Life of President Benito Pablo Juarez

Sobieski on Juarez

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This biographical sketch is dated. Colonel Sobieski dedicated it to his mother, the Princess of Count John Sobieski. Certain names, such as both Juarez and Sobieski, evoke sensations of one sort or another. Sobieski suggests Eastern European royalty. Juarez also evokes nobility, from deed rather than blood. Unfortunately, La Ciudad de Juarez today has lost its radiant glow. It has a reputation for being drug-infested, bereft of any semblance of law and order. From a discreet distance, a few hundred miles away (Albuquerque), it is hard to tell how much is true, how much hyperbole. The situation seems serious enough, however, to stay away. El Paso is probably bad enough, if badness herein is the fruit of temptation. But then, why is that? Why is Ft. Lauderdale to be preferred to Miami, or parts of Richmond, VA to be avoided altogether, no matter what? Many Albuquerque residents speak of its south valley area as a no-go zone. It is the same way in Chicago: northsiders refuse to visit the south side except to watch the White Sox. The dreaded blocks are likely to contain older neighborhoods and houses that no longer attract much interest aside from urban history. To experience a tarnished locale first-hand, perhaps, one has only to move into a brand new, trouble free community and wait.

Juarez would not have given his name over wholesale to an enterprise having to do with the delivery of contraband to the USA. He was a genuine Mexican patriot. His rise came from well below. He was born in 1806 of Indian parents -- Native Mexicanos. His first language was Indian. It was only later, orphaned at 12, that a monk taught him to read and write. A little more than twenty years later he was admitted to the bar. He embraced the progressive side of all political questions. In 1847, he became the governor of the state of Oajaca, where he had been born. President Santa Ana then banished him. In New Orleans, Louisiana he earned a living in a cigar factory. In 1855, he returned to Mexico, joining General Alvarez at Acapulco against Santa Ana.

It may be that Juarez lost his soul in politics. This endeavor forces men and women to think much differently than they ordinarily would. Juarez, who owed everything to the religion that adopted him, abolished clerical courts along with military ones. His reason was that excommunication was misused to influence politics. To be sure, conservatives were abler manipulators. They used their connections to try to involve Austria, France, England, Spain, and the Holy Church in splintered Mexican affairs. In 1858, Juarez became President. In 1861, he entered Mexico City.

Emperor Napoleon declared war a year later. France maintained that it was not violating the Monroe Doctrine. It only wanted to recover the money it lent Mexico. According to Sobieski, the French plundered, confiscated property, and murdered. Sobieski himself was not above politics, so the reader has to beware. In 1863, the French occupied Mexico City. In 1864, they put Archduke Maximilian on the throne. He ruled alongside his consort, Carlotta. The House of Hapsburg continued in power until 1865. That was when Juarez took command once again just beneath El Paso in a town subsequently named after him. From there he put Maximilian to death. Maximilian had issued a decree that made fighting the Empire a capital crime. Juarez answered in kind against those fighting the Republic. Again, let the reader judge.

Sobieski, a contemporary of Juarez, rendered a historical service by penning this twenty-page manuscript. It is rewarding to be able to read an eye-witness account of a notable of the 19th century that can be downloaded and printed out for nothing. Sobieski called Juarez the "savior and regenerator" of Mexico. Among the attributes he reported on is the fact that Juarez never attended a bullfight. Today, Juarez City remains a gloomy subject at best. It is hard to speak, however, for its inhabitants, of which there are many. It must still be vibrant and productive, since the underworld is not busy plying its trades on every street corner twenty four hours a day. Still, Americans are concerned, especially those within an easy afternoon's drive. Would not a war on terrorism include a situation such as this? And as to names, they are not meaningless. The name Juarez should carry the currency it deserves and not be mocked by reprehensible activities out of control.


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