Legacy of Juárez honored in SD on his birthday

Mexicans recall president who championed democracy

Mexico commemorated on Wednesday the 206th birthday of Benito Juárez, one of its greatest heroes.

In downtown San Diego, meanwhile, dozens of people gathered at Pantoja Park in front of the statue called "Benemérito de las Américas."

The statue, by sculptor Ernesto Tamariz, was a gift from the Mexican government during the 1980s to the San Diego community.

As a gesture of friendship between both cites, in exchange Tijuana received a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln that's on Avenida Paseo de los Héroes in Río zone.

Mexico's Consul-General in San Diego, Remedios Gómez Arnau, led Wednesday's ceremony, attended by consulate staff, members of the Benito Juárez Social Club and the public.

Juárez is one of the most revered Mexican heroes. He was born in Oaxaca on March 21, 1806, a member of the Zapotec community. He studied law and entered politics, eventually serving five terms as president, from 1858 to 1872.

His leadership, known as "La Reforma del Norte," had profound social and political impact on Mexico. He championed democracy, equal rights for indigenous people and ended the unchecked power the Catholic Church had in local and national affairs.

Standing next to the monument, Gómez Arnau recalled Juarez's humble origins, noting that he better than anyone in his era understood the problems Mexicans faced and how powerful institutions needed to be reformed to serve them.

"Benito Juárez was a complete human being and politician," she said.

She ended by repeating one of Juarez's famous phrases: "Among individuals, as among nations, respect for other's rights is peace."

For his part, Gustavo Tomás Gómez, who founded the Benito Juárez Social Club some 26 years ago, stressed the importance of teaching new generations of Mexican-Americans living in the United States about figures such as Juárez.

"I think it's the obligation of parents to pass their culture on to their kids," he said. "We have to keep his message alive."

"Benito Juárez should be remembered for what he did, for his struggle for the equality of all men."

In Mexico City, meanwhile, President Felipe Calderón led a ceremony at the National Palace accompanied by some of Juárez descendants.



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