of Marcelino Juarez and Brigida Garcia, indigenous people of the town of San Pablo Guelatao, belonging to this head. His paternal grandparents are Pedro Juarez and Justa Lopez, and his maternal grandparents are Pablo Garcia and Maria Garcia. She was godmother Apolonia Garcia, indigenous, married to Francisco Garcia, warning them of their obligations and spiritual kinship, -And for the record I sign with Mr. Cura. Mariano Cortarrabia-.Ambrosio Puche.”
His parents” names were Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García according to the baptismal certificate issued the day after his birth and who, according to their own words, were “indigenous people of the primitive race of the country” and both were farmers. Both parents died when he was three years old; his mother during the birth of his sister María Alberta Longinos. Benito along with his sisters María Josefa and Rosa were left under the care of his paternal grandparents Pedro Juárez and Justa López, also Indians of the “Zapotec nation” and his very young sister María Longinos with his maternal aunt Cecilia. A few years later his grandparents also died and Juárez”s two older sisters married, leaving him finally under the custody of his uncle Bernardino Juárez. From then on he worked as a farm laborer and sheep herder until the age of twelve. His uncle Bernardino knew Spanish and taught it to Juárez who showed enthusiasm in learning it, however, the work in the fields and the fact that Spanish was not spoken in the town did not allow Juárez to make much progress in his learning. In his town, as was the case in small towns, there was not even the most elementary school. Juárez realized that those who learned to read did so by traveling to the city, either by paying a pension or by working as servants in wealthy homes, which fueled his desire to go to the city, which he often asked his uncle to do without ever being granted his wish. Finally, on December 17, 1818, Juarez decided to leave his hometown after choosing between his feelings and his desire to be educated. He directed his steps to the city of Oaxaca. This escape could have been motivated after having lost a sheep and avoiding the punishment that awaited him. Until this moment, Juarez”s only language was Zapotec, being his knowledge of the Spanish language basic.
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First studies in Oaxaca
Upon arriving in the city, Juárez asked his sister Josefa, who was working as a cook for a wealthy family of a foreign merchant named Antonio Maza, for lodging. With Mr. Maza”s approval, Juarez started taking care of the farm with a salary of two reales. Mr. Maza”s adopted daughter, Margarita Maza, many years later would become Juarez”s wife.
In later days, the young Juárez met the Franciscan priest of the third order, Antonio Salanueva, who admitted him as an apprentice bookbinder. In the words of Juárez: “although very dedicated to devotion and religious practices, he was quite carefree and a friend of the education of youth”. On January 7, 1819, only 21 days after arriving in the city, Salanueva received Juárez in his home and workshop and offered to send him to school. After changing schools once because he did not feel any progress in his learning, he began new courses at La Escuela Real under the tutelage of José Domingo González who gave him a strong scolding for considering his writing deficient, a matter that deeply offended the young Juárez. Juárez also suffered, along with the other children of his indigenous and poor condition, from discrimination, since while the tutor taught the so-called “decent” children, those of his condition were taught by the assistant. Because of this, Juarez left the school, which he considered to have a terrible teaching method, and decided to learn on his own.
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Having realized that the young seminarians of that time enjoyed good education and social recognition, and also supported by the advice given by his uncle Bernardino, even though he felt “instinctive repugnance” for clerical matters, he made the decision to ask the clergyman Salanueva to help him enter the city”s seminary. Thanks to the support of his preceptor, Juárez was able to overcome the requirement of having assets to support himself during his studies and of having Spanish as his mother tongue, as stipulated by the ecclesiastical laws of America at that time. Salanueva was therefore a key element in Juarez”s intellectual formation, and in the future he came to consider him as his godfather.
On October 18, 1821, as soon as the war of independence was over, Juárez began studying Latin grammar at the Seminary of Santa Cruz as a Capense, and in August 1823 he concluded these studies after having obtained excellent grades in both exams. In August 1823 he concluded these studies after having obtained a grade of excellence in the two exams he took. Juárez then faced a serious difficulty in that his mentor Salanueva wanted him to study moral theology and thus receive holy orders, an idea that repulsed Juárez not only because of his disdain for the clerical but also because of the fame of those who aspired to this path in the seminary, who were called “padres de misa y olla” or “lárragos” (fathers of mass and pot). Juarez convinced Salanueva with the argument that he was not yet old enough to be ordained so, in the meantime, he could study the arts course. In 1824 he began taking Latin, philosophy and theology courses. The seminary was not his vocation and he was especially bored by theology, a class in which he fell asleep. He concluded this course of arts in 1827 after having held two acts in public and having passed the regulatory exams with a grade of Excellent nemine discrepante and with honorable marks from his synods. In spite of the opposition of his protector Salanueva, he left the seminary and turned to law.
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Juarez attorney at law
He entered the career of Jurisprudence at the Institute of Sciences and Arts of Oaxaca, where he obtained in 1834 the first law degree issued by the Court of Justice of the state. Several of his professors were Masons. On one occasion he was asked to play a role in a play by Virgil in a staging which included reciting some verses in Latin, to look Roman being very dark, following the advice of a classmate, he bleached his face, he did it so grotesquely that it was laughable to see it. However, when he began the recital he spoke in perfect Latin and was admired and applauded.
After graduating as a lawyer, he worked for some time defending indigenous communities, a job that made him travel between different communities and the city of Oaxaca and even led him to jail.
Juarez could read texts in Latin, French and English and was familiar with canon and civil law.
On May 26, 1830 Juárez is appointed in charge of the Physics Classroom of the Institute of Sciences and Arts of Oaxaca.
He served as rector of his Institute in 1831, where he always professed and defended liberal ideas above all. On December 11, 1831, the Oaxaca City Council informed Juarez that he had been elected alderman for the period beginning on January 1, 1832, thus beginning his political career. On August 25, 1832 the governor of Oaxaca José López de Ortigoza issued a decree communicating the appointments for the Court of Justice of the state of Oaxaca, being Benito Juárez appointed alternate minister. On February 11, 1833 Juárez was formally appointed elected deputy of the Honorable Legislature of the state of Oaxaca, that is to say, local deputy. On his 26th birthday Juárez is appointed captain of the 5th Company of the 1st Battalion of Civic Militia of his state. On February 3, 1834 Juárez was appointed member of the Board of Health of his state. On February 7, 1834, Juárez was named interim minister of the Court of Justice of the state. On April 7, 1834, he was named member of the Board of Qualification and Awarding of the merits that, in the fort of Santo Domingo, the valiant defenders of our institutions had earned. On April 6, 1838, Juárez was named interim secretary of the First Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of the Department of Oaxaca. On December 31, 1839, he was named substitute minister of the same Superior Court of Justice. On August 23, 1840 Juarez was appointed composer for the Fifth Section of Oaxaca. On December 31, 1840 he was again appointed alternate minister of the same Superior Court of Justice. On July 22, 1841 the Superior Court of Justice of the Oaxacan department issued Juarez an office of judge of the instance of the civil branch for the city of Oaxaca. On October 3, 1843 he received an appointment as second alternate member of the Electoral Board of Oaxaca. On June 1, 1844 a communiqué was issued to the Honorable Departmental Assembly of the state that Juárez could not fill the position of member of the Assembly because he was serving as Secretary of Government of the state department. On January 3, 1853 Juárez received an appointment as substitute professor of Civil Law at the Institute of Sciences and Arts of Oaxaca. On February 22 Juárez was granted an unpaid leave of absence for one month from the Institute. On September 30, 1858 Juárez was enrolled as honorary member of the Mexican Dramatic Conservatory by means of a document signed by its president, José Valero and the pro-secretary Justo Sierra.
That same year he supported Valentín Gómez Farías, who sought to weaken and subdue the clergy. However, a year later centralism was imposed again in the country, so he fled to Puebla. After a couple of years he returned to Oaxaca. He was given the job of judge of first instance. He had at least two children with an anonymous woman of the town, whom he did not know and then married Margarita Maza, adopted daughter of his former employer, Antonio Maza. At the time of the wedding, he was 37 years old, and she was 17.
He served as a bureaucrat to both the centralists and the Santannistas. He even had a portrait of Santa Anna placed in his session room, and when his wife died, he asked public employees to mourn. In 1844 he was rewarded with the appointment of prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Justice of Oaxaca.
When General Paredes Arrillaga lost in the presidential elections, Juarez was elected federal deputy, so in 1847 he moved to Mexico City in this capacity.
During the U.S. invasion, Juárez returned to Oaxaca and was named interim governor in 1847. His administration was characterized by achieving economic equilibrium and the realization of public works such as roads, the reconstruction of the government palace, the foundation of normal schools, the creation of a geographic map and the map of the city of Oaxaca. He doubled the number of schools in Oaxaca, from 50 in the whole state to 100 or more. He created the port of Huatulco and built the road to the capital, which reduced the cost of several goods that were brought from Veracruz or Acapulco. He also reorganized the National Guard and left surpluses in the treasury. As governor, Juarez frequently started his activities at five in the morning and left his office very late, after 10 at night. He installed a public desk so that anyone who requested it could talk to him regardless of their social or economic status. Also in that position Juarez prevented the entrance to Oaxaca of the fugitive Santa Anna, who was fleeing from the capital of the country due to the U.S. occupation at that time, an offense that Santa Anna would never forgive.
