Benito Pablo Juárez García (21 March 1806 – 18 July 1872) was a Mexican lawyer and president of Mexico, of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca.
He was of poor, rural, indigenous origins, but he became a well-educated, urban professional and politician, who married a socially prominent woman of Oaxaca City, Margarita Maza. He identified primarily as a Liberal and wrote only briefly about his indigenous heritage.
He held power during the tumultuous decade of the Liberal Reformand French invasion. In 1858 as head of the Supreme Court, he became president of Mexico by the succession mandated by the Constitution of 1857 when moderate liberal President Ignacio Comonfortwas forced to resign by Mexican conservatives. Juárez remained in the presidential office until his death by natural causes in 1872. He weathered the War of the Reform (1858–60), a civil war between Liberals and Conservatives, and then the French invasion (1862–67), which was supported by Mexican Conservatives. Never relinquishing office although forced into exile in areas of Mexico not controlled by the French, Juárez tied Liberalism to Mexican nationalism and maintained that he was the legitimate head of the Mexican state, rather than Emperor Maximilian. When the French-backed Second Mexican Empire fell in 1867, the Mexican Republic with Juárez as president was restored to full power. In his success in ousting the European incursion, Latin Americans considered his a "second struggle for independence, a second defeat for the European powers, and a second reversal of the Conquest."
He is now "a preeminent symbol of Mexican nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention." Juárez was a practical and skilled politician, controversial in his lifetime and beyond. He had an understanding of the importance of a working relationship with the United States, and secured its recognition for his liberal government during the War of the Reform. Although many of his positions shifted during his political life, he held fast to particular principles including the supremacy of civil power over the Catholic Church and part of the military; respect for law; and the de-personalization of political life. In his lifetime he sought to strengthen the national government and asserted the supremacy of central power over states, a position that both radical and provincial liberals opposed. He was the subject of polemical attacks both in his lifetime and beyond. However, the place of Juárez in Mexican historical memory has enshrined him as a major Mexican hero, beginning in his own lifetime.
His birthday (March 21) is a national public and patriotic holiday in Mexico, Juárez being the only individual Mexican so honored.
In January 1959, the episode entitled "The Desperadoes" of the ABC/Warner Brothers western television series, ‘Sugarfoot’, starring Will Hutchins in the title role, focuses upon an imaginary plot to assassinate Juárez. Set at a mission in South Texas, the episode features Anthony George as a Catholic priest, Father John, a friend of the series character Tom "Sugarfoot" Brewster.
The actor Jan Arvan (1913-1979) was cast as President Juárez in the 1959 episode, "A Town Is Born" on the syndicated television anthology series, ‘Death Valley Days’, hosted by Stanley Andrews. Than Wyenn played Isaacs, a storekeeper in Nogales, Arizona Territory, who hides gold for the Mexican government in the fight against Maximilian. Jean Howell played his wife, Ruth Isaacs.
Frank Sorello (1929-2013) portrayed Juárez in two episodes of Robert Conrad's ‘The Wild Wild West’, an American espionage adventure television program: "The Night of the Eccentrics" (1966), and "The Night of the Assassin" (1967).
I’ve made my displeasure with “recastaways” in the past well known, yet I think these two portrayals of Juarez on television can exist in Earth Prime-Time, the main Toobworld. The reason for the difference in the appearance of Juarez within the reality of Toobworld can be attributed to perspective. As the ‘Death Valley Days’ episode stands alone as part of an anthology series without any established TV character, I’m going to consider Jan Arvan as the official version of Juarez. Mr. Sorello may have played him twice, but for Toobworld he’s how Juarez looked to James T. West.