By Julie R Butler
This week, Mexico celebrates the birthday of Benito Pablo Juárez García
Born on 21 March 1806 into poverty in the mountains of Oaxaca, Benito Juárez went on to become the country’s first indigenous president. He is considered the main architect of la Reforma, which championed liberal democratic principles such as freedom of speech, equal rights for all Mexicans, and separation of church and state..
Photo author anonymous, Public Domain
While several heroes of the Mexican War of Independence — namely, Vicente Guerrero, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, José María Morelos y Pavón, and Andrés Quintana Roo — have states named after them, Juárez is the only Mexican national hero who has a special day (the third Monday in March) set aside as a national holiday.
But that’s not the only way his legacy is celebrated, as his picture appears on several Mexican peso notes and countless streets and bus stations, towns and municipalities, institutions, geographic features, and many other things are named after Mexico’s foremost reformer.
Here are some of the standout ways that Benito Juárez has been honored by Mexicans and others throughout the world who see him as being on par with Abraham Lincoln regarding his influence on the history of the nation.
Hemiciclo a Juárez
Ordered by Porfirio Díaz, this neoclassical semicircular marble monument to Juárez graces Alameda Central del Centro Histórico.
Photo by Hajor, CC BY-SA 3.0
Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez
Mexico City’s major international airport is known officially as Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez and unofficially as Mexico City Juárez.
Photo by Edgor TovarVmzp85, Public Domain
Located across the Río Grande from El Paso, Texas, the city formerly known as El Paso del Norte was renamed Ciudad Juárez in 1888. It’s the largest of the many towns, cities, and municipalities in Mexico and elsewhere bearing the name Juárez or Benito Juárez.
Photo by AndiieVga, CC BY-SA 3.0
Puente Internacional Juárez–Lincoln
The Juárez–Lincoln International Bridge spans the Río Grande between Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. It’s an important crossing point on the roadways connecting San Antonio, Texas, with the major Mexican city of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
So Many Benito Juárez Sculptures!
Of course, there are sculptures of Benito Juárez all over Mexico. But did you know that there are several high-profile sculptures of “Mexico’s Lincoln” in the United States?
Photo by HaSt, CC BY-SA 4.0
The statue of Benito Juárez in Washington, DC, was a gift from Mexico to the United States. It’s a cast of the original statue in Oaxaca that was designed by Enrique Alciati, who is most famous for the Winged Victory statue that watches over the chaos of Mexico City from atop the Monumento a la Independencia.
Photo by G0T0, CC0
Other distinguished statues and busts of Benito Juárez can be found in US cities including Chicago, Houston, New York, and San Diego. There’s also a statue of him in the Colombian capital of Bogotá.
Photo by Felipe Restrepo Acosta, CC BY-SA 4.0
Benito Juárez in Popular Culture
Benito Juárez was first brought to the silver screen in 1933 in the Mexican film Juárez y Maximiliano, which depicted the relationship between Mexico’s republican president and the monarch placed in charge of the country during the Second French Intervention.
His next appearance in cinema came with the 1939 Hollywood historical drama Juarez, starring Paul Muni and Bette Davis’ Eyes.
Mexican cinema later retold the story of the man’s early life in the 1954 film El joven Juárez, and President Juárez appeared in the 1972 movie Aquellos años.
Also in 1972, El carruaje came to Mexican television as the country’s first historical telenovela produced in color.
Meanwhile, the character of Benito Juárez had been showing up in western television series shown in the United States during the 1950s and 60s, including the wacky steampunk series The Wild Wild West.
You can also have some fun and celebrate Benito Juarez' life with this t-shirt in our store:
¡Feliz cumpleaños a Benito Juárez!