“MRS. BENITO JUAREZ“ - MEXICO’S GALLANT FIRST LADY
Margarita Maza, of Spanish descent, was born in Oaxaca in 1826, the daughter of Antonio Maza and Petra Parada. In 1843 she married Benito Juárez - a Zapotec Indian, who became the President of Mexico.
Orphaned at three, Benito became a shepherd boy and did not speak Spanish. At twelve, the Mazas hired him to work for them and provided him an education. Benito and Margarita became friends and later married. Although tutored by Spanish monks for the priesthood, Benito decided to join an Indian liberal protest group and got his law degree instead. Starting in 1831, he served in many elected offices – as city councilor, state representative, judge, secretary and advisor to several Mexican presidents, national representative, Governor of Oaxaca, President of the Supreme Court (equivalent to Vice President) - and then becoming the President of Mexico by 1858.
Juárez was a liberal who fought for the rights of the workers and women and to reform the Mexican government, laws, church and taxes. He introduced many new advanced ideas in education, agriculture, mining and finances. He wanted to keep Mexico independent and democratic and to write a new constitution. And always beside him in countless deadly political and military battles was his beloved wife, Doña Margarita. They had 10 children - 7 girls and 3 boys.
When Benito became the President of Mexico in 1858, opposition right-wing conservative, military and church forces within Mexico rejected him and he had to escape the capitol for Veracruz. Margarita and the children left the capitol, too, crossing the dangerous eastern sierras at night to avoid capture and joining Benito on the coast. But Juárez and his liberal armies defeated the opposition forces and he returned as President triumphantly to Mexico City.