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Gómez Farías, Valentín (1781-1858)

    He was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco on February 14, 1781 ass the child of a well -to-do family. . After studying in his native city, he went to the University of Guadalajara to earn his medical degree. He was a successful physician in Aguascalientes, so much so that he acquired a sizable personal library. He married López on October 4, 1817 and together they had six children. He became a municipal councilmen in Aguascalientes. He was a delegate to the Cortés in Spain in Cádiz  in 1812. In this liberal congress, he spoke in favor of the independence of Mexico.
    He returned in 1822 after independence had been declared and was elected a deputy to the Constituent Congress where he was an Agustín Iturbide sympathizer. The next year, after Iturbide was exiled,  he was a member of the congress which began on November 7, 1823 was signed the Constitution of 1824. He supported the election of Guadalupe Victoria as president for 1824-1828 and then supported Vicente Guerrero and Manuel Gómez Pedraza
    His political career prospered. He became secretary general and then vice governor of the state. He became a federal congressman and advocated colonization of sparsely-populated territories such as Texas. He opposed slavery, however. He became finance minister under Gómez Pedraza. Later, he was vice president of the country.  .In 1833, he became the vice president with Antonio Santa Anna de López as president. Since Santa Anna was only a liberal because he was an opportunist, he hedged his bets by pleading illness and leaving Gómez Farías as acting president.
    Never one to shun his principles, Gómez Farías and the other liberals passed the "Laws of '33" in an attempt to provide equality before the law and declawing the old conservative, colonial institutions. The Royal and Pontifical University was closed and the professional schools were spun off as independent, secular institutions. Peninsular Spaniards were expelled. They tried to curtail the privileges of the army officers and of the church. On June 1, 1833, army officers rose in revolt in favor of "religion and fueros" ( privileges) but failed. Emboldened, the Gómez Farías government secularized the church missions in California, forbade priests from charging for the administering of the sacraments, and abolished compulsory tithes. 
    On December 4, 1834, Santa Anna turned against him. By April, he was assuring the clergy that they would be protected. By May, he resumed the presidency to "save" the country from "godless atheists."  Gómez Farías took refuge in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    He returned from exile in 1838 and was greeted as a hero. The conservative Bustamante government feared the demonstrations in his favor and jailed him but  his followers successfully demanded his release. In 1840, he supported the unsuccessful  uprising of General Urrea and as exiled to New  York until 1845. 
    After he returned once again to Mexico, he was elected a federal senator. In 1846, he became Finance minister for a month so that he could abolish the alcabala. In December of that year, he and  Santa Anna  were named vice president and president if the country, respectively. When Santa Anna went to fight General Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War,  Gómez Farías became acting president. Conservatives were unhappy and complained. When Santa Anna returned to Mexico City in  1847 in the face of General Winfield Scott invasion, Santa Anna replaced Gómez Farías as president. The latter had a congressional seat, so he still had a voice. Resistance to the US proved fruitless. 
    He retired to private life until the Liberals sent Santa Anna into exile in 1855. He became postmaster and a deputy from Jalisco. He helped draft the Constitution of 1857. 
    He died on June 5, 1858.

Based on Juan López de Escalera, Diccionario Biográfico y de Historia de México. México, Editorial del Magisterio, 1964. pp. 427-8.

Don Mabry
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