In 1853, when Antonio López de Santa Anna became president for the eleventh time, he took revenge on Juárez for having prevented him from entering the state. Just as Juarez had warned his wife, one day while he was giving a lecture, some soldiers came for him to arrest him. He asked for five minutes to finish his lecture and was even allowed to go home to say goodbye to Margarita, thinking of a possible firing squad. They locked him up in the jars of San Juan de Ulúa. Soon after, he was transferred to Veracruz, where he was embarked on a Spanish flag ship bound for exile in Cuba, where he worked in a cigar factory. Some time later Juarez moved to New Orleans, where he sought the support of the local Masonic lodges. There Juarez met Melchor Ocampo and other exiles who had been exiled or were simply politically persecuted by the dictator. All of them secretly met in that city to plan a coup d”état against Santa Anna.
In exile Juarez sought to support the revolution that was taking place in Ayutla. So he managed to embark to Panama to later arrive in Acapulco. He was first given a humble position as a scribe and advised the Guerrero chieftain and independence hero Juan N. Alvarez in the revolutionary struggle. Before the imminent liberal triumph, Santa Anna abandoned the presidency on August 9, 1855 and on September 16 the liberals arrived at the capital. On October 4, a board of state representatives elected General Álvarez as provisional president in Cuernavaca. Juárez cast his vote in favor of the general who defeated Ignacio Comonfort, Santiago Vidaurri and Melchor Ocampo in the elections by a wide majority. Álvarez decided to form his cabinet with the generation of pure liberals such as Melchor Ocampo in Relations, Guillermo Prieto in Treasury and Benito Juárez was chosen to be Minister of Justice and Public Instruction.
At this time he issued the Juarez Law, officially known as the Law on the Administration of Justice and Organization of the Courts of the Nation, District and Territories. This law restricted the rights of the military and ecclesiastics, such as suppressing the “special” tribunals that both bodies had. But it was not a complete solution like the one signed later by Ignacio Comonfort and Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, which separated the Church from the State. The Juarez Law was simply an outline of something that had to be more complete.
In 1855, during the government of Ignacio Comonfort, he was first governor of Oaxaca, to later be appointed Minister of the Interior and president of the Supreme Court of Justice. In December of that same year, during the coup d”état caused by conflicts between conservatives who supported the church and liberals who had supported the separation of Church and State, Juarez was imprisoned by Comonfort”s own forces. The reason was the doubt of the coup leaders about his position, since Juarez never openly declared himself against or in favor of the conflict, ironically caused by the law whose foundations he himself had helped to establish.
However, Comonfort himself, who had organized his own coup d”état against his government, came a month later to ask Juárez for his help, since both liberals and conservatives had not reached any agreement and the government was getting weaker and weaker. So Juarez went to Guanajuato to see General Manuel Doblado, who was governor of the state, to organize another coup d”état. However, Doblado, along with other governors, had already disowned Comonfort and appointed Juarez himself as substitute, while Zuloaga in Mexico City also rebelled against Comonfort and the liberals. This caused the Three Years” War.
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In 1858, Juarez became president of the Republic for the first time after Ignacio Comonfort”s self-coup, who decided to ally himself with the Tacubaya Plan and resigned, becoming president according to the Constitution when he became Minister of Justice. Félix María Zuloaga, who was supported by the army and the clergy, classes affected by the laws enacted during Comonfort”s mandate, based on the Juárez Law, was also declared president by the conservatives. Juarez maintained an itinerant government among the different states, persecuted by the federal army and with scarce resources. His government initially formed a militia of a few hundred men, including many of his exiled friends from New Orleans, such as Melchor Ocampo.
Juarez had to flee to Guanajuato, where he was officially named president and tried to organize his government, integrating in his cabinet Melchor Ocampo in Relations and War, Manuel Ruiz in Justice, Guillermo Prieto in Treasury, Leon Guzman in Development, Anastasio Parrodi as chief of the army and shortly after he named Santos Degollado as minister of government. There, from Guanajuato, the interim president Juarez sent his first manifesto to the nation on January 19, 1858 in which he summoned the Mexican people to join his cause, which he considered just and emanated from the will of the people. Finally, forced by the circumstances of the war and before the imminent advance of Osollo and Miramón, he left towards Guadalajara on February 13.
On the afternoon of Sunday, February 14, 1858, President Juarez arrived in Guadalajara accompanied by his full cabinet and some members of Congress, including Vice President Mateo Echais. He was received by the state and municipal authorities in San Pedro Tlaquepaque who protested their loyalty.
While they were holding a cabinet meeting at the Guadalajara Municipal Palace, an officer betrayed him and interrupted the meeting with some soldiers, whom he ordered to prepare weapons. Juarez got up from his chair and stood in front to await his fate, asking to be shot in the chest. Guillermo Prieto, in an outburst, stood in front of Juarez and shouted: “The brave do not assassinate!”, and continued: “If you want blood, drink mine, but do not touch the president”. The officer, moved, sheathed his sword and withdrew with his troops.
Facing the advance of the federal troops, Juarez and his government reached the Pacific, where he had no other choice to save himself but to embark with his cabinet and other people to Panama, from where he crossed to the Atlantic Ocean to travel to Havana and then to New Orleans where he arrived on April 28. In all these places he was recognized and received signs of admiration for defending his cause. In New Orleans he was incessantly approached by the press.
On May 4, 1858 Juárez arrived in Veracruz, where the government of Manuel Gutiérrez Zamora, together with General Ignacio de la Llave, was close to him. When he arrived at the port of Veracruz, his wife and children were already waiting for him at the dock, along with a large part of the population, who that day overflowed to the boardwalk to receive him. There he spent several months without problems until the attack of Miguel Miramón, who finally lifted the siege on the port on March 30, 1859. On April 6 he received the diplomatic representative of the United States Robert MacLane.
On July 12, 1859 Juarez decreed the first of the reform norms: the Law of Nationalization of Ecclesiastical Goods, which prevented the Church from owning property in Mexico.
Given the fragility of Juarez”s government, the conservatives Félix María Zuloaga and Leonardo Márquez had the opportunity to recover power. Faced with this, Juarez asked the congress for extraordinary faculties. The liberal members of the congress refused, with the main argument that having placed the country under a constitution had cost a very bloody war and it was not possible that Juarez, who had promoted said Constitution, now wanted to violate the principles of legality by giving himself the powers of a virtual dictator. However, two groups of conservatives caught Ocampo and Santos Degollado, respectively, and killed them, diverting the attention of the liberals in the congress and changing their opinion by deciding to grant money and permits to Juarez to finish them off.
He had exceptional finances during his term of office. His government had a budget deficit of 400,000 pesos per month. He only managed to collect one million pesos from the sale of church properties.
Unable to pay its debts with Europe due to the precarious public treasury as a consequence of the Reform War, the port of Veracruz was invaded on December 15, 1861 by a Spanish force of 6000 men that met with no resistance. On January 9, 1862, they were joined by 3000 French and 800 English.
The English and Spanish invaders left the country, as the French sabotaged talks to obtain peaceful payment of debts. Napoleon III was secretly seeking to establish a Mexican Empire.
Pope Pius IX also supported the invasion of Mexico. The Catholic Church was strongly displeased with the application of the Reform Laws in Mexico. The Vatican encyclical Quanta cura included the Syllabus errorum, which was a catalog of infractions of the alleged rights of the Church by governments in Europe and America of countries once subject to ecclesiastical domination.
“We raise our pontifical voice with apostolic freedom in this your full assembly to condemn, reprobate and declare the aforementioned decrees to be invalid and of no value whatsoever.”
On May 5, 1862, the French lost the Battle of Puebla against Mexican troops under the command of Ignacio Zaragoza. General Zaragoza sent to the National Palace his famous telegram.
“The national arms have covered themselves with glory”.
France, a year after the battle of May 5th, sent 25,000 more men who entered the City of Puebla in a little more than two months after having laid siege to the city, which caused severe shortage of goods and especially food, which reduced the defensive possibilities that from the beginning were inferior, but also the population in its great majority saw in the invaders the enemies against what the conservatives wanted to promote. Several commanders of the Mexican army, among them Porfirio Díaz and González Ortega were captured.
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After having held an extraordinary session of the Congress of the Republic, where special powers were given to Juarez and the Congress decreed the suspension of work until further notice, followed by a solemn session that ended in the capital”s Zocalo with thousands of Mexicans who went to bid farewell to Juarez, on May 31, 1863. Juarez left the capital along with a large caravan to take the Government of the Republic with him to the north, safe from the invaders. In the caravan were Juarez”s main ministers, as well as many wagons loaded with papers containing the nation”s archives. The caravan was guarded by about three hundred well-equipped soldiers.
