Benito Juarez

The Legacy of Benito Juárez

Inspired by the three-week field trip taken by a dozen MUSD educators to the city of Oaxaca, Mexico and the creation of a local organization of Oaxacan transplants to Madera, two 8th-grade Madera classes have chosen a hero from Oaxaca as the subject of this year’s Madera Method project.

Working with individuals from Oaxaca, and conducting their own independent research, Madera teenage historians from Eastin Arcola and Lavina schools are digging into the life of Benito Pablo Juárez García, and they have struck paydirt. So impressed are they with the diminutive Juarez, who stood 4’6”, they are calling the pint-sized leader a giant hero. The results of their initial sleuthing has guaranteed a first-rate biography by the end of the project.

According to the students’ research, Juarez was born in San-Pablo-Guelatao (Oaxaca, Mexico) on March 21, 1806. His birth village had 200 inhabitants—all Zapoteca Indians. He was the son of Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García, both full-blooded Zapoteca Indians.

Both of Juarez’s parents died when Benito was only 3 years old. He went to live with an uncle until he was 12. He did not go to school during this time but worked in the fields instead. He did not learn to read or write and spoke only Zapotecan while he lived in San-Pablo-Guelatao.

In 1818, Juarez moved to Qaxaca City, the capital of the state of Qaxaca. He moved in with a sister and later with a mentor, Antonio Salanueva, a bookbinder and Franciscan monk. At that time, he began to learn Spanish. In 1821, at the age of 15, he began his formal education by enrolling in a church school.

He was going to study for the priesthood, but in 1829 he entered the Oaxaca Institute of Arts and Sciences (now Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca) to study law and science. In 1831 he received a law degree. From that point, politics grabbed his attention.

From 1831—1833 he served on the Oaxacan City Council. In 1841, he became a Civil Judge. He was elected Gov. of Oaxaca in 1847 and served until 1852. Benito married Margarita Maza in 1853. In that same year, General Santa Anna took power and Juarez was expelled to New Orleans because of his politics

The students are now preparing to explore Juarez’s political fight to the Presidency, including the War of Reform and the French Intervention.

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