February 14, 1781 - July 5, 1858
Born into a middle class family in Guadalajara in 1781, Valentín Goméz Farías trained as a physician, practicing medicine for more than a decade before entering politics. A dedicated, radical federalist (puro), he was nonetheless capable of working with those who did not share his ideological views, including Mexico's consummate pragmatist, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.
Throughout his career, Goméz Farías was a strong advocate of liberal reforms and sought to challenge the power and influence of Mexico's most conservative institutions, the Church and the army. He favored reducing the size of the military and ending its exemptions from civil laws and trials. His anti-clerical reforms called for secularizing the University of Mexico and prohibiting priests from commenting on non-religious matters from the pulpit. In addition, he worked to end limitations on freedom of the press and improve public education.
Forced into exile in 1834, he returned to Mexico in 1845 on the eve of the U.S. annexation of Texas. An opponent of U.S. expansion, he allied himself with moderate federalists as well as Santa Anna, who was himself living in exile in Cuba. With the outbreak of war with the United States, the coalition overthrew the conservative government of Manuel Paredes y Arrillaga. Santa Anna returned to power, but promptly ceded executive duties to Goméz Farías in order to lead the Mexican war effort.
As acting president, Goméz Farías in January 1847 passed a law that abolished mandatory tithing and allowed the Mexican government to requisition Church property, up to 15 million pesos in value, to help finance the war effort. This law sparked the conservative Polkos Revolt, in which five National Guard units in Mexico City rose up against the government. Santa Anna responded to the crisis by embracing the conservatives' demands and eliminating the office of vice president, effectively removing Goméz Farías from power. Although Goméz Farías never again held a position of influence in Mexico, much of his liberal agenda prefigured Benito Juarez's La Reforma program in the 1850s and early 1860s.
Costeloe, Michael P. The Central Republic in Mexico, 1835-1846: "Hombres de Bien" in the Age of Santa Anna. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Fowler, Will. "Valentín Goméz Farías: Perceptions of Radicalism in Independent Mexico, 1821-1847." Bulletin of Latin American Research 15, no. 1 (January 1, 1996): 39-62.
Mena, Aldo. "The Eagle and the Serpent: The Nationalist Ideology of Valtentín Gómez Farías". Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 2001.
Santoni, Pedro. Mexicans at Arms: Puro Federalists and the Politics of War, 1845-1848. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996.
"The U.S.-Mexican War. Biographies. Valentín Gomez Farias | PBS." U.S.-Mexican War, 1846-1848, March 14, 2006.