Antonio López de Santa Anna, History of Mexico

The figure of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna has been very controversial in Mexico’s record. When speaking of history, personalities are always judged by the final result of their acts; unfortunately, we have divided human beings that could have transcended somehow, into heroes or traitors. It is a very subjective way to treat them, and therefore, to speak of an individual like him is very important. We must question how he was able, despite being such a despot, to be in power so many times. Santa Anna can be understood as a character of great charisma, imposing personality and above all, something that is never told, the moral commitment he had with Mexico in the struggle against the United States, even though he ultimately didn’t have the material and strategic resources necessary for success.

Antonio de Papua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez Lebrón, is the full name of the man who was born in 1794 in the State of Veracruz. Since young, he enrolled in a military career, which was one of the most prestigious during that era, precisely because of the context lived by the country; there was a constant struggle for political organization and one of the ways to do it was conquering the enemy by the use of weapons. He served as a military man for a long time in his native State, and then in 1821, when the struggle between Spaniards and Creoles was at its peak, he fought alongside José Joaquín de Herrera, one of the main men who wanted to accomplish the Plan de Iguala.

For placing ourselves in that historical moment, we must remember that during the Independence, people first strived for a national and independent government, by making all external influences disappear. There were no personal interests yet, because they were all looking to unify the country in this process. One of the outstanding military men was Iturbide, who after having fought against the Spaniards, named himself emperor and so Santa Anna started to separate from him, after having followed his military and political career.

In 1822, he fought against Iturbide along with Guadalupe Victoria, with whom he started the Plan de Casa Mata that would defeat him. In 1826, he was at the service of Vicente Guerrero, who confronted Manuel Gómez Pedraza in the presidential elections that would be annulled, and Guerrero was appointed president. After this triumph, Santa Anna retreated to his estate called Manga de Clavo. However, it was at this moment when he truly started his political career, because it was very common for a general with such military triumphs to be publicly recognized, what lead to being proposed to the Presidency. He abandoned the Presidency in 1833, arguing illness, leaving in his place, as president, Valentín Gómez Farias. Upon his return to the presidency, he had to solve many conflicts, among them the ill relationship with United States for its territorial interests, the devastated economy of a country that additionally had very little income and many expenses because of the war.

In the conflict between liberals and conservatives, the latter saw in the figure of Santa Anna a great possibility, calling him to form a centralist government, he himself switched from one political tendency to another, and this time, he was called from the exile the liberals had sent him into.

In 1838, he also participated in the War of the Cakes, when France was looking for an excuse to intervene in Mexico. During another event in Veracruz, precisely against the French army, when it finally arrived to attack the country, he lost a leg by a grenade, and for his followers this was a reflection of his heroic role. The war of Mexico against the United Stated happened during that time, where he performed a much questioned military role because he couldn’t efficiently organize his troops and was accused of having caused the defeat.

Mexico was not able to organize the defense. It lacked a true army, in arms and money. North Americans, who blocked the coast, let Santa Anna pass through, arriving from Cuba, where he had been exiled certain of being able to buy the General. Santa Anna tried to raise funds, gather men and buy weapons, to no avail, and had to retreat his troops. The defeat also originated his resignation to the presidency, although he tried to organize the resistance, what he didn’t achieve either, because of the army and political groups against him, and culminated in signing the document of Guadalupe Hidalgo on the 2nd of February 1848, a peace, friendship and border treaty between Mexico and the United States, where he recognized the loss of Texas and Alta California; in addition to the dividing line affecting the States of Tamaulipas, Sonora and the territory of Baja California.

The final question is, if a person can be judged partially, for the loss of territory amid a context of complete adversity not only in regards to defending the country, but also under which there was a rebellion and organization of civil groups who desired the independence of Texas from national territory.

In 1855 he finished his last period as president when Juan Alvarez defeated him through the Plan de Ayutla. Santa Anna fled abroad; in 1862 he returned to Mexico, but the leadership of Benito Juarez stopped his return. He died on June 21, 1876.

The figure of Santa Anna is important amid a chaotic historical context, because independent Mexico was not foreign to international interests, especially in the issue of territory. Regarding the most dramatic episode signaled historically, it was the loss of a great part of Mexican territory; it is important to recognize the existing circumstances to reach this ill-fated conclusion for the country.

The loss of territory was not a fortuitous episode hosted by the will of Santa Anna, but the result of a series of factors, such as the interest of Texans to stop belonging to Mexico, and their rebellion was supported by the North American government, with the goal of causing the war that would conclude in the territory’s adhesion.

Artículo Producido por el Equipo Editorial Explorando México.
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