Benito Juárez is sometimes called the “Lincoln of Mexico,” and here is why he’s now a literal symbol of Latino possibilities in the U.S.

Juárez was Mexico’s first indigenous president. He and Abraham Lincoln both came from humble beginnings, and even became presidents of their nations in the same year. Lincoln was popular south of the border because he was against European imperialism in Mexico.

Which is why a century later, in 1966, Mexico City erected a statue of Lincoln. The U.S. returned the gesture two years later, placing a Juárez statue in Washington D.C.

But before that, in 1957, the mayor of New Orleans called for a statue of Juárez to be put up in their “Garden of the Americas” because…

before becoming president, Juárez had been exiled from Mexico for trying to enact progressive ideas, and lived in New Orleans rolling cigars in a tobacco factory.

In Chicago, a Juárez statue stands in a plaza that honors Latino culture, and in New York he stands near six other sculptures of prominent Latin American leaders.

Benito represented the possibilities for Latinos of all backgrounds. This is why he’s remembered so fondly in both countries today.