Benito Juárez

President of Mexico from 1858 to 1872

Benito Pablo Juárez García (21 March 180618 July 1872), known primarily as Benito Juárez, was a Mexican politician; a full-blooded Zapotec, he became the first indigenous national to serve as President of Mexico, from 1861 to 1863 and from 1867 to 1872.

Democracy is the destiny of humanity; freedom its indestructible arm.


Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.
Sooner or later the cause of rights and justice will triumph.
    • Statement of Juárez inscribed as a Motto on the State Flag of Oaxaca, of which he was Governor from 1847 to 1853.
      Variant translations: Among individuals as among nations, when there is respect, there is peace.
      Respect for the rights of others means peace.
  • The government of the republic will fulfill its duty to defend its independence, to repel foreign aggression, and accept the struggle to which it has been provoked, counting on the unanimous spirit of the Mexicans and on the fact that sooner or later the cause of rights and justice will triumph.
    • Proclamation to the Mexican people, shortly before the Battle of Puebla of 5 May 1862 (which is commemorated by the "Cinco de Mayo" celebrations).
  • In use of the broad powers with which I have been invested, I have found it proper to declare that
      1. Priests of any cult who, abusing their ministry, excite hate or disrespect for our laws, our government, or its rights, will be punished by three years’ imprisonment or deportation.
      2. Because of the present crisis all cathedral chapters are suppressed, except for that of Guadalajara because of its patriotic behavior.
      3. Priests of all cults are forbidden from wearing their vestments or any other distinguishing garment outside of the churches… All violators will be punished with fines of ten to one hundred pesos or imprisonment from fifteen to sixty days.
    • Proclamation in response to church officials openly encouraging support for French forces. (30 August 1862)
  • Democracy is the destiny of humanity; freedom its indestructible arm.
  • Adversity, Citizen Deputies, discourages none but contemptible peoples; ours has been ennobled by great feats and we are far from being shorn of the immense obstacles, material and moral, which the country will oppose…
    • Juarez and his Mexico : A Biographical History (1968) by Ralph Roeder, Vol. 2, p. 511
  • There is no help but in defense but I can assure you... the Imperial Government will not succeed in subduing the Mexicans, and its armies will not have a single day of peace... we must stop them, not only for our country but for the respect of the sovereignty of the nations.
  • Mexicans: let us now pledge all our efforts to obtain and consolidate the benefits of peace. Under its auspices, the protection of the laws and of the authorities will be sufficient for all the inhabitants of the Republic. May the people and the government respect the rights of all. Between individuals, as between nations, peace means respect for the rights of others.
    • As quoted in Global History, Volume Two : The Industrial Revolution to the Age of Globalization (2008) by Jerry Weiner, Mark Willner, George A. Hero and Bonnie-Anne Briggs, p. 175

Quotes about Benito Juárez

  • This is the beginning of a social movement in fact and not in pronouncements. We seek our basic, God-given rights as human beings. Because we have suffered — and are not afraid to suffer — in order to survive, we are ready to give up everything, even our lives, in our fight for social justice. We shall do it without violence because that is our destiny. To the ranchers, and to all those who opposes, we say, in the words of Benito Juárez: "El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz." [Respect for another's right is the meaning of peace.]
  • Without realizing it the maids provided me with a version of Benito Juárez; they were all like Benito Juárez. Like him they vindicated themselves: "Dirty foreigners." Like him they defended Mexico, as stubborn as mules. Like him they had no roof of their own and had eaten only poor people's food, and for me, a girl raised on French mashed potatoes, discovering them meant entering into "the other."
    • Elena Poniatowska "A Question Mark Engraved on my Eyelids" in The Writer on Her Work (1992), translated from Spanish by Cynthia Steele
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