When Juarez”s caravan passed near Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Juarez ordered a detour to Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. There, a meeting was held with the municipal chief and the townspeople. Juarez visited Miguel Hidalgo”s house, which was in good condition. There the municipal chief let the president know that the old man who was seen there was the one guarding the property, and that he had been a friend of Miguel Hidalgo. Juarez approached the man who pretended to recline before Juarez, but Juarez stopped him and told him that he was the one who should recline before the old man because he was a hero of the independence. Juarez asked the man what Hidalgo was like, to which he replied that he was an extraordinary man. Juarez told him that he fought for the same ideals as Hidalgo. Juarez arrived in San Luis Potosi where he tried to remake his government. He had decreed a law, on January 25 of the previous year, that all those who supported with weapons and took government posts from the invaders would be traitors. Also, anyone who called for the abolition of the Reform Laws would be a traitor.
The French entered the Mexican capital without firing a single shot, since Juarez and his cabinet were governing from San Luis Potosi. From there he strategically moved to Monterrey and Saltillo. He drove out the cacique through his contacts, only to lose the cities to the French. Juarez had sent Margarita and her children to New York, United States, where he received the support of Matias Romero and the Secretary of the Mexican Embassy in that country, which was still functioning. After receiving Margarita and her family at the train station, Matías Romero settled them in a house in the suburbs. Juarez”s orders had been to get them a sufficient but modest house. Immediately, Matias Romero entrusted Margarita and her family to his secretary and left for Washington City, where he met with the Secretary of State. Juarez”s assignment was to make sure that the United States would be on the side of the Republic and against French imperialism. Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President at that time, was having great problems in the middle of the Civil War, which was being waged between the North and the South of the country. Matías Romero got the U.S. Secretary of State to ask his ambassador to Spain to influence to prevent that country from supporting the French enterprise in Mexico. To this end, Spain was threatened that if it insisted on supporting the invasion of Mexico, the United States would have to intervene in favor of the Republic.
Maximilian heads to Mexico and writes a letter to Juarez, inviting him to participate in his imperial government. Juarez replies from the City of Monterrey on March 1, 1864, rejecting such proposal, denigrating him for being an agent of Napoleon III and warning him that history will judge them.
It is given to man, sir, to attack the rights of others, to seize their property, to attempt against the lives of those who defend their nationality, to make their virtues a crime and their vices a virtue; but there is one thing that is beyond the reach of perversity, and that is the tremendous judgment of history. It will judge us.
Juarez moved to Coahuila, settling in several towns and haciendas. But the most outstanding place was the town of Gatuño (today Congregación Hidalgo), since it was here where on September 4, 1864 he ordered several caciques to hide the nation”s archives, which they hid in the Tobacco Cave. These caciques hid the archives in the Cueva del Tabaco, from there, he entered the Comarca Lagunera of the state of Durango, where he traveled to the Hacienda de Pedriceña in the town of Cuatillos. Here they arrived on the afternoon of September 15, 1864. It was here where Juarez gave the Cry of Independence in 1864. Afterwards they moved to the Hacienda del Sovaco in Nazas and from there to the Hacienda de Santa Rosa (today Gómez Palacio), where he had a meeting with the first officers of the nation. From there he moved to Mapimí, Durango where he stayed several days in a hospice house. Once he left Durango, he entered Chihuahua, with less and less support. Maximilian and his wife Carlota, after a tour of Europe, arrived in Mexico City. General Jesús González Ortega, who had been loyal to the cause of the Republic and had fought against the French invaders in Puebla, was head of the Secretary of War and of the Supreme Court of the Nation. González Ortega fought the French advance to the north without success.
In 1864, President Benito Juárez and his ministers Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada, José María Iglesias and Miguel Negrete arrived to Chihuahua and installed in the city the seat of the republican government. In Chihuahua, the republic enjoyed a great deal of support from both the government and the people. Exactly one year before the end of Juarez”s constitutional period, Gonzalez Ortega entered Lerdo de Tejada”s office asking if the presidency would be handed over to him that day or the next, arguing that the 1857 Constitution was not very clear on the matter, to which Lerdo asked him for a few hours to answer. Lerdo went to talk to President Juarez about the claim. He told the president about Gonzalez Ortega”s claim and that Gonzalez Ortega was corrupt because he had evidence that he had diverted funds for the Republican Army to himself. The conclusion was that Gonzalez Ortega was confused because Juarez”s constitutional term was ending a year later. The confusion was due to the fact that Juarez had occupied the presidency on an interim basis, but that time did not count within the constitutional period. In the afternoon Gonzalez Ortega knocked at Lerdo”s office and upon passing by Lerdo clarified the matter. Gonzalez Ortega had nothing more to say and in the face of such ridicule he left soon after with his brother to North America in a self-exile.
In New York, Pepito, one of Juarez”s sons, was sick with pneumonia due to the strong cold that was raging in that region. Juarez had heard about this. The United States was in civil war. Matias Romero took the train to New York and together with other embassy officials went to see Margarita and her patient. When they arrived they were met by Pedro Santacilia, Margarita”s son-in-law who lived there with his wife and was entrusted by Juarez to watch over the family. The child Pepito had just died. The temperature was around 12 degrees below zero. The house was extremely cold because firewood and provisions in general were very scarce in that winter and in the middle of the war. What little there was was extremely expensive and Margarita”s home did not have those resources. The scene was heartbreaking according to Don Pedro. Margarita screamed inconsolably, hugging the body. The embassy officials waited in the room. Don Pedro had to use the furniture as firewood to heat the house a little. Margarita was opposed to having her son”s funeral in “that foreign city” (New York) and decided to embalm the body until she could bury it in her homeland, Oaxaca. Pedro Santacilia informed Juarez of this, to which he replied that she (Margarita) is his mother and knows what she is doing. Such a disposition violated the sanitary laws of New York as Matias Romero let Pedro Santacilia know.
During February 1865 Juarez was warned of the tragedy, which took him away from his office in Chihuahua for a week. His collaborators encouraged him and at the same time were astonished by the temper of that indigenous man, especially his Secretary of Finance José María Iglesias and his Secretary of the Interior Miguel Lerdo de Tejada. On March 21, 1865, his collaborators and the governor of Chihuahua organized a birthday party for him, Juarez when he found out said that he did not want a single cent of the treasury to be spent on any party, to which they replied that they would not do it, that the expenses would be personal. Faced with this reality, Juarez attended the event organized at 6:00 p.m., which was attended by some 800 people. On the other hand, in the United States, the troops commanded by Abraham Lincoln took the capital of the South and defeated General Robert E. Lee, definitively winning the civil war. Matías Romero presented the congratulations of the government of the Mexican Republic in the first places to President Lincoln. Soon after Lincoln was assassinated. Meanwhile, Maximilian, from Mexico City, informed his cabinet that the country was pacified and that in a few days the imperial army would enter Chihuahua to finish with Juarez. Napoleon ordered the withdrawal of some thousands of troops, since France was suffering from the congress due to the excessive expenses represented by the invasion of Mexico. General Bazaine, in command of the French army since before Maximilian took office, warned him that the withdrawal of troops would strengthen Juarez. Maximilian celebrated his birthday in Mexico City. There was great satisfaction in the atmosphere because the Republic, Juarez and the insurrectionary outbreaks of republicans throughout the country, were supposed to be annihilated. With this, in addition to the birthday, the triumph of the monarchy was celebrated. Maximilian, in gratitude to the French marshal and commander in chief of the royalist army Bazaine, gave him a mansion to live in with his Mexican wife, known among the court as Pepita.
Facing the imminent French attack, Juarez and his government destroyed the important paperwork so that it would not fall into French hands. In the early morning of May 1865, the French attacked Chihuahua under the command of General Agustín E. Brincourt. The city was bombarded and defended tenaciously but finally fell into French hands. However, Juarez and his cabinet had managed to be evacuated to safety by escaping to the north. Meanwhile some Republican generals heroically fought the French advance. General Brincourt forced the republicans to sign the act of submission to the empire. The government of the Republic reduced to a small number of people arrived at Villa Paso del Norte, which today is Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Being chased by the French, they had to flee so Lerdo de Tejada told Juarez that they should escape to the United States to which Juarez replied that this was equivalent to giving up and annihilating the Republic. Juarez asked, pointing to a mountain range, if that was still national territory, to which a military native of that region assured him that it was. Juarez ordered to move there even though he was warned that there was no one there, only bushes, vipers and other vermin. This mountain range is known today as Sierra de Juarez (Chihuahua). Upon arrival, the French were informed that Juarez had crossed the border, which ended the chase and they reported to Mexico City.
On August 14, 1865 the national government was established in the Villa de Paso del Norte. The republican forces retook the city of Chihuahua, so the French abandoned the city on October 29. The French planned to retake the city of Chihuahua by surprise a few days before Christmas 1865 but José María Pérez Esquivel, a septuagenarian telegrapher, found out about the French plan and sent word to Juárez who again managed to flee north in time. On December 11 the French forces retook the capital. The French captured José María Pérez Esquivel and after beating him they had him shot on the morning of December 24, 1865 before the great indignation of the people of Chihuahua against the invaders.
