Wepman’s Benito Juárez is one volume in an excellent biographical series of one hundred leaders from ancient to contemporary times whose lives have influenced the course of history. The series, entitled “World Leaders, Past and Present” and published by Chelsea House, was specifically written for young adults. These books provide this audience with a cultural and educational bridge linking the distant past to the present.
Benito Juárez illuminates the personal as well as the historical context that shaped the revolutionary leader’s life, the Native American and Mexican cultures from which he rose to power as well as the controversies and struggles surrounding his life and career. The author’s lengthy discussion of Juárez’s cultural heritage both elucidates the identity of the individual and shows how it shaped his politics. The class struggles between the Native American population, the individuals of Spanish descent, the Creoles (individuals born in Mexico but of Spanish descent), and the mestizos (offspring of Native American and European parents) stirred Juárez to action and reform.
It is clear that Wepman’s intention in writing this book was to offer young people an uplifting portrait of an exceptional leader. Other books have generally emphasized the political or historical context of Juárez’s life and have not attempted the balance between the personal and the political so effectively achieved in this volume.