Cinco de Mayo and the U.S. Civil War. 2024.

Benito Juarez and Abraham Lincoln.

Benito Juárez’ life and accomplishments are similar to Abraham Lincoln’s life. They both had humble beginnings, and they were self taught, both became lawyers, they did not have an attractive physic.  Both believe in the separation of church and state, in democracy, and in the principle that all men are created equal and deserve the rights to be treated equal under the law, and have the rights as established under the constitution of both countries. Both of them forged a new nation. I wish I can inspire you to read more about Benito Juarez and his time.

Lincoln and Juarez both opposed slavery, they were both inaugurated as President in the same month and year, March 1861.As a freshman congressman from Illinois, Lincoln condemned the 1846 U.S. invasion of Mexico, accusing President James K. Polk of promoting a falsehood to justify war, and he was not the only one, Ulysses S. Grant, who distinguished himself in the war with Mexico, later wrote in his memoirs that it had been “the most unjust war ever waged against a weaker nation by a stronger.”

As Jamie Katz wrote in

Like Jamie Katz, I too believe that Benito Juarez’  life story was very similar to the life of  Abraham Lincoln. They were contemporaries and faced similar struggles.

Benito Juárez, full name Benito Pablo Juárez García, was born March 21, 1806, in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, Mexico.—and died July 18, 1872, Mexico City. He was born four years before the Independence of Mexico from Spain. He was raised by his uncle surrounded by the ideas of the “Enlightment” and later when he studied law at the liberal Institute of Sciences and Arts, he believed in John Lock’s ideas that individuals agree not to infringe on each other’s “natural rights” to life, liberty, and property, ” He was convinced that it was through secular thought, and a secular education, that men could become masters of their own destinies.

He married Margarita Maza, a woman of European heritage from a socially prominent family in Oaxaca City. He became a lawyer, a judge, a  legislator, and supported Valentín Gómez Farías’ liberal reforms including limitations on the power of the Catholic Church. Benito and other liberals like Melchor Ocampo who opposed Antonio Lopez de Santana and finally Santa Anna was forced to resign in 1855.

Benito Juarez drafted  “The Constitution of 1857” which declared all citizens equal before the law, and restricted the privileges of the Catholic Church and the Mexican army. After three years of civil war, the liberals prevailed, and the “The Constitution of 1857” became law. Juárez was elected president in 1861.

At the time he became president, the country did not have money to pay its debts to the banks of England, Spain and France. Benito Juarez offered an installmenht payment which France refused and sent troops to invade Mexico, however, this first time England and Spain blocked France’s attempts and the troops returned to France.

Late in 1862, a well-armed French fleet attacked Veracruz, landing a large French force and moving on from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans close to Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.

The French army of 8,000 attacked the poorly equipped Mexican army of 4,000, led by General Ignacio Zaragoza,On May 5, 1862, the Mexicans decisively defeated the French army. The victory represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large and helped establish a sense of national unity and patriotism!

Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated in Los Angeles and Nevada by Californianos that started the Juntas Patrióticas since 1862.

Benito Juarez was still president when France sent its troops a second time during the battle of Puebla of Cinco de Mayo.  The French troops were defeated, however in 1864, the French under Napoleon III invaded and occupied Mexico, putting Maximilian of Austria in power. 

Benito Juarez was the elected president in “internal-exile”  as he had to move from place to place in the north part of Mexico running away from the conservative military forces making sure he did not cross the border with the United States. 

He did all this from his black carriage as he did not stay long in any one place. He managed to keep the country’s nationalism intact protecting the archive’s of the nation, including the “Declaration of Independence” from Spain.
during the three years of the French intervention.

When Napoleon later withdrew his troops, Juárez defeated Maximilian’s armies and had him executed in 1867. Benito Juarez respected Maximilian on a personal level, however, he refused to commute the sentence in view of the Mexicans who had been killed fighting against Maximilian’s Monarchy, defending the republic, and because he believed it was necessary to send a message to world leaders that Mexico would not tolerate any government imposed by foreign powers. 

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