Thursday, June 11, 2015

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna II

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
From a military man to a political leader of volatile nation. Never such a man had the ambitions and drive to become the President of Mexico for eleven times. In each term, he ruled Mexico with an iron fist and a hand that squandered the wealth of his impoverish nation for his vices. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, remembered for his victory in the Alamo but his country knows him both as a hero and villainous tyrant.

From a military man to a king maker and then President himself, President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ruled his country under his autocratic and corrupt ways. He destroyed the Federalism that the 1824 Constitution and liberals cherished and imposed a centralized government, giving the president enormous powers. Santa Anna mercilessly quelled any rebellions brought by the centralization.

Texas or Tejas became the turning point in Santa Anna’s career, both as the President and the commander of the army. Mexico once owned Texas and part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. During the later years of the Viceroyalty, they allowed American settlers to stay in the lands under the condition that they converted to Catholicism and accept Mexican citizenship. This measure had been made by the Viceroy to keep the lands from being taken by the United States. Many American agreed and settled in the province. They formally agreed to the terms but failed to comply. Once they settled in Texas, most of the American settlers continued to practice Protestantism and failed to assimilate with Mexican culture and speak Spanish. As year went by, by 1820’s and 1830’s the American settlers had outnumbered the Mexicans in the province. Mexico City created measures to discourage further entry of American settlers in Texas. In 1830, they closed the border between Texas and the United States in vain. Because of lack of military presence and clear borderlines, Americans continued to flow to the province. Mexico continued to enforce new measures to discourage any more migration. In included high tariffs in the trade between Texas and the United States. But the most widely affecting policy had been the abolition of slavery. Many of the Americans who went to the province wanted to establish plantations built upon the labor of their slaves. Once the Mexicans abolish the practice, their economic dreams fell apart. Then, when Santa Anna placed the province under the central authority of Mexico City, many felt constricted by the laws of Mexico. Their political freedom seemed to be taken away as well.

Texas Revolution began on October 2, 1835. The Battle of Gonzales led to the partial withdrawal of Mexican troops in the area. Texas began the path towards establishing of the Lone Star Republic or the Republic of Texas. Santa Anna quickly acted and led an army of 6,000 troops to Texas to quell the revolution. Once again he employed brutal tactics against what he deemed as “pirates.” No quarter was given to any rebels. In March 6, 1835, Santa Anna successfully and ruthlessly taken the old mission turned fortress by Texans called the Alamo. The defenders saw the cold-bloodedness of Santa when none of them survive after Santa Anna’s final assault. The atrocities that Santa Anna continued in March 26 in Goliad. The Texan garrison in the town numbering 365 under the command of Colonel James Fanin surrendered to the army of Santa Anna under the belief that the great Mexican general would provide quarter and respect the laws concerning prisoners of war. His belief soon proved to be wrong. General Santa Anna did not see Fanin and his troops as soldiers worthy of being labelled as prisoners of war. He saw them as pirates rebelling against his authority and power. As a result he ordered all of the 365 and Fanin executed. The actions in Goliad created an outcry in the whole of Texas and in the United States. The Texans got their revenge in less than a month. At the Battle of San Jacinto, Santa Anna suffered a humiliating defeat against Samuel Houston in an 18 minute battle. At the end of the battle, Santa Anna suffered heavily and most of his forces captured including himself. The Texans then took advantage of their capturing of Santa Anna. They made Santa Anna sign the Treaty of Velasco in May 1836, which recognized the independence of Texas in exchange for Santa Anna’s release. In addition, it also called for the withdrawal of Mexican troops up to the south of the Rio Grande River. After his crushing defeat in Texas, Santa Anna retired disgracefully to his hacienda in Veracruz, hoping to get another chance to redeem himself.

The Pastry War became the opportunity for Santa Anna to redeem himself from his mistakes in Texas. In 1838, the French, furious about the attacks on its citizens in Mexico and failure from receiving debt payments sent naval forces to blockade the major port of Veracruz. Without Veracruz, Mexico did not loss a major source of income – customs duties. When French forces occupied Veracruz, Santa Anna rose up from his hacienda to lead Mexican forces into repelling the invaders. Eventually, Santa Anna did. He managed to drive back the French to their ships. However, in the process of pushing the French back to the see, a shrapnel from a cannon shot ripped through his leg. An amputation had to be made and Santa lose a limb. Nevertheless, a leg became a price for Santa Anna’s rehabilitation and rise to power. When he became interim President in 1839, he gave his leg a grandiose funeral complete with all pomp and circumstance.

