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When an eloquent orator saved the life of Mexico’s greatest president

On Monday, March 18, Mexico takes the day off to honor the birthday (March 21, 1806) of the man widely considered the nation’s greatest ever president: Benito Juarez.

pg10aBorn in a small village in rural Oaxaca to poor indigenous parents, Juarez rose to Mexico’s highest office, creating a remarkable legacy defined by his commitment to constitutional reforms, resistance against foreign forces, and advocacy for social justice and equality.

But had it not been for the swift intervention of his minister of finance, the eloquent orator Guillermo Prieto, during an dramatic incident in Guadalajara in the first months of his presidency in March 1858, the history of  this nation might have been very different.

In May 1853, due to his liberal beliefs and ideas, Juárez found himself in prison. After his release, he left the country, spending time in both Havana and New Orleans. In March 1854, he returned to Mexico after the promulgation of the Plan of Ayutla, the document that contained the ideological foundations that led to the end of the autocratic government of Antonio López de Santa Anna, and convened the Constituent Congress that formulated the liberal Constitution of 1857.

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