The soldiers Manuel Ojinaga, Manuel Díaz Mori (Porfirio Díaz”s brother) and other soldiers were at Juárez”s side in the defense of his errant government. In the flight towards the north, the government of the republic thought to stop at the place called El ojo de laguna, but Luis Terrazas, governor of Chihuahua caught up with them to persuade them that they should continue the march during the whole good night and Christmas morning because the French were chasing them. The retinue continued their march. Terrazas warned that some Indians of the region had gone over to the imperialist side, so the retinue should also watch out for them. They arrived at the Samalayuca desert. On December 28, 1865 they arrived at the border being pursued by the French less than a day”s march. Many persuaded Juarez to cross the border, but he took a fistful of earth on the banks of the Rio Bravo and exclaimed that he would rather take refuge in some wild hill and die with the flag on his chest than abandon the patriotic soil. Everyone understood the message and the small troop that accompanied them was ordered to face the French.
Meanwhile, Matías Romero and the secretary of the Mexican Embassy to the United States arrived at Doña Margarita”s house to accompany her to the reception that the U.S. government of Andrew Johnson was preparing for her in Washington. The latter had disowned Maximilian”s Empire and recognized Juarez as the only legitimate president of the Mexican Republic. Johnson announced the dispatch of some 100,000 men to the Mexican border to intimidate the invaders from Mexico. The United States ambassador in Paris also pressured Napoleon III to withdraw his troops from Mexico. Maximilian offered the Confederates who had lost the war in the United States the possibility of settling in Veracruz. This was frowned upon by the government in Washington.
The republican forces under the command of General Luis Terrazas Fuentes counterattacked the French and retook the capital of Chihuahua on March 25, 1866; then they recovered Parral and advanced on the state of Durango. After such events, President Juarez distinguished General Terrazas with his friendship. Juarez entered the capital of Chihuahua on June 7, 1866 to the great jubilation of the population. A ceremony was organized where they gave places of honor to the crippled of the battles that took place in that region and bronze medals were given to the heroes of the Republic. When Juarez presented a medal to a young man of about 16 years old, he burst into tears and told the president that his five brothers died fighting for him (Juarez) and that he would have gladly died for the same cause. The president replied that he understood and that he also lost a son. And he told him that they did not die for him, but for the air and the land of the Homeland, that they died for freedom.
At the same time, Maximilian”s empire had more and more problems. The Mexican clergy had rebelled against the empire because Maximilian did not reverse the Reform laws. France had already ordered the total withdrawal of its army by the beginning of 1867 at the latest. The United States was no longer at war and President Johnson pronounced in his congress his total support for President Juarez and the Republic. 100,000 men sent to the Mexican border would intimidate the French. Empress Carlota of Mexico left for Europe in the early morning of July 7, 1866 with the plan to seek support from Pope Pius IX, Napoleon III and Maximilian”s brother, among others. The division among the republicans in Mexico became more dramatic, as Juarez”s constitutional period was coming to an end. For this reason, Juarez published a decree in which, arguing that the country was at war, he extended his mandate until the Republic was normalized and elections were called. González Ortega, self-exiled in the United States, sought the recognition of that country as president, while receiving the help of Ignacio Ramírez, “El Nigromante”.
While Carlota was looking for support in Europe for the empire, Maximilian left the capital and the multiple problems he had there and went to spend some time in the city of Cuernavaca, to the Palace of San Cloff, where his lover Maria Bonita, daughter of the head gardener of that palace, lived. Empress Carlota had received the refusal of Napoleon III to meet, but she insisted and moved to Paris. There she stayed at the Grand Hotel de Paris, where she obtained an interview with Napoleon III”s ministers and with the Empress Eugénie, a meeting that did not prosper because the latter had instructions not to give in on anything. Then Carlota got an appointment with Napoleon III at 10 o”clock in the morning of August 18, 1866 in his hotel. They were accompanied by representatives of the Mexican empire such as Juan Nepomuceno Almonte and Pedro Hidalgo and representatives of the French government such as the Minister of State; however, the interview was only between Carlota and Napoleon, a meeting where Carlota showed her desperation to obtain any support and Napoleon that of denying any. Carlota even suggested the dissolution of the Paris congress to Napoleon. The latter ended the meeting saying that Maximilian had to abdicate now, as he had no other option.
In Chihuahua, Juarez received good news from all over the national territory regarding the recovery of control of the homeland. The Minister of War, General Ignacio Mejia, rendered the corresponding reports. Porfirio Diaz was advancing in Oaxaca from the south. The bishop of Oaxaca had asked Diaz for guarantees before his imminent entrance to the Oaxacan capital, to which Diaz responded that he would let him wear his best clothes for his execution. He fled Oaxaca together with many personalities, especially from high society, who had been sympathetic to the empire. Juarez”s government regained control of the customs of San Blas, Mazatlan and Guaymas, which represented important resources for his government. Then the Republican army took the cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey and Tampico and managed to control more customs in those regions. The French army and the republican army of Mexico had battles but not in large numbers of men, as the French were retreating to the south and the republicans in some occasions waited in many cases for the French to leave before advancing; However, there were significant battles, such as those of Miahuatlán, La Carbonera, Juchitán, San Pedro (Sinaloa), Santa Gertrudis (Tamaulipas), Naco (Sonora), Mazatlán and others, in which the Republicans defeated the French army, although most of them would be executed as guerrilla battles, not as a large-scale army. General Mejía informed Juárez of the recovery of the Guayana Valley and the capital city of Durango. Faced with the geopolitical reality of Mexico, Juarez decided to move his government south to Durango. On the day of his departure from the city of Chihuahua in December, Juarez exclaimed: “Thank you, blessed land, I will never forget you”, in gratitude to that city and state that had given shelter to his government and the republican cause and where he arrived cornered and emerged triumphant. Juarez, followed by a long retinue, left for Durango, bound for Hidalgo del Parral. He was accompanied in his famous black carriage by Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada and José María Iglesias. In 1867, Juarez, upon his return for the restoration of the Republic from Paso del Norte, was lodged for a few days in the Zambrano Palace in the city of Durango, during which time the palace was the seat of Mexico”s executive power.
Also read, history – French Third Republic
Fall of the empire
On August 22, 1866 Charlotte leaves the Grand Hotel in Paris with plans to go to see Pope Pius IX, but first her entourage convinces her to make a stopover at the Chateau de Miramar in Italy, her former home. On September 27, 1866, Carlota visits Pope Pius IX. She shows signs of mental problems before the pope; she tells him that the drink she was offered was poisoned and takes his. She did not want to leave and they had to invite her to the Vatican library, to distract her. Then her brother came for her. Carlota was attended by the head doctor of the hospital for the mentally ill in her city. Maximilian, determined to abdicate, walked through the Palace of Chapultepec while indicating the belongings to be shipped; he left most of the rooms untouched, since many objects had been gifts to the people of Mexico and not to him or to the empress. He stealthily departs for Veracruz. In Orizaba, in November 1866, Father Fisher had organized, together with the conservatives of the region, a massive demonstration in support of Maximilian, to prevent him from leaving. Maximilian then decided to stay in Orizaba for a month to think about what to do.
Three characters had a powerful influence on Maximilian: Father Fisher, his physician Dr. Samuel Basch, of Prussian-Jewish origin, and his old personal friend and collaborator Stephan Haspan. The first persuaded him to stay; the other two persuaded him to go to Europe, as they saw the cause of the Empire as lost. Maximilian received the support of generals Leonardo Márquez, nicknamed “The Tiger of Tacubaya”, and Miguel Miramón, former president of Mexico. Miramón notified him that the Church had been able to offer 11 million pesos, in addition to the possibility of gathering 29,000 men and that the junta of notables would support Maximiliano. Maximiliano formed a new cabinet in Orizaba and his plan included:
Soon after, Maximilian was informed that there were 29,663 soldiers, more than 2,000 officers and 10 cannons to begin. The church gave an advance of 2 million pesos. One of Maximilian”s hobbies was hunting butterflies. In Orizaba he continued to do so, together with an illustrious European botanist who wished to found a natural history museum in Mexico (the current Natural History Museum of Mexico City), considering the vast natural wealth he had found in the country. At the end of November, Maximilian was preparing his return to Mexico City. Juarez and his government arrived in Durango during the first days of November and held a meeting with his war cabinet. They deliberated on the capture of Matamoros, which was the only important and strategic point in the north that still remained in the hands of the empire. It was decided to use a siege, like the one used by the French against the liberals to surrender the City of Puebla. The plan was carried out.
