Cinco de Mayo figure was Indian who sought rights
Wednesday, May 5, 2004

For many people, Cinco de Mayo is a day to consume alcohol at bars. But to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, it is a day to celebrate Benito Juarez, an Indian man who fought for Indian rights.

Juarez was a Zapotec Indian who learned to read, write and speak Spanish at age 13. He then became a lawyer and advocate for Indian rights. Later, his stance on limiting the involvement of the Catholic Church in government led to a civil war in 1858. He ended up becoming president at the end of the war in 1861.

Cinco de Mayo is the day of a battle between French troops and Mexican peasant, most of whom were Indian or of mixed Indian ancestry. Juarez led his country to victory against the French on May 5, 1862. After the French came back a year later, he toppled a French-installed government with the military support of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Juarez died in 1872.

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Celebrating Mexico's history (The Arizona Republic 5/5)

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