Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – Despite President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to eliminate long holiday weekends, today is a National Holiday, with banks, government offices and many businesses closed as Mexico celebrates Benito Juárez, who rose from humble origins to occupy the Presidency of the Republic on several occasions during the turbulent second half of the 19th century.
Though Juarez’s birthday is actually March 21, the national holiday has traditionally been celebrated every year on the third Monday of March (which this year falls on the 16th), so citizens could enjoy a three-day holiday weekend, known as a “puente” (bridge) in Mexico.
Doubts that the tradition would continue this year arose after AMLO proposed to eliminate puentes, saying that they affected the “historical memory” of citizens. However, since the Chamber of Deputies has not even considered, much less approved his proposal, the three-day-long national holiday weekends will continue to be respected throughout 2020, according to the Milenio daily newspaper.
One of Mexico’s most renowned Presidents, Juárez is regarded as one of the greatest heroes in Mexican history. Most every Mexican city has a street named after Juarez, and he’s pictured on Mexico’s new 500 peso bank note, which went into circulation in 2018 and was first in a new family of bills that pay homage to the country’s historical identity and natural heritage.
Between 1858-1872 Benito Juarez served five terms as president, which included turbulent times for Mexico. In fact, he was president during two civil wars – the Guerra de Reforma (War of the Reform) from 1858-1861, and the Segunda Intervención Francesa en México (Second French Intervention) of 1862-1867.
Often referred to as “The Lincoln of Mexico,” Juarez is remembered for resisting the French occupation, overthrowing the Empire, and restoring the Republic, as well as for his liberal efforts to modernize the country. He was also the first indigenous man to be elected as the president of Mexico.
The period of his leadership is known in Mexican history as La Reforma del Norte (The Reform of the North), and constituted a liberal political and social revolution with major institutional consequences: the expropriation of church lands, the subordination of army to civilian control, liquidation of peasant communal land holdings, and the separation of church and state in public affairs.
For these accomplishments he is often regarded as one of Mexico’s greatest and most beloved leaders whose influence is still felt today.