After three weeks and some minor skirmishes between the armies, General Tomás Mejía, who was defending the city of Matamoros, finally surrendered. With this victory, the liberals controlled all the north of the country. There was then a great popular celebration in front of the Zambrano Palace in Durango, which functioned as the National Palace. All the north was Republican. Facing the advance of the control of the country by the republicans, Juarez moved his government to Zacatecas, always escorted by the Battalion of Supreme Powers. Juarez writes a letter to Margarita in which he informs her that he will soon be able to return to Mexico and that she and her children (both the living and the dead) will be able to reunite with him. Still in Orizaba, Maximilian, who thought that his brother, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria would support him, still considers going to Vienna. Napoleon sends an envoy, Francis de Casternons, with a very negative plan: to offer him the bulk of the French armament and at the same time destabilize the Juarez government and also give more weapons to a conservative general. Knowing his intentions, Maximilian refuses to receive him. Maximilian”s mother, Sophia of Bavaria, writes him a letter from Schönbrunn Palace: “My son,… do not abdicate,…. your position in Europe would be ridiculous if you did,…the right thing to do, my son, and the just thing to do is not to return to Vienna…”. As a result of this letter, Maximilian had Miramon brought back immediately, as he decided to return to Mexico City.
General Miramón was defeated at San Jacinto. Only General Leonardo Márquez remained strong, in the conservative forces, and the no less numerous French contingent that was under his orders (most of them were part of the so-called Foreign Legion). Ignacio Mejía gave a report to Juárez in a cabinet meeting in Zacatecas, where he informed him that General Mariano Escobedo had between 8 and 10 thousand men and that another general had another 6 thousand. One afternoon, at 3:00 p.m., the republican government leaves Zacatecas for San Luis Potosí, amidst a parade and popular uproar. Maximilian meets with his generals at the Hacienda de la Teja. On February 13, 1867, Maximilian leaves Mexico City for Queretaro with 9,000 ill-equipped men (both conservatives and the French legion that stayed with him). He was accompanied by, among other characters, Marshal Albert Hans and Leonardo Márquez, the latter known as “The Tiger of Tacubaya” for the massacre of doctors he carried out there (known as “The Martyrs of Tacubaya”). Maximilian left Mexico City a week after most of the French troops had withdrawn. Maximilian issued a proclamation to his army in which, putting himself at the head, he said that this was “An army that carries with it dignity and love for Mexico”.
Antonio López de Santa Anna was in the United States negotiating with financiers, businessmen and the Secretary of State of that country, Mr. Siward, for support to occupy the presidency of Mexico for the twelfth time. At the end of March, Juarez received a message from Matias Romero from New York informing that Santa Anna was preparing his return to Mexico. In those days he also received news from the Mexican embassy in the United States that the government of that country expressed its support to Juarez and not to Santa Anna. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada commented to Juárez that Santa Anna surely intended to provoke a coup d”état upon his arrival in Mexico. He commented that he would redouble his vigilance so that if Santa Anna arrived in Veracruz, he would be apprehended immediately. Juarez replied: “Don”t worry too much because, if Santa Anna does not have the support of the United States, he is worthless…. Santa Anna is no longer worth anything”.
On February 19, 1867, Maximilian”s army enters the city of Queretaro. During the 20th and 21st contingents continue to arrive from Michoacán, San Luis Potosí and Guanajuato among other states. On the 21st 4,000 men entered. In Querétaro a popular festival was held celebrating the arrival of the imperialists. In total there were between 10 and 12 thousand men in Maximilian”s ranks. The republican government sighted the Towers of the City of San Luis Potosi at 1:00 p.m. on February 21, shortly after arriving with Juarez at the head to establish the government of the Republic in that City. There was a great popular festivity to celebrate this event. The people shouted “Long live Mexico, Long live Independence, Long live the Republic and Long live Juarez”. Regarding the military, the liberal generals Ramón Corona at the head of the Army of the West and General Mariano Escobedo met at a junction of roads leading to the City of Querétaro, with a total of 60,000 soldiers. A military report delivered to Maximiliano stated that the enemy forces were 28,000 men, being 2,000 cavalry. General Mariano Escobedo made a tour through an eminence from where he could contemplate the near battlefield, he exclaimed: “Tomorrow will begin the beginning of the end for the empire”.
There were some battles. The liberals imposed a siege on the City of Queretaro, so that nothing and no one could enter or leave, including provisions or communications (telegraph, correspondence, etc.), during one of these battles, the last redoubt of the French army was totally defeated. They bombed some arches of the aqueduct to cut off the water supply to the City. The liberals threw imperialist dead into the river to contaminate it in order to break the imperialists. In view of the siege and in a meeting between Maximilian and his retinue, Leonardo Márquez proposes to the emperor that he be given a contingent of cavalry to go to Mexico City for reinforcements and supplies. He is given the endorsement. By means of a distraction maneuver at dawn, Márquez and his group managed to cross the site, but not without losing several dozens of men, which was foreseen. The liberals do not pursue this group considering that they had no possibility of gathering support or returning.
Maximilian sent a soldier surnamed Salvino as a courier with a view to learning something about Marquez. The plan was that he was to pass himself off as a liberal and after blending in with the troops leave for Mexico City. The following day Salvino appeared hanging in a tree with a sign that read: “I am the emperor”s courier and I am dead”. On April 24, Mariano Escobedo in his camp in the outskirts of Querétaro decided to give the definitive battle and the last one for April 27. Maximilian”s headquarters were at Cerro de las Campanas and he also spent a lot of time at the Convent of the Cross, near there. Maximilian”s food was modest, similar to that of the others, and was supplemented with bread made for him by the nuns of the convent. Maximiliano looked dirty and disheveled as if he were on the front lines. He suffered from gastric-nervous diseases. Maximilian went to the battle front to encourage his troops and to know the situation first hand. (It is more coherent to think that Maximilian and his troops were equipped in the convent of the cross, let”s remember that this convent was the bastion where the Franciscans, during the conquest had their “headquarters” from where all the missions departed to the north. … this site was well entrenched, and that is where Mariano Escobedo and his troops managed to enter, knocking down only one wall at the rear and thus cautiously surprising the French troops who were expecting a violent attack.)
In a cavalry confrontation 300 men died. The liberals pursued the imperialists, arriving close to where Maximilian was, who wanted to go to support them. A subject stopped him by the arm telling him that he should not take any risk because he was the emperor. Maximilian sent a group to support the persecuted. The liberals withdrew. By May 2 there was no news of Leonardo Márquez. By May 3, Maximilian presented bronze medals of honor at the Convent of the Cross. There were 135 military awarded between soldiers and officers. May 5, 1867 was the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. The liberals celebrated all over the country, especially at the seat of the government of the Republic in San Luis Potosi and among the troops in Queretaro. Juarez spoke from the main balcony before a crowd gathered in front of the provisional National Palace. In his speech he said:
“People of Mexico, beloved fellow citizens, the bloodbath through which the Republic has passed will never be forgotten. The blood of your children, the blood of your husbands, the blood of your fathers, will not be spilled in a useless way because when the Republic is strengthened, national sovereignty is strengthened”. And the concert of all nations will admire this people, today and forever and ever, remember this, we cannot falter, we have to move forward because our reward will be eternal glory and the respect of all peoples and nations who will know that Mexico is not the place to come to seek adventure or to engage in battle to subject a people to slavery. At this moment I say to you, Mexicans, freedom is a reality, freedom is an example for all nations and peoples and I am proud today to be the president of the Mexicans because today the nation is truly mature, today respected, today feared, today brave, today strong, and this struggle will be the beginning, the beginning of a greatness that will never end.”
Matias Romero introduced Margarita Maza to Colonel McDown, commissioned by the U.S. government of Ulysses Grant to ensure the return of Margarita and her family to Mexico. The same colonel told Margarita that his mission was to protect her and get her safely to Mexico without anything happening to her. At the end of April the route to return Margarita, her children and her son-in-law Santacilia was approved. They would travel by railroad to St. Louis, then by riverboat down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then by warship to the Port of Veracruz. All by orders of President Andrew Johnson, who was to watch over the Juarez family. In the month of April 1867 Santa Anna was in a residence in an exclusive area of New York. Santa Anna kept Margarita, Matías Romero and Ignacio Mariscal under surveillance. Santa Anna planned to rent a large ship called “Virginia” and move with a large arsenal to the Port of Veracruz to seek a coup d”état with the support of his fellow Veracruz citizens. Sebastián Lerdo and Juárez saw that the republican army had everything to succeed in their enterprise. At that moment, the liberal governor of Guanajuato, Leon Guzman, arrived at the provisional National Palace of San Luis Potosi. The Bajío was then the only region that supplied the Republican army with provisions. The governor of Guanajuato had a private meeting with Sebastián Lerdo and Juárez. The president greeted him, embraced him and said “we know about the complaints about the misuse of money…, tell me what is happening in Guanajuato”. Governor Guzmán told them, “The ranchers of Guanajuato, some areas of Querétaro and Northern Michoacán agreed to raise prices exaggeratedly. We have no money to pay.” (In reference to the supplies for the Republican army).
