24th President of Mexico
4 October 1855 – 11 December 1855
|Preceded by||Rómulo Díaz de la Vega|
|Succeeded by||Ignacio Comonfort|
27 January 1780|
|Died||21 August 1867
La Providencia, Guerrero
Juan Álvarez Hurtado de Luna (27 January 1790 – 21 August 1867) was a general and interim president of Mexico for a few months in 1855. He fought in all the major wars of his day, from the War of Independence through the Pastry War, the Mexican-American War, and the War of the Reform to the war against the French Intervention. A liberal reformer, a republican and a federalist, he was the leader of a revolution in support of Benito Juárez's Plan de Ayutla in 1854, which led to the deposition of Antonio López de Santa Anna from power and the beginning of the political era in Mexico's history known as La Reforma.
Juan Álvarez was born on 27 January 1790 at Santa María de la Concepción de Atoyac, now Atoyac de Álvarez, Mexico. He was a criollo of Spanish heritage. His father was a wealthy ranchero of Galician descent, from Santiago de Compostela, and his mother was from a rich family from Acapulco. Because of this, Álvarez would be known as "The Galician" during the Mexican Independence war. He studied in primary school in Mexico City, but returned to his native town at age 17 to receive his inheritance. He worked as a cowboy and in the fields.
The War of Independence and the First Empire
In November 1810, at the age of 20, he joined the fight for Mexican independence as a private under the command of José María Morelos y Pavón. He fought in the battles of Aguacatillo, Tres Palos, Arroyo del Moledor, Tonaltepec and La Sabana, soon rising to the rank of captain. Before the year was out, he was wounded by a ball that pierced both legs, and he was given the command of the Guadalupe Regiment.
In the assault on Tixtla on 15 May 1811, he was wounded again. He was now a colonel.
After the defeat of the insurgents, he continued to fight in the guerrilla campaign. When Morelos was executed in 1815, Álvarez joined the forces of Vicente Guerrero in the mountains of the southern part of the Intendency of México. Under the Plan de Iguala he was entrusted with taking Acapulco from the royalists, which he did on 15 October 1821. He was named commander of Acapulco. From that point he was one of the leaders of the insurgents and chief in the southern region.
After independence, when Emperor Agustín de Iturbide's politics became intolerable to him, he joined with Guerrero and Anastasio Bustamante to fight against him. He supported Guerrero during the latter's presidency, fighting on his side in five battles. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1830. When Guerrero was overthrown by his vice-president, Bustamante, he joined Álvarez in the south, where they continued to resist. Álvarez tried to prevent Guerrero's execution in 1831, but was unable to do so.
He continued to oppose Bustamante's centralism in the 1830s.
The Pastry War and the Mexican-American War
In 1838, Álvarez fought the French invaders in the Pastry War. In 1841, he was promoted to general of division. In 1845, he was given the military command of Oaxaca and the Department of Acapulco. In 1847, as general in chief of the cavalry he fought at the head of a division in the defense of the capital against the invaders from the United States.
His stature and importance as a liberal leader with much regional power was one of the factors that led to the creation of the State of Guerrero in 1849. He was named its first (interim) governor, and after elections in 1850, he became its first constitutional governor. He served in that position until 1853.
On 1 March 1854 from Guerrero and seconded by Ignacio Comonfort, he proclaimed the Plan de Ayutla, a revolt against the dictatorship of Antonio López de Santa Anna. Santa Anna was forced into exile in August 1855, and on 4 October 1855 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Álvarez was installed as interim president of the Republic.
Presidency and reforms
On 14 November 1855, Álvarez rode into Mexico City in the company of a bodyguard composed of regular militia, citizens and indigenous fighters from the south. His administration was short, but his cabinet was brilliantly staffed: Ignacio Comonfort was Minister of War; Melchor Ocampo was foreign minister; Guillermo Prieto was Minister of the Treasury; and Benito Juárez was Minister of Justice. In the 68 days that he governed, two measures were adopted that changed the destiny of Mexico: the convocation of a constituent congress that would write the Constitution of 1857, and the abolition of military and ecclesiastical fueros (privileges). The latter measure was the Ley Juárez ("Law of Juárez").
One of his concerns throughout his career, both military and political, was the return of lands to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, and combating the oligarchic centralism that divided and caused huge losses to the country in favour of a liberal, republican and federal system.
Urban life was disliked by Álvarez and he did not like the ways of the members of the high class of Mexico City, because of their centralist ideology and the affiliation of many of them to the conservative party, and because they sympathised with monarchic aspirations, oligarchic tendencies, snobbism, or have expressed antipathy and contempt towards the lower social classes, which nevertheless encompassed most of the Mexican citizens. Thus, because of Álvarez regionalism, liberalism, federalism and his leadership of indigenous soldiers, Mexico City was not very hospitable to him. And there was conflict in his cabinet between supporters of Comonfort and Manuel Doblado. For those reasons, and for reasons of health, Álvarez soon turned over the presidency to Ignacio Comonfort, another supporter of liberal reforms. Álvarez returned to Guerrero. On his departure he said:
Pobre entré a la Presidencia y pobre salgo de ella, pero con la satisfacción que no pesa sobre mí la censura pública, porque dedicado desde mi más tierna edad al trabajo personal, se manejar el arado para sostener a mi familia, sin necesidad de los puestos públicos donde otros se enriquecen con ultraje de la orfandad y la miseria.
I entered the presidency a poor man, and a poor man I leave it, with the satisfaction that I do not bear the censure of the public because I was dedicated from an early age to personal labor, to work the plow to maintain my family, without the need for public offices where others enrich themselves by outrages to those in misery.
Álvarez continued to take an interest in politics, faithful to his liberal republican principles. He took an active part in the War of the Reform, in support of Juárez. In 1861, Congress declared him Benemérito de la Patria.
The French intervention and the Second Empire
During the French intervention that led to the arrival of Maximilian of Habsburg to claim the throne of the Second Mexican Empire, Álvarez, now an old man, was in command of the División del Sur. However, his son Diego was a high representative of the Empire in the Department of Acapulco. In 1862, President Juárez, who remained in the country with his government during the entire time of the Empire, ordered the republican military commanders in the east, south and southwest to take orders from Álvarez if communications were broken with Juárez. When Porfirio Díaz escaped from French captivity, he joined Álvarez in the mountains of Guerrero.
In 1867, Álvarez died on 21 August, a short time after the triumph of Mexican arms over the Empire, in his hacienda La Providencia, Guerrero, Mexico. On 25 December 1922, his remains were transferred with honors to the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Men) in Mexico City.
Rómulo Díaz de la Vega
|President of Mexico
4 October - 11 December 1855
- (Spanish) García Puron, Manuel (1984). México y sus gobernantes, Vol. 2. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrúa.
- (Spanish) Orozco Linares, Fernando (1985). Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial. ISBN 968-38-0260-5.
- Biographical details at Letras Libres (Spanish).