How a Lawyer Lit the Fuse of the Mexican Revolution

Mexico's 1861 Liberal triumph in the Reform War saw dusty boots stomp out dusty tyranny, led by poetry-wielding General Ortega and President Juárez. Viva la Reforma, but hold the tequila — the fight for freedom's just begun.

How a Lawyer Lit the Fuse of the Mexican Revolution
Mexico City, 1861, erupts as the Liberal Army marches to victory, leaving the dust of the Reform War behind. Credit: Sedena

Mexico City, 1861. Not the sleek metropolis of mariachi and mezcal you know today, but a sun-bleached adobe canvas smeared with gunpowder and possibility. It's January 1st, and in a scene more operatic than an agave-fueled fiesta, the city thrums with the triumphant footfalls of the Liberal Army. Think less goose-stepping Prussians and more a samba on steroids, fueled by revolutionary fervor and the infectious beat of freedom drums.

Now, rewind a tad. Three years, to be precise. 1857. Mexico, a land where waltzes and polka mazurkas co-existed uneasily with whispers of reform. On one side, the Conservatives, twirling in silk gowns and feathered sombreros, clinging to the creaking edifice of colonialism. On the other, the Liberals, a ragtag bunch in dusty boots and calloused hands, itching to rip up the rulebook and write a new one in ink dipped in liberty.

The spark? A little document called the Constitution of 1857. A breath of fresh air in a stifling room, it promised land redistribution, religious freedom, and the sweet, heady scent of democracy. Naturally, the Conservatives clutched their pearls and declared it heresy. Cue the Reform War, a three-year clash of bullets and ballots, a federalism versus the divine right of haciendas.

Enter Benito Juárez, the Oaxacan lawyer-turned-President with a spine stiffer than a tequila hangover. He hoisted the Liberal banner like a matador facing a snorting bull of an empire. And his right-hand man? The dashing, poetry-writing General Jesús González Ortega, a warrior who could pen a sonnet and skewer a Conservative with equal panache.

Fast-forward to December 22nd, 1860. The Battle of Calpulalpan, a dusty showdown where Liberal bullets met Conservative bravado. Boom! The dam breaks. The Conservatives scatter like startled pigeons, leaving the road to Mexico City wide open.

And so, we arrive back at January 1st, 1861. Picture it: sun-drenched plazas teeming with jubilant Mexicans, the air thick with the scent of gunpowder and freshly baked esperanza. General Ortega, astride a magnificent steed (probably named Libertad or something equally dramatic), leads the Liberal Army in a victory march that puts any Roman triumph to shame. Flowers rain down, sombreros fly, and mariachi trumpets blare a victory anthem that echoes through the canyons of history.

The Reform War may be over, but the fight for Mexico's soul is far from won. Foreign intervention, internal squabbles, and the ghost of the Conservative hacienda still lurk in the shadows. This is just the first act of a grand, messy Mexican opera, a story where heroes and villains swap sombreros faster than you can say “tequila sunrise.”

So, raise a glass to that triumphant Tuesday in 1861, a day when Mexico took a giant leap towards freedom. But remember, this is merely the prologue.