Juarez said: “I cannot believe that the landowners of the region think more of their personal benefit than of the immense sacrifices that the country makes to give them order and peace; send me a list of all the ranchers and farmers, for now we cannot turn them against us, but later we will punish them. This selfishness has no limits”. Once the governor left, Sebastián Lerdo asked Juárez, who looked very sad: “What are you thinking about Don Benito?”, he answered: “About human selfishness Don Sebastián, this war has cost me two sons, Toñito and Pepito, but there are those who only think about material goods. Look at these prices! A quart of corn is up to 4 times more expensive! And believe me, I do not know if it is because I am an Indian or why, but I do not understand them, I do not understand those who want to get rich from misery, from the masses, from the pain and suffering of others, but we will be attentive Don Sebastián, now we will let them get rich, later we will charge them terrible taxes to return that wealth to the hands of the nation. Let them have illusions, sooner or later justice will be done. I burn with the desire for this war to be over, why is it always the poor who suffer the most, why is it always the poor who have to give everything while others become greedy and debased seeking only material wealth, but woe to those who have done it because if I remain president they will pay for it! I swear before you.” The republican army had to be supplied at very high costs so taxes in the region of Guanajuato had to be doubled and then tripled.
Also read, biographies – Mikis Theodorakis
Maximilian, after reflecting, asked a trusted general named Miguel Lopez to go as a messenger to General Mariano Escobedo and ask him for his conditional surrender. The conditions were that he would be given a safe-conduct to leave Mexico, that he would never return, that the life and properties of the generals, officers and troops would be respected. General Escobedo, faced with such proposal, said that he would consult with the President and that he would return in a few days at the same time. Juarez was consulted directly by General Mejia, Minister of War, to which he responded: “Unconditional surrender”. Maximiliano”s emissary returned for the answer and General Escobedo proposed that if he surrendered Maximiliano, he would spare his life, stating that this would save the lives of many men, for which Lopez accepted to betray his emperor.
Around four o”clock in the afternoon, the traitor led the liberals to the Convent of the Cross, pushing aside the men who were guarding it. By the time Maximiliano realized it, the other liberal officers had already entered the Convent and were seizing the officers who were still sleeping. Maximilian was able to escape to the Cerro de las Campanas but after a few hours he was surrounded and had to give his sword to General Corona saying: “This sword belongs to the People of Mexico”. Maximilian asked that if there was to be bloodshed it should be his alone and again asked for amnesty for his troops and officers. Maximilian was told that he was not considered Emperor of Mexico, but Archduke of Austria and that from that moment on he was a prisoner of the Republic”. He was notified that the President would be consulted on his request. The news of Maximilian and his empire went around the world. In Europe there was much diplomatic movement requesting, through the ambassadors in the United States, that this country intervene in favor of Maximiliano. Although most of the European governments pointed to Napoleon III as the real murderer, for denying him their support (being one of those who had installed him on the throne), and for having left the archduke to his fate.
In New York, the Juárez Maza family finally left the house they had occupied there for so long and so Margarita, along with her children, her son-in-law, two caskets with her two deceased children and personnel from the Mexican Embassy in the U.S.A., departed on an official U.S. government train for Washington, D.C. There they were received with great jubilation and Margarita was front page news in the newspapers at the time. They were there for three weeks. Mr. Siward told Mexican Ambassador Matias that he had reports that Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was planning to kidnap Margarita, so measures were taken regarding the itinerary, which would be different in what was announced than what was carried out. Santa Anna had had spies watching the Juarez Maza family for a long time, even in the State Department he had spies.
On the advice of Lerdo de Tejada to Juárez, a military tribunal was appointed to judge Maximiliano and two of his generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía, who were taken to the theater of the city of Querétaro to be tried. In said trial (which lasted three days), the three were condemned to die one day after the trial, by firing squad. All this under the crimes of, among others, support to the French invaders as well as treason for the Mexicans and usurpation of power for the Austrian. The condemnation went around the world, especially in Europe where the newspapers said that “the Indian quenched his thirst for blood”, some drew Juarez dressed as an Amerindian Indian devouring Maximilian with large fangs.
Juarez”s government received a great amount of diplomatic notes and all kinds of correspondence asking for clemency for Maximilian”s life. Princess Inés de Salm-Salm, whose husband, Prince Félix de Salm-Salm, was from Maximiliano”s close group and was also under arrest, went to Juárez to beg for the life of the emperor and her husband. He even kneels before Juarez. Juarez tells her that he can do nothing in the face of justice (tradition says that Juarez”s words were: “I do not kill the man. I kill the idea”). After all this pressure for the life of Maximiliano and the rest of the imperialists, Juarez grants three days of delay for the execution of Maximiliano, General Miguel Miramon and General Tomas Mejia. In those days more people come to see Juarez, especially women. Miramón”s wife went with her two small children to pray for her husband and the wife of General Tomás Mejía did the same with an advanced pregnancy. After which she gave birth on the road to Querétaro where the newborn could be seen by his imprisoned father. Not all the people who requested it were allowed to see Juarez, but the princess of Salm-Salm was allowed to see him for the second time. She also begged him, this time more earnestly. Juarez argued that he could not change justice and that if he did, the Mexicans would be all over him, they could even ask for his death. The sentence was carried out on the morning of June 19, 1867 at Cerro de las Campanas. The news went around the world.
Juarez prepares his return to Mexico City. The imperial general Leonardo Márquez was still resisting in Mexico City with a group of men. Porfirio Díaz had the task of confronting him. Antonio López de Santa Anna had arrived in Veracruz in a rented ship that was his headquarters and in which he also slept. His purpose was to call for a rebellion against Juarez and continue with the imperial government with him at the head. In the port of Veracruz and the city of Xalapa he had many followers, since he was from the state of Veracruz. These two cities received him with official ceremonies. In a controversial American intervention, the consulate of the United States in Veracruz notified President Johnson of Santa Anna”s plans, who decided that an American gunboat that was near the port of Veracruz would bomb Santa Anna”s ship to force him to leave Mexican coasts and thus avoid any possibility of carrying out his plan and consolidate Juarez”s government. Santa Anna, who at that moment was in a meeting on the ship, had no choice but to leave for Cuba.
Juarez leaves San Luis Potosi, passes through Dolores Hidalgo, where he makes a ceremony to the heroes of national independence, then visits Tepeji del Rio and arrives in Tlalnepantla, where he meets with Porfirio Diaz, with whom he had differences. Everywhere Juarez passed through, the popular uproar was immense. Due to the fact that the preparations in Mexico City were not finished, Juarez was asked to stay three days in Chapultepec Castle. They found that it had been converted into an Austrian palace, so they suggested Juarez to change the decoration and remove the furniture. To which Juarez said: “You are crazy, this is the history of Mexico”. Juarez leaves towards the National Palace through “El paseo de la Emperatriz”, which from that moment on changed its name to Paseo de la Reforma. In the Alameda Central a large number of white doves are released. After passing through the Paseo de la Reforma, Juarez and his retinue head towards the Palacio de Mineria along what is today Juarez Avenue. Juarez had decreed the release of all prisoners who supported the imperial cause. National reconciliation began. In the Palacio de Minería Juárez gives the most famous of his speeches, which contains the most famous of his phrases.
On July 15, 1867 Juarez enters Mexico City. He raised the flag in the Plaza de la Constitución. There were several works of art in the National Palace; Juarez gave orders to remove ornaments and sumptuary objects and to give a republican and not imperial touch to the seat of the national government. Among others, the great hall of agreements was redecorated. On July 20, the cabinet met at the National Palace at 9:00 am. Some important issues were discussed there, such as the existence of disputes with the United Kingdom and about Mexico”s public debt, which was something big. The United Kingdom wanted to reconcile with Mexico (after it participated in the military incursion in Mexico together with France and Spain). Queen Victoria”s government offered a two-year moratorium in exchange for renegotiating the debt and re-establishing diplomatic relations, and Juarez ordered that such offers be accepted. The president commented that peace with all nations was important, so he accepted. He asked the foreign minister to inform that they would be given part of the franchise for the construction of the railroad from Veracruz to Mexico City.Juárez said that elections should be called for his government to be legitimate, and that he would run in the elections. Porfirio Díaz also demanded elections. Juárez instructed Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada to be in charge of calling the elections. José María Iglesias said, “At this table we are all Juaristas, Mr. President.” Juarez pointed out, “Not that! At this table we are all republicans, not Juaristas. If the design of the people is that someone else governs them, we will all be docile to the will of the people.”
