Benito Juárez

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Benito Pablo Juárez (Spanish pronunciation: [beˈnito ˈpaβlo ˈxwaɾes ɣarˈsi.a]; March 21, 1806 – July 18, 1872) was a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca who served five terms as president of Mexico: 1858–1861 as interim, 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872.[1] Benito Juárez was the first Mexican leader who did not have a military background, and also the first full-blooded indigenous national ever to serve as President of Mexico and to lead a country in the Western Hemisphere.[citation needed] He resisted the French occupation, overthrew the Empire, restored the Republic, and used liberal efforts to modernize the country.

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Early life

Juárez was born in the village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca on March 21, 1807, located in the mountain range now known as the "Sierra Juárez". His parents, Marcelino Juárez and Brígida García, were peasants who both died when he was three years old. Shortly after, his grandparents died as well, in which his uncle then raised him.[2][3] He described his parents as "indios de la raza primitiva del país," that is, "Indians of the original race of the country."[3] He worked in the corn fields and as a shepherd until the age of 12, when he walked to the city of Oaxaca to attend school.[1] At the time, he was illiterate and could not speak Spanish, only Zapotec.

In the city, where his sister worked as a cook, he took a job as a domestic servant for Antonio Maza.[1] A lay Franciscan, Antonio Salanueva, was impressed with young Benito's intelligence and thirst for learning, and arranged for his placement at the city's seminary. He studied there but decided to pursue law rather than the priesthood. He graduated from the seminary in 1827 and went on to gain a degree in law. In 1843 Benito married Margarita Maza.

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