Benito Juarez was a Mexican born in San Pablo, Oaxaca on March 21, 1806, to Mesoamerican Indian parent who died when Juarez was only three years old and was left under the care of his uncle. Juarez grew from an orphan to become an influential leader in Mexico during the transition from Catholic-dominated government to self-rule (Connolly 14). At 12 years old, Juarez moved to Oaxaca to stay with his sister where he began the educational journey that saw him study law which played a significant role in his future participation in the government and reforms that aimed at creating social equality and stability in Mexico (Connolly 12). Between 1861 and 1872, Juarez was the president of Mexico and his contributions towards reforms significantly helped him to have a significant influence on the people (Hamnett 3). Juarez fought for the independence of Mexico from the Emperor Maximilian of Rome who had considerable control of Mexico politics. This paper will assess the historical contributions of Juarez to be recognized as a national hero in Mexico and his life achievements in politics, law, and the Mexican constitution.
Benito Juarez has a special place in the historical context of Mexico through his political and social contributions to the country. This section will address Juarez political and social activities and contributions in Mexico.
From a humble background in the rural areas of San Pablo, Juarez was exposed to the suffering of the people under the leadership of conservatives at the time when Rome occupied Mexico. Studying law presented Juarez with an opportunity to transform the lives of his countrymen through reforms that reduced the political dominance of Mexico by foreign powers. Juarez began his political career as a councilman in Oaxaca. In Oaxaca, Juarez became famous with the local people by becoming a staunch defender of the rights of the natives (Connolly 12). In 1841, Juarez became a judge, and he used his position to further advocate for social equality having witnessed the oppressive regime which favored the military men and the priests who were used by Rome to extend its iron hand in Mexico. Becoming a fierce anti-clerical liberal in the years after 1841 attracted significant admiration and love from the oppressed local people. As a liberal, Juarez fought for equal rights and went ahead to be elected as the governor of Oaxaca state (Hamnett 8). During his tenure as the governor, Juarez passed laws that allowed the confiscation of the church funds and lands and this brought enmity between him and the conservatives.
In 1853, Juarez and other liberal leaders were forced into exile and only returned to Mexico
In 1854 to help overthrow Santa Anna's regime which was a conservative and under him many Mexicans suffered inequality and prejudice. Minister was made the Minister of Justice in the new liberal government a position that helped him to carry out liberal reforms aimed at promoting social justice for the people (Connolly 19). During his tenure as the Justice Minister, Juarez was able to limit the powers of the church and in 1857 contributed towards creating a new constitution that helped Mexico to reclaim its independence from the church (Connolly 24). Juarez was able to fight further to increase the role of the government and limit the influence of the church, and in 1859, the United States of America supported and recognized Juarez liberal government (Connolly 123). On June 1, 1861, after garnering the support of the US Juarez was able to assume the presidency.
Being of indigenous origin, Juarez was supported by the Mexicans because they viewed him as one of their own and could represent them adequately. However, Juarez peaceful reign did not last for long due to the failing Mexican economy and debts which forced France to attack Mexico and overthrow the leader creating a monarchy with Maximilian Joseph as the King. Juarez courage was shown by his determination to continue the fight and eventually forced France imposed emperor and the conservatives to flee the Mexico City. Therefore, Juarez cemented his name in the history books of Mexico as a courageous leader who fought against Mexican occupation by France (Connolly 33). Politically, many Mexicans liken Juarez to Abraham Lincoln due to his firm leadership and fighting for the rights of the poor through liberal reforms.
Achievements and Contributions
Benito Juarez was a staunch believer in freedom and social equality of his people. Juarez fought for freedom from foreign masters whom he faced head-on and always stood by his liberal ideas. During his time, Mexico was under the control of other foreign countries that had given loans to the country such as France and Britain. The Catholic Church had a significant influence on the country leadership and social behavior of the people. Juarez selfishly fought for Mexico to be free using reforms and also armed resistance. The support from the people played a significant role towards Juarez successful nationalist campaign and ideologies that sparked nationalism among other Mexicans (Connolly 16). Today, Juarez is a common unification factor for most of Mexicans a century later, and the people identify him as one of the greatest statesmen that Mexico will ever have. Other leaders and the people use Juarez as an example in the quest for social justice and freedom (Connolly 40). Juarez will be remembered for regenerating the liberal thought, and today he is recognized in Mexico for his liberal ideals and the dangers of foreign domination in the country.
Social Justice Advocate
Juarez was a staunch believer in social justice and as a governor, minister, senior judge and the president of Mexico he fought for social justice in the country that was largely divided a factor that Juarez believed that it was the cause of insecurity in the country. The Catholic Church and the military had a special place in the social hierarchy which was used to intimidate the people through conservative ideals (Connolly 11). The law was divided into different social groups and justice for peasant farmers, military men and church clergies were differentiated even through courts of justice. The division of the law led to social injustices amongst Mexicans especially the poor who were exploited by the church and the military (Connolly 12). Through reforms, Juarez was able to confiscate funds and land from the church which were redistributed back to the people.
Reforms and a New Constitution
Juarez used his law expertise and power of influence as the governor and the minister of justice to carry out liberal reforms that were liberal. Social justice was the primary goal in Juarez efforts to create reforms that could improve the social status of the people and a universal justice for all Mexicans (Shirk 214). As the judge of the Supreme Court, Juarez was able to abolish the special courts for the military and the clerics who helped to reduce their jurisdiction and influence in the local politics and leadership. The military and the clerics were conservative advocates and were used by Rome and other foreign nations such as France to undermine Mexican independence. The new constitution that Juarez supported and fought for was a significant source of change by making Mexico a secular and a progressive state. The constitution increased democratic leadership by giving the people more power and reducing the power of the church and the military over the people (Connolly 22). During the three years' war, Juarez carried out significant reforms especially in 1859 from the port of Veracruz where Juarez created reform laws that aimed at separating the church and the state. Insecurity and power struggles in Mexico at the time were driven by the church which had a conservative approach and influence on Mexican politics.
Mexico before the reforms was governed by colonial customs and the military and the church played a significant role in civil matters with the church having a privileged position that was used to exploit the people by amassing property (Shirk 214). New reforms allowed freedom of worship and increased access to education for the poor Mexicans. The church privileges ceded and most of the property that the church owned through the law of nationalization of ecclesiastical goods of 1859. At the time, the church owned 52% of Mexicans national real estate, and they were confiscated and given to the people to benefit the nation as a whole. In 1860, the law of religious freedom was established, and marked new dawn of religious freedom in Mexico and the Catholic religion ceased to be obligatory for the people (Connolly 60).
In conclusion, Benito Juarez has a special place in the history of Mexico for leading Mexicans in the fight for social justice and the end of colonial customs. Through reforms and a liberal approach, Juarez was able to deliver Mexico from internal and external influence, and the people were given more power and freedom. Juarez introduced religious freedom through reforms and liberated the country from external control of the European countries and Rome through the Catholic Church.
Connolly, Ruth Marie. "The philosophy of Benito Juarez and its influence in the formation of his domestic policy and his relations with the United States." (1963).
Hamnett, Brian R. "Benito Juarez, early liberalism, and the regional politics of Oaxaca, 1828-1853." Bulletin of Latin American Research (1991): 3-21.
Shirk, David A. "Justice reform in Mexico: change & challenges in the judicial sector." SHARED RESPONSIBILITY(2010): 205.
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