Porfirio Diaz

On this date in 1830, Jose de la Cruz Porfirio Diaz, who became Mexico's long-lived 19th century president, was born in Oaxaca, Mexico, one of seven children in a Mixtec Indian family. Educated at a Catholic Mexican seminary and intended for the Church by his family, Diaz renounced Catholicism and church corruption by age 16. Diaz became an attorney and early leader of anti-cleric progressives. He became a celebrated fighter and general in the War of Reform to overthrow dictator Santa Anna, and next led the fight against the French invasion of Mexico by emperor Maximilian in the 1860s. He served as president of Mexico from 1877 to 1880. He was so popular that a law forbidding second terms was revoked so that he could run again. He was president from 1884 to 1910. While some view him as a tyrant and others hail him as a hero, history agrees that under his autocratic rule, Mexico saw peace and improved prosperity. A rationalist who believed in the scientific method, Diaz built railroads, roads and telegraph lines. When he announced in 1909 that he wanted to restore democratic rule, but was fraudulently re-elected, it spurred a revolution, and Diaz fled the country into exile. D. 1915.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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