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Influential Latin Americans Throughout History

While there have been many important figures in Mexico’s history, ranging from politicians, to artists to military leaders, it was the eradication of Spanish rule in the 19th century that produced some of the most prolific figures in Mexico’s entire history. Some of these historical figures are criminals, some are obsessed, and some religious, but they all share one thing in common – their influence on Mexico’s history is still felt today. Below is an overview of five historical, influential figures from Mexico’s history.

Benito Juarez (1806-1872) Known as Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln, Juarez was president from the 1858 to 1872. He served during a period in Mexico’s history earmarked by massive unrest and social upheaval; religion was the basis for the liberal and conservative hostilities toward each other in Mexico – the conservatives believed that the church should stand side by side with the government; the liberals were against vehemently opposed to this notion. Foreign interests were undermining Mexico and Juarez also had to contend with that; also, Mexican’s were still upset by the loss of a lot of it’s land to the USA. Juarez led Mexico resolutely, and with clear goals in mind; surprising as he was a Zapotec Indian and Spanish was not his first language.

Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) President of Mexico from 1876-1911, Diaz is one of the most well-known and recognized historical figures from Mexico’s past. He ruled with such tenacity and force of will that it was not until the revolution that he was finally unseated. His reign as president is epitomized by his policies that divided the rich from the poor; he pandered to the already wealthy by making them even wealthier, the poor became poorer and grew in numbers. The overreaching side effect of this class separation was that Mexico became regarded as a developed nation on the world stage, joining the ranks of many other nations with similar class disparity.

Maximillian (1832-1867) – Emperor of Mexico Despite some inspired efforts, Mexico was still in turmoil after attempting rule with powers ranging from the liberals, conservatives, a dictator and an emperor – nothing had proven to have any kind of long term stability, vision or success for the still young nation experiencing growing pains via political upheaval and social unrest. It was actually France that stepped in and suggested that, perhaps, Mexico might try a more European style system of rule – a monarchy. With this in mind, Maximillian of Austria, was given the power of a regent. He was ousted from office, then executed, partly due to his inability to stop the conservatives and liberals from constantly warring with each other.

Francisco Madero (1873-1910) Toward the end of Porfirio Diaz’s reign as President, it was decided that an election was finally in order. Diaz didn’t really believe that any of his opposition had a chance; the election was only meant to give people the idea that they had a choice in the governing of Mexico; it kept them placated. Madero was a man of the people with genuine ideals and popularity to match. Diaz realized that he actually stood a good chance of losing an election to Madero and quickly rescinded his plans for an election. Diaz wanted Madero arrested. Madero came back to Mexico (from the USA) to work with Francisco “Pancho” Villa, as a revolutionary leader. Diaz was ousted and Madero ruled from 1911 to 1913.

Agustin de Iturbide (1783-1824) wanted to join the army, even at a young age, although he was born into privilege and had other options available to him. His family’s wealth and influence ensured his ability to focus on honing and developing his skills and ideals. He joined the army at a very young age, determined to inspire, lead and enact change. His natural leadership and compelling personality assisted his rise through the ranks in the army. He fought against insurgents during the war of independence, but in 1820 he changed allegiances and began fighting for independence. When the Spanish were defeated, Iturbide was named Emperor. His rule was short lived as infighting between the different factions in Mexico created an atmosphere of constant instability and his power was undermined. He was exiled in 1823, returned a year later and was eventually captured and executed.

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