Mexico’s 26th president, Benito Juárez. Photo: Gobierno de México

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS    

Monday, March 21, is an official holiday in Mexico in observation of the 1808th birthday of five-time president Benito Juárez, a national hero who helped chase the French out of the country, overthrew the Hapsburg-imposed empire of Maximillian I, and restored the republic under a liberal regime that served as the backdrop for modernization and urbanization.

Juárez, a Zapotec native of Oaxaca, served as Mexico’s 26th president, from 1858 until his death in office in 1872.

He was the first president of Mexico of indigenous origin.

And while he did embroil himself into a degree of political controversy in his later years for rewriting the constitution to allow himself to serve extra terms, he remained – and still remains – one of the nation’s most important heroes.

His unflinching commitment, resilience and fortitude have been an example to all Mexicans, particularly those who grow up in poverty and depravation.

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