Santa Anna became the President once again after his spectacular and heroic victory during the Pastry War. In 1841, Santa Anna swept to the political lime light, deposing President Anastasio Bustamante. But Santa Anna failed to learn from his past lessons and failures. He became another tyrannical president, crushing any opposition and stole money from the national coffers to support his huge gambling vices. He also re-imposed the centralization of the government causing rebellions in many provinces of Mexico, the bloodiest happened in the province of Yucatan. There, Santa Anna employed the same brutal and ruthless tactics he did back in Texas and other rebellious provinces. Freedom and liberties suppressed in areas deemed by Santa Anna as pirates and rebels. In 1842, Santa Anna clashed with the liberal-dominated Congress over policies. In retaliation, Santa Anna dissolved the Congress and pressed on with the raising of taxes to fund military campaigns against rebels and also to raise money for his gambling. He became unpopular and had to give his presidency to Nicolas Bravo. However, just few months later, when things settled, Santa Anna retook the Presidency. He attacked the clergy and targeted their wealth to finance the country’s increasing debts. In addition, he forced many wealthy citizens to provide loans to the government. Of course, the people knew Santa Anna did not pay it back. It made Santa Anna unpopular and had to step down in the same year. But the General never gave up and became President again in 1844 but then he continued to be a stubborn man and found himself deposed and exiled to Cuba via a British vessel Midway. In Cuba, he dreamed of once again returning and ruling his country Mexico.

The Mexican-American War that raged from 1846 to 1848 brought Santa Anna back to Mexico. Texas became part of the United States in 1845. However, dispute over the border between Texas and Mexico raised tensions. Mexico recognized the Nueces River as the border with Texas, but the United States settled the border at the south of the Nueces, in the Rio Grande. United States had ambitions to take more territories from Mexico, which included the modern states of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. Peaceful means failed and so the United States provoked Mexico into attacking American forces, which they got. And so, in 1846, the Mexican-American War began. Meanwhile, Santa Anna convinced President James Polk that he could be a negotiate peace between Mexico and the United States. Polk agreed and Santa Anna sailed back to Mexico from Cuba. However, he betrayed his word and presented himself as the savior of Mexico from the American invaders. Santa Anna raised an 18,000 man army and confronted the Americans. In 1847, Santa Anna rushed back from the north to Mexico City in order to defend it from the impending attack of American general Winfield Scott. But before doing so, he made himself President again. Eventually, Santa Anna failed to defend Mexico City and it fell in September 1847. And on February 2, 1848, Mexico and the United States concluded the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it took New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California from Mexico to the United States and made the Mexicans recognize the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas and Mexico. But the Mexicans received $15 million from the lost territories. In the end, Santa Anna failed to redeem himself and defend Mexico. He returned to exile as a result.

Santa Anna took another chance to become the President of Mexico. In 1853, Mexico continued to be in disarray in all aspects, economy, politics, and social. President Lucas Alaman passed away and Congress gave the Presidency to Santa Anna in hope of bringing an end to the prevailing chaos. Santa Anna grabbed the opportunity to be President again but he never learned from his pass experiences. He continued to act like an emperor without the title. However, he did ordered his people to call Alteza Serenisima or His Most Serene Highness. He established a secret police with the objective of harassing opponents of Santa Anna. Much of the government budget went to the military or his pockets. In order to collect more revenue, he created new ridiculous taxes on windows, doors, and pets. But the Gadsden Purchase of 1854 made the Mexican people see Santa Anna as a villain of the country.

The Gadsden Purchase made Santa Anna a traitor to Mexico. Otherwise known as the Mesilla Treaty, it sold to the United States for $10 million Mexican lands known as the Mesilla Valley, located in Arizona and New Mexico that sized around 20 million acres. Selling national territory and integrity to a foreign power boiled Mexican blood, but what made tem blow up was what happened to the proceeds. Much of the money collected from the deal went to Santa Anna’s extravagant lifestyle, which included his gambling, parties, and even construction projects, such as a theater. His actions led to his final demise and an end to his last term.

The Plan of Ayutla aimed in deposing Santa Anna. The Plan of Ayutla had been the equivalent of Santa Anna’s Plan de Casa Mata three decades before. It aimed in deposing the reviled President. Liberals, persecuted by Santa Anna for years, convened together and formulated the Plan of Ayutla. Eventually, many Mexicans wanted Santa Anna gone and supported the plan. In 1855, they succeeded in getting rid of Santa Anna but cut short in his punishment. Instead of a firing squad, they sent Santa Anna to exile in the Caribbean and the United States.

The later years of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had befitted his wrongdoings, ambitions, and crimes. A decade after his exile, in 1866, Santa Anna returned to Mexico under terrible circumstance. Mexico fought France in the Franco-Mexican War. Nevertheless, the Mexicans still remember his misgivings and sent him back to exile. It took another decade, in 1874, for Santa Anna to be allowed to return to Mexico. By the time he returned, he lived in poverty and ill and asked for pension. But his request for pension fell to deaf ears. Two years later, June, 21, 1876, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna passed away in sickness and in poverty.

Antonio Lopez de Santa had been an era in Mexican history. For almost half a century, he played a key figure both as a tyrant and a military commander. He had a lot of failures, one being unable to learn from his mistakes. But many credited him for his keen eye for opportunity to make a noise and to switch to the side of the victorious. Nevertheless, he failed the expectation of those who believed he could provide change as he abused his power time and again. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was a dark personality in a chaotic era of Mexican history.

See also:
Galloway, Andrew. "Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez de (1794-1876)." in Revolts, Protests, Demonstrations, and Rebellions in American History: An Encyclopedia v. 1. Edited by Steven Danver. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LLC, 2011.

Foster, Lynn. A Brief History of Mexico. New York, New York: Facts On File, 2010.

Vasquez-Gomez, Juana. Dictionary of Mexican Rulers, 1325-1997. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Miller, Robert. Mexico: A History. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.