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León de la Barra, Francisco

Francisco León de la Barra (1863-1939)

    Francisco León de la Barra never intended to become president of Mexico. He became a lawyer, having studied law in Querétaro, where he was born on June 16, 1863 in Querétaro City. He studied there until he finished a law degree. Most of his career was in the diplomatic corps. He was a lawyer for the Secretería de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Affairs) by 1898. As a diplomat, he served Mexico in assignments to Central America, Spain and Cuba. In 1904 when he was sent as Minister Plenipotentiary of Mexico in several countries of South America--Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. In 1905, he serve as a diplomat in Belgium and the Netherlands and represented Mexico at the Hague Peace Conference. In 1909, he came Ambassador to the United States. On March 25, 1911, he became Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
    Although he had some elective political experience, for he had been elected to Congress at one point, nothing had prepared him to become interim president of the country when President Porfirio Díaz was forced to resign their positions as a result of the revolt led by Francisco I. Madero. Díaz had been the dictator for so long that it seemed the 80-year-old man would die in office, not be forced out. Nevertheless, he had outstayed his welcome and León de la Barra took his place from May 25 to November 6, 1911 until Madero was elected.
    He angered many, for he was a conservative who did not understand the forces of change which were sweeping Mexico. The Porfiriato, as Díaz' dictatorship was called, had been good to him. Besides being a diplomat, he has also been a university professor. So he appointed a cabinet largely consisting of the dictator's supporters, not an act designed to gain the confidence of those who had overthrown the old man.
        Madero, himself a nineteenth century liberal and this somewhat conservative in a 20th century context, honored León of Barra by supporting him to governor of the State of Mexico and then senator of the Republic. When Madero and his vice president Pino Suárez were assassinated by persons close to Victoriano Huerta, León de la Barra again became Secretary of Foreign Affairs under Huerta, from February 20, 1913 to July 4, 1914. His final reward for faithful service to the conservative cause came with his appointment as Ambassador to France. He died there in Biarritz September 23, 1939.

Don Mabry