What do you know about the New Orleans exile of Mexican hero Benito Juarez? I know he worked in a cigar factory, but I would like to know which one and if it still exists. His statue is supposed to be where he lived. Is that true?
The statue of Benito Juarez, one of Mexico's greatest heroes, was installed at Basin and Conti streets on April 24, 1965. Sculpted by Juan Fernando Olaguibel, it was officially dedicated on May 17, 1972, the centennial of Juarez' death. On its marble base is inscribed "People of Mexico to the People of the United States of America — In homage to the Restorer of the Republic and President of Mexico from 1858-1872."
Born in the small Zapotec Indian village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, on March 21, 1806, Juarez became the first Mexican president of Indian descent. He became a lawyer in 1834 and a judge in 1841, as well as the governor of Oaxaca. In 1853 he was forced to flee the country over his objections to the corrupt military dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna.
First, Juarez went to Havana, where he stayed until December. He then set sail for New Orleans, arriving in December 1853. With him was Jose Maria Maza, the brother of his wife Margarita.
The two men had little resources and rented a small room in a boarding house. They also found someone who agreed to teach them some English and who would help them get employment. Eventually the men formed a friendship with a "Doctor" Borrego. More quack than legitimate physician, Borrego lived in a wretched house on the Street of Great Men (today Dauphine Street) in the Faubourg Marigny. His house was divided by a screen. On one side was the "consulting room" and on the other side a "tobacco factory."
It was here Borrego taught Maza how to roll cigarettes and cigars. If someone knocked at the door and appeared to be in need of a physician, Borrego took off his apron, put on his doctor's coat, and attended to the patient.
After Maza mastered the art of cigar making, he taught the job to Juarez. When night came, the men took their cigars out to sell in the saloons in the surrounding areas.
Juarez and the other future Liberal leaders of Mexico, including Ignacio Comonfort, José María Mata and Melchor Ocampo, formed a junta in New Orleans and began to plan the reforms with which they hoped to rebuild their nation.
Juarez lived in New Orleans until June 20, 1855, when he returned to Mexico. The Liberals won the election, and Juarez was elected head of the Supreme Court, becoming president in 1858. That year, however, he was again forced into exile when the conservatives rebelled. But he became president again in 1861 and was twice reelected.
He died in office on July 18, 1872 of a heart attack.