Margarita and her family disembarked from the U.S. Coast Guard in Veracruz, then transferred to the railroad, which by then was more than 90 km long. They boarded it amidst popular uproar and applause. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada informed Juárez that Margarita and her family had already disembarked in Veracruz and that they were near Orizaba. That in no more than four days they would arrive in Mexico City. Juarez asked Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada if he saw him well and not too old. He told him that he would go to the barber, since he wanted to be presentable for the meeting. He also told him that he did not have time to go to the tailor but that he could go to a store to get a ready-made suit. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada told him that he would accompany him to the store called “La Concordia”. Juarez also commented that the presidential apartment in the National Palace was not finished. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada suggested him to rent a room in the Iturbide Hotel. Juarez said that Iturbide was an emperor, if there was no better hotel. Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada told him that the name was not important, that empires would not return to Mexico. They both laughed. Once Margarita and her family arrived in Orizaba they were greeted by many people with the ringing of bells and firecrackers. Now they were traveling in carriages. In a mule cart went the luggage and in a big cart went the coffins of Toñito and Pepito. In the City of Puebla there was also applause, crowds and ringing of bells.
On July 23, 1867, after spending the night and before sunrise, Margarita and her family left for Mexico City. Juarez caught up with them in the town of Ayotla, thus avoiding much of the popular uproar and making it easier to receive them personally. In that town, as in the whole trip, the retinue was received with bells and crowds. Juarez arrived in his classic black carriage, wearing a new frock coat, a big hat and a 2000 peso cane that had been given to him in Zacatecas as a symbol of the Republic. He carried some flowers in his hand for Margarita. Margarita looked thinner and was escorted along with her family by the Republican army. Once close, Margarita walked directly towards Juarez, he ran towards her in the last moments. Juarez wrote days later: “That moment was worth all the rewards a man can receive”. There were also hugs and caresses from the president for his children and for his son-in-law Santacilia. Once in Mexico City they were greeted by a crowd as well as members of the cabinet and government, the family stayed at the Iturbide Hotel as planned and after a few hours Juarez and Margarita could finally be alone after so many years.
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Second constitutional mandate
After winning the elections, on January 16, 1868 Juarez was reinstated in the presidency with a meeting of his entire cabinet. Juarez often said that these were times of peace and harmony.
In this new period Juarez created two new offices, one for public instruction and the other for development, headed by Francisco Mejia and the engineer Lasz Barcasten, respectively. Juarez planned to educate and industrialize the country. He also intended to expand free and secular public education throughout the country with the construction of hundreds of schools. At that time, Mexico had a population of seven million people, five million of whom had no basic education and were living in poverty. Only 800,000 knew how to read and write. To obtain resources Juarez dismissed 60,000 military personnel (he also asked to negotiate the deferral of payment of foreign debt with some nations such as England). Education would be secular, at that time this constituted a catharsis for the church and the thought it supplied to the believing population. A great national literacy plan was carried out. Regarding infrastructure, Juarez wished to finish the railroad line from Veracruz to Mexico City before the end of his mandate. There were a total of 478 km of railroad with its respective bridges, tunnels and water diversion among others. Juarez would manage to install 5,000 km of telegraph in three years with the support of Mexican and foreign investors.
At that time Antonio Escandón was the richest man in Mexico, so Juárez called him to ask for his support in the development of the country. Escandón offered to create a club of industrialists and bring there the interests of North American and other countries” industrialists. Escandón sold a hacienda and surrounding land in what today is in his honor Colonia Escandón, to support the construction of a railroad. The ministers advised Juarez to attract foreign investment for government projects. One idea was to invite Mr. Siward, former U.S. Secretary of State, to Mexico to attract the interest of U.S. investors. Mr. Siward arrived by ship to Mexico through the port of Manzanillo on October 2, 1869, where the governor of Colima extended a warm welcome to him and the industrialists accompanying him.
Some 700 conservatives were planning a conspiracy against Juarez, meeting secretly in the Temple of San Andres, where the remains of Maximilian had rested for a while. This temple of extraordinary architecture was in front of the Palace of Mining, on the land now occupied by “The Statue of the Little Horse”. In February 1868, with several intelligence reports about what was happening in the Temple of San Andres. Juarez decided to demolish it along with twenty other temples in the capital, among them Santo Domingo and La Merced. His ministers warned him that this measure would turn the population against him but he did not change his decision that he meditated for several weeks and said he assumed the historical responsibility of his decision. He told Sebastián Lerdo that they did not need temples but schools, “Telegraphs, schools, roads, future and not past is what Mexico needs” Juárez said to justify his decision. The newspapers of the time echoed such decision and action with his consequent fall in popularity.
Porfirio Diaz had rebelled against Juarez and with the banner of non-reelection encouraged the uprising in different parts of the country. Conservatives and the clergy were also against Juarez and saw the uprisings as positive. In the Veracruz towns of Tierra Quemada, Huatusco and Perote there were several uprisings against Juarez”s government during 1868 and 1869. Gen. Patoni and Gen. Jesús González Ortega after being in jail obtained their freedom. There was a lot of delinquency and corruption of bureaucrats and policemen. Many attributed this to economic inequality and the 60,000 military personnel dismissed in 1868. Juárez created a police force to combat delinquency. Juarez repatriated all the religious in exile presumably due to his wife”s influence.
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Death of Margarita Maza
At the beginning of this period Juarez used to work until after midnight, but by 1870 he changed his departure time to 6:00 p.m. to spend the rest of the day with his wife and family. Margarita for some time had begun to have manifestations of an illness that the doctors thought was probably serious. Margarita and Juarez were walking along Paseo de Bucareli with their daughters and son. At that time Bucareli ended at the current Arcos de Belen, it was a social gathering center where people from all social classes strolled. Citizens had direct access to the president. The Juarez family had a house in the city limits, next to the Templo de San Cosme, number 4 of Puente Levadizo Street. Juárez had five daughters: Manuela (María de Jesús (Soledad and Josefa). The youngest of his children was Benito, about 13 years old. Susana, the only surviving daughter of the two older children that Juárez procreated in his concubinage with Juana Rosa Chagoya, had been adopted by Margarita and was an integral part of the Juárez Maza family.
In August 1869 the doctors told Juarez that Margarita”s illness was progressive and fatal. It appeared to be cancer. Juárez left his office early but arrived around 6:30 in the morning. On January 2, 1871, Margarita received the Holy Olesos from the priest of the San Cosme church. The whole family gathered that day including Susana. Juarez was there from 10:30 am. At 3:00 p.m., Margarita asked Juarez to watch over Susana and her unmarried daughters. Juarez cried as he reiterated over and over again to his wife that he would get well. Margarita asked Juarez to fulfill her daughters” wish to marry in church. At 4:00 p.m., Margarita died with a smile. Juarez cried out in pain. Juarez did not want to send obituaries; he asked his friends not to do so and to handle the death with discretion. However, Sebastián Lerdo said that this could not be done since she was a woman very much loved by society. Finally, Juarez agreed and allowed the newspapers to publish the news. As soon as the death of the president”s wife was known, the country went into mourning. Black bows were hung in many buildings, theatrical plays were suspended and in several parts of the country there were several mourning demonstrations. On the day of the funeral, hundreds of people gathered to accompany the body to the San Fernando cemetery; hundreds of people, both in cars and on foot, gathered at the place to bid farewell to Margarita.
Juarez instructed not to be approached by politicians; only close friends and relatives. It was election time and Juarez did not want such an event to be mixed with politics. Guillermo Prieto said at the funeral: “It is perhaps possible that the people we love the most die, as it is possible that only my voice remains vibrant to fall as a shadow of death, as it is possible for my lady, object of my devotion for years and years, to contemplate her death… as it is possible to point out… white azuzena jewel of her modest home, woman caressed with the golden arms of virtue and fortune”. Juarez paled as the coffin descended. For weeks there was much talk about that funeral ceremony and how Juarez”s love for his wife was an example to follow. After the funeral, Juarez remained at home for a week.
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Elections of 1871
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada suggested Juárez not to run in the 1871 elections, due to his health. Juarez himself had told him that he might not run anymore. Lerdo, shortly after Juárez returned to his office after Margarita”s burial, asked Juárez for his resignation and accepted it. For a long time Lerdo had wanted to occupy the presidency and wanted to run for the presidency, he told Juarez so. Juarez was criticized for wanting to stay in power for so long. Many of his former friends or collaborators had become his critics. In July 1871 there would be elections, the candidates were Sebastián Lerdo, Porfirio Díaz and Benito Juárez. On October 7, 1871 the scrutinizing commission gave the final decision: Lerdo 2874 electoral votes, Díaz 3555 and Juárez 5837. Juárez was the winner. However, the Juarez government was accused of electoral fraud.
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The Noria Plan
Porfirio Diaz had separated from the army and moved to the hacienda of La Noria in the State of Oaxaca, where cannons were manufactured. Soon after, Porfirio Diaz pronounced the Plan de la Noria where he disowned Juarez and called to rise up against him. The “no reelection” was one of the main accusations against Juarez, Porfirio accused him of being a dictator. On October 1, 1871, many military men demonstrated as those of the gendarmerie barracks, they pretended to take a military position in the Citadel. In their parade through the streets towards the Citadel they shouted: “Long live Porfirio Diaz! Death to reelection!”. Juarez confronted the rebellion by sending General Sóstenes Rocha to confront the rebels in the Citadel. Other military men would be stationed in the high points near the National Palace. At 18:00 the battle began. The government military defeated the rebels. Some generals and troops fled towards the Ajusco. There were other military altercations during 1871 that were controlled but reflected the political instability of Juarez and the armed support to Porfirio Diaz.
