Orphaned at an early age, Benito Juárez did not begin his education until he was 12 years old. Despite the late start, he studied law and entered politics in the 1830s, became a judge in 1841 and governor of Oaxaca in 1847. Exiled temporarily by Santa Ana, Juárez lived in New Orleans, then returned to Mexico to serve in the government; he succeeded to the presidency in 1858. Juárez sought to curb the power of the Catholic Church, and eventually tensions between Juárez and conservatives led to a civil war, which was then interrupted by French invaders under Napoleon III. Juárez fought off the French and in 1867 was elected president. His presidency in the post-war period was plagued by frequent uprisings, but Juárez is considered one of Mexico's greatest heroes.
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