Benito Juárez Memorial

Mexican military and President visit Benito Juarez Memorial
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visits Benito Juárez Memorial in July 2022

Embassy of Mexico, US

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The Benito Juárez statue stands at the intersection of Virginia and New Hampshire avenues NW in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It is one of many statues along Virginia Avenue that each represent significant liberators of Western Hemisphere countries.

Granite pedestal with Juarez epitaph
Benito Juárez statue's pedestal. Inscription: "Respect for the rights of others is peace" Benito Juárez 1806-1872


Mexican President Benito Juárez’s statue stands approximately 19 feet tall and weighs about 3,600 pounds. It was sculpted by Luis Sosa Villasenor and Luis Ortiz Macedo. The statue is a replica of French-Italian sculptor Enrique Alciati’s 1891 work of art found in Juárez’s hometown, Oaxaca City, Mexico. On the outside of the base is an inscription of Juárez’s famous quote in both English and Spanish:

“Respect for the rights of others is peace /
El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.”

Mexico gifted the commanding statue of Benito Juárez to the U.S. on January 7, 1969 after the U.S. gifted Mexico a statue of Abraham Lincoln in 1966, a belated gift to commemorate Mexico’s sesquicentennial. Both U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Mexican Foreign Minister Antonio Carrillo Flores spoke at the event. Rusk said:

“We shared with Mexico one of our greatest heroes and now Mexico is sharing with us one of its greatest sons.”

An exchange of gifts not only strengthened ties between the U.S. and Mexico but serves as a moment to remember their most revered presidents who shared similar hopes for their countries.
Black and white photo of Benito Juárez
Black and white photograph of Benito Juárez

Library of Congress

Born in a small village, San Pablo Guelatao, in the state of Oaxaca and orphaned before the age of 4. He spoke mostly Zapotec until learn Spanish at age 12. He finally finished his high school training in 1827 and received his law degree in 1834.

In 1831, he entered the political realm as a liberal. By 1846 he was elected to the national Congress but went back to Oaxaca and was elected governor in 1847. When Santa Anna’s dictatorship returned to the presidency in 1853, Juárez was exiled to New Orleans where he joined forces with other liberals there.When the liberals regained power in 1855, Juárez became the Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs and wrote the Ley Juárez (Juárez Law) which separated church and military before law. In 1857 Juárez became Minister of Government , and then elected president of the Supreme Court, first in line for succession to the presidency. When President Comonfort was overthrown by Félix Zuloaga, Juárez was sworn in as President, giving Mexico two presidents and a civil war.

Upon taking the presidency, Juárez suspended payment on the foreign debt, leading to the intervention with France. During this intervention, Juárez gained a reputation for steadfastness and ultimately outlasted the French army. He was reelected President in December 1867 and again in 1871. He died on July 18, 1872.

Oil on canvas paintings of Benito Juarez (left) and Abraham Lincoln (right)
Oil on Canvas paintings of Juárez (left) and Lincoln (right)

Lincoln - White House Historical Association. Juarez - Eduardo Báez, La Pintura Militar de México

In Mexico, Abraham Lincoln is viewed with high regards since he opposed the Mexican-American War as Congressman and supported Mexico’s fight against European and French invasions. During their presidencies, they worked hard to reform and uphold their constitutions. Lincoln successfully sought to end the American Civil War by freeing the enslaved and preserving the union. As the first indigenous president of Mexico, Juárez sought to reform social laws and the seperation of church and state.

Ultimately, Lincoln and Juárez were both reformers and leaders who successfully preserved their nations during challenging times. Today, the Benito Juárez statue not only recognizes the United States’ southern neighbor and their historic liberator, but it represents a moment of mighty leadership that transcended borders.

Last updated: September 16, 2022

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