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Days before her death, Juarez had visited Margarita”s grave one afternoon with his daughters. He told them an anecdote about the afternoon when Mr. Seward arrived with the group of American businessmen. His hair did not fit and he asked Margarita for lemon, which was the only thing that controlled his hair. Margarita put it on and combed it. Then she tied the knot of his tie because Juarez was nervous and it was not coming out. Margarita told him “You are so useless”. Juarez told his daughters that she was right, without Margarita he felt useless! In that same place Juarez had a dizzy spell that made him sit down due to chest pain. Juarez had another episode of chest pain that made him double over as Balandrano read him the important news. Balandrano was a journalist friend of Juárez, his private secretary and editor of the official newspaper.
On the afternoon of July 17, 1872 Juarez decided not to take his usual carriage ride and asked his son-in-law Santacilia to accompany him to go to the theater with his sister Manuela to tell her about the show. Juarez slept in his bedroom at the National Palace accompanied by his youngest son Benito. That night he read a book in French, on page 232 which described the entrance of Emperor Trajan to Rome and the beginning of his 20 year government, Juarez left a small piece of paper with the text: “When society is threatened by war; dictatorship or centralization of power can be a remedy for those who threaten institutions, freedom or peace”. That night he only drank atole; he had nausea that did not let him sleep, so he woke up his son Benito. On July 18 at 9:00 he had to call his doctor Ignacio Alvarado who arrived around 10:00. At 11:00 he had very painful cramps that forced him to bed. His pulse was low and his heartbeat weak. The typical treatment of the time was to throw boiling water on his chest, which was done after placing the boiling pot on his chest. With such a remedy, Juarez reacted. The family went to the dining room and stayed in the bedroom with the doctor. Juarez told the doctor stories of his childhood. He told him that Father Salvanueva was the kindest man he had ever known. When he asked the doctor if his condition was fatal, Alvarado said: “Mr. President, I am so sorry!
Juarez remained ill. His family was gathered, daughters, son, son-in-laws and friends. Also several friends and politicians were arriving to the room. Juarez had the insistence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Maria Lafragua and the Minister of War General Alatorre, in that afternoon both asked to see the president to receive instructions. Juarez in both cases had to dress and talk to them, listen to them and give them instructions. The most prestigious Mexican doctors of that time went to the National Palace: Gabino Barreda and Rafael Lucio, but they could do nothing. Juarez lay on his left side placing a hand under his head. Very fatigued, with evident lack of oxygen, he smiled and immediately died. It was 11:35 p.m. on July 18, 1872 when the three doctors gathered together declared the president dead. His daughters cried out in pain: “Dad! Dad, don”t go!”. The cause was angina pectoris. Today, a plaque at the place of his death attests to this. Juárez lasted fourteen years as president. There was a month of solemnities throughout the country in his honor.
His mortal remains have been buried in the San Fernando Pantheon Museum in Mexico City on July 23, 1872.
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July 18, Juarez”s death anniversary, was made official in 1887 as a national holiday, which by that time had already become an important celebration in Mexico City with a civic procession.
In the National Palace of Mexico there is a museum in his honor in what was his home during his regime. It contains the furniture and objects he used. The photographs show the living room, the dining room, the study and the presidential bedroom.
The Hemicycle to Juárez is a great Cenotaph made of marble built in his honor by Porfirio Díaz during his mandate, located in the Central Alameda of the Historic Center, on Juárez Avenue, one of the most important avenues of Mexico City. It is of Neoclassical style, is semicircular, of strong Greek inspiration, has twelve Doric columns, which supports a structure with entablature and frieze of the same order. On the sides it has two golden urns.
Since Juarez”s time, the Mexican government has issued several banknotes with Juarez”s face and theme. In 2000, twenty peso bills were put into circulation with an effigy of Juárez on the obverse side and the Juárez eagle on the left and the Hemicycle of Juárez on the reverse side. Subsequently, in 2012, it appeared on the twenty peso bills next to a free copy of the Reform Laws and a scale on top of the book. Currently, it appears on the $500 bills next to a fragment of Alberto Beltrán”s engraving that represents his triumphal entrance to Mexico City, signifying the beginning of the Restored Republic. This banknote was put into circulation on August 27, 2018.
In 1972, the story of Juárez was taken to television with the telenovela El carruaje, which was the first color historical telenovela produced in Mexico. In 2006 the telenovela was rebroadcast by TV UNAM. Juarez was previously taken to the cinema for the first time with the film Juarez and Maximilian (1933), which narrates the confrontation with Maximilian of Habsburg. Later, Mexican cinema portrayed his early years in the film El joven Juarez (1954) and part of his presidency in the film Aquellos años (1972). The story of Juarez also reached the U.S. cinema. In 1939 Juárez was released, directed by William Dieterle and based on the biography The Phantom Crown by Bertita Harding and the play Juarez and Maximilian by Franz Werfel.
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In Argentina, more precisely in the Province of Buenos Aires, is located the party and head city of Benito Juarez. It was founded in 1867 by Mariano Roldán and has almost twenty thousand inhabitants. Two of the city”s public high schools carry Mexican symbols in their respective ceremonial flags and one of them, imposed in the name of the institution.
On May 2, 1865 the Congress of the United States of Colombia published a decree granting recognition to Juarez. The initial part of the decree reads:
“The Congress of the United States of Colombia, decrees:Art. 1. The Congress of Colombia, on behalf of the people it represents, in view of the abnegation and unquestionable perseverance that Mr. Benito Juarez, as constitutional President of the United Mexican States, has displayed in the defense of the independence and freedom of his country, declares that said citizen has deserved the good of America, and as a tribute to such virtues and example to the Colombian youth, it decrees that the portrait of this eminent statesman be kept in the national library with the following inscription: Benito Juarez, Mexican citizen. The Congress of 1865, pays him, on behalf of the people of Colombia, this tribute for his constancy in defending the freedom and independence of Mexico.”
In Chicago, the Benito Juarez Community Academy is named after Juarez.
On May 11, 1867, at the initiative of Dominican Senator Antonio Delfín Madrigal, the Congress of the Dominican Republic hailed Benito Juárez as “Benemérito de las Américas” (Meritorious of the Americas).
Madrigal said in the Dominican Congress:
“… that President Juarez by this fact was worthy of the cheers of all America, because by destroying forever the preponderance of Europe in this hemisphere, he killed all hopes of domination that Europe could cherish in the future. That by calling the attention of the House to this fact, it was with the purpose that the Dominican Congress, for its part, would acclaim Juarez “Benemérito de la América” (Meritorious of America).
The San Fernando School of Medicine, Peru, honored Juarez with a gold medal on July 28, 1867 for “FOR THE TRIUMPH OBTAINED OVER FOREIGN INTERVENTION”. On its obverse in relief it reads: “TO D. D. BENITO JUÁREZ, THE MEDICAL SCHOOL OF LIMA”, in the center appear the national coats of arms of Peru and Mexico The medal minted in gold and with dimensions of 83×60 mm and a weight of 85. 8 g was kept by Juarez until the end of his life, then it went to the Antiguo Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Historia y Etnografía de México and from there in 1939 to the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia that arranged to exhibit it in the Museo Nacional de Historia which is its current location. “The medal is a coined, engraved and enameled piece, with a star surmounted by diamonds, hanging from a red and white ribbon. The specimen is surrounded by a crown of laurel leaves enameled in green and topped at the top by a star of 9 diamonds, of which the central one stands out for its larger size; at the lower end, it has a gold ribbon with black enamel.”
Many of Juarez”s teachers during his professional studies at the Institute of Sciences and Arts of Oaxaca were Masons. Juarez was initiated in Masonry in the York Rite in Oaxaca. He then moved to the Mexican National Rite, where he ascended to the highest degree, the ninth, which is equivalent to the 33rd degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The York Rite was of more liberal and republican ideas with respect to the Scottish Rite that also existed in Mexico, which was of centralist political ideas. The Mexican National Rite emerged from a group of Yorkist Masons and another group of Scottish Masons whose common objective was to gain independence from foreigners and to promote a nationalist mentality.
Juarez was fervent in Masonic practice. His name is held in veneration in many rites. Many lodges and philosophical bodies have adopted him as a sacred symbol.
Juarez”s initiation ceremony was attended by distinguished Masons, such as Manuel Crescencio Rejon, author of the Yucatan Constitution of 1840; Valentin Gomez Farias, President of Mexico; Pedro Zubieta, General Commander in the Federal District and the State of Mexico; Congressman Fernando Ortega; Congressman Tiburcio Cañas; Congressman Francisco Banuet; Congressman Agustin Buenrostro; Congressman Joaquin Navarro and Congressman Miguel Lerdo de Tejada. After the proclamation, the apprentice mason Juarez adopted the symbolic name of Guillermo Tell.
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