SoFiA (2) – Benito Juárez

We’ll continue our search for Stories of Freemasons in America with a remarkable man, going by the name of Benito Juárez.

There are not many figures in Mexican history more present than him: No less than 4 streets, a complete district and an airport are named after him in Mexico City. He was president of Mexico, like many before and after him, of course. But his presidency and his person are remarkable enough to name him here.

Benito Juárez

Let’s have a look at his person first. He was indeed the first Mexican president to be purely Indigenous. 100% Zapotec from Oaxaca. This was obviously one of the reasons, why he instituted a big land reform in Mexico, which gave the Indigenous a lot more rights. And it strengthened the general acceptance of Indigenous in the Mexican society. He was 1.35m in size… wait, what? 1.35m! That’s 5 feet for all you non-metrics out there. We can assume, that his stature was not responsible for his persuasive power.

Amongst his plans and achievements were such fundamental changes that the whole of them became famous as simply La Reforma in Mexico. The separation of church and state, the reform of the constitution, the introduction of civil marriage, direct election of president, highest court and representatives or the freedom of religion were just some of those changes. Naturally, just 4 streets in Mexico weren’t enough for that man and so one of the most important streets in Mexico-City is called Paseo de la Reforma. That’s the street, where El Angel can be found on, a remarkable place of Mexico City.

El Angel
picture: Chivista/wikimedia.org/cc-by-sa

Sidenote of personal interest: As a German, I have to point out, that El Angel is very obviously a case of outrageous theft of the Viktoria in Berlin.

Viktoria on top of the Berlin Victory Columny
picture: Der Wolf im Wald/wikimedia.org/cc-by-sa

The Viktoria is a great bridge to the next very special fact about Benito Juárez. He was the one who successfully fought against the Second Mexican Empire, which was announced by Napoleon III. Poor Maximilian I. thought, that he would be greeted and welcomed with open arms by the Mexican people, cause Napoleon obviously told him, that the Mexican people wouldn’t wish anything more than to be governed by a Habsburg. He didn’t tell him however, that the Mexicans already appointed Benito Juárez as their leader and that the suspension of a debt by Juárez was the real reason for Napoleon to send him there.

In the end Mexico won, and Maximilian was shot. We will meet Maximilian again later, when we have an article about his very odd arrival to Mexico.

As a Freemason, Benito Juárez is still today mentioned in great honor by Freemasons in Mexico. In his early days, many of his teachers during his professional studies at the Institute of Science and Arts of Oaxaca were Masons. He became a Freemason on January 15, 1847, being 40 years of age, accompanied by Manuel Crescencio García Rejón, the author of the Constitution of Yucatán of 1841. Since it was good use in that time and area to choose a special name, he picked “William Tell”. As a Freemason he also knew Porfirio Díaz, another later president of Mexico; that was after he lost an election against Benito Juárez.

Beforehand of this very election for which both Díaz and Juárez called, José María Iglesias a close supporter of Juárez said: “At this table, we are all Juaristas, Mr. President.” Benito Juárez stated: “That not! At this table we are all Republicans, not Juaristas. If the plan of the town is, that another should rule, we will all be obedient to the will of the citizens.” A statement that was not very common in that day and age.

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