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1836-55 Antonio López de Santa Anna

Gobernantes de México

México Independiente

1853 - 1855 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1853 - 1853 Manuel María Lombardini
1853 - 1853 Juan Bautista Ceballos
1851 - 1853 Mariano Arista
1848 - 1851 José Joaquín de Herrera
1848 - 1848 Manuel de la Peña y Peña
1847 - 1848 Pedro María Anaya
1847 - 1847 Manuel de la Peña y Peña
1847 - 1847 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1847 - 1847 Pedro María Anaya
1847 - 1847 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1846 - 1847 Valentín Gómez Farías
1846 - 1846 José Mariano Salas
1846 - 1846 Nicolás Bravo
1845 - 1846 Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga
1844 - 1845 José Joaquín de Herrera
1844 - 1844 José Joaquín de Herrera
1844 - 1844 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1844 - 1844 Valentín Canalizo
1843 - 1844 Valentín Canalizo
1843 - 1843 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1842 - 1843 Nicolás Bravo
1841 - 1842 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1841 - 1841 Francisco Javier Echeverría
1839 - 1841 Anastasio Bustamante
1839 - 1839 Nicolás Bravo
1839 - 1839 Antonio López de Santa Anna
1837 - 1839 Anastasio Bustamante
1836 - 1837 José Justo Corro

Antonio López de Santa Anna fought more battles than Napoleon and George Washington combined. He was eleven times President and Dictator of the second largest country in the world prior to 1836. He caused the loss of half of Mexican territory (one million square miles) beginning on the battlefield of San Jacinto in 1836.

Santa Anna was born at Jalapa, Vera Cruz, on February 21, 1794, the son of Antonio López de Santa Anna and Manuela Pérez de Lebrón. His family belonged to the criollo middle class, and his father served at one time as a subdelegate for the Spanish province of Vera Cruz. After a limited schooling the young Santa Anna worked for a merchant of Vera Cruz. In June 1810 he was appointed a cadet in the Fijo de Vera Cruz infantry regiment under the command of Joaquín de Arredondo. He spent the next five years battling insurgents and policing the Indian tribes of the Provincias Internas. Like most criollo officers in the Royalist army, he remained loyal to Spain for a number of years and fought against the movement for Mexican independence. He received his first wound, an Indian arrow in his left arm or hand, in 1811. In 1813 he served in Texas against the Gutiérrez/Magee expedition, and at the battle of Medina he was cited for bravery. In the aftermath of the rebellion the young officer witnessed Arredondo's fierce counterinsurgency policy of mass executions, and historians have speculated that Santa Anna modeled his policy and conduct in the Texas Revolution on his experience under Arredondo.

The highly popular Santa Anna was elected president under the liberal banner in early 1833. Instead of assuming office, however, he withdrew into semiretirement and delegated the presidency to his vice president, Valentín Gómez Farías. The liberal Gómez Farías government was strongly reformist, to the detriment of traditional church and military privileges. Among its reforms, the new administration decreed that payment of tithes would no longer be compulsory, and it transferred to the nation the right to make ecclesiastical appointments. In addition, Gómez Farías reduced the size of the army and eliminated its fueros.

Gómez Farías's far-reaching reforms drew a characteristically strong response from conservative elites, the army, and the church hierarchy. Under the banner of religión y fueros , the inevitable conservative backlash gained strength throughout the winter of 1833. In April 1834, Santa Anna abandoned the liberal cause and deposed Gómez Farías. The renowned general promptly dismissed congress and assumed dictatorial powers, bringing an end to liberal rule under the federal republic.

In the two decades after the 1834 collapse of the federal republic, Santa Anna dominated Mexico's politics. Between 1833 and 1855, the caudillo occupied the presidency eleven times, completing none of his terms and frequently leaving the government in the hands of weak caretaker administrations. During this period, Mexico went to war on three separate occasions and lost half of its territory through sale or military defeat. Fiscal insufficiency kept Mexico constantly on the verge of bankruptcy and foreign military intervention.

Santa Anna repeatedly rose to the presidency, only to be cast out in the wake of scandals and military defeats. Invariably, he returned -- even from exile -- to lead the republic once more into military glory or out of insolvency. Santa Anna's bravery, energy, and organizational abilities were often matched by his vanity, cruelty, and opportunism. His feats of heroism in victorious battle, his bold interventions in the political life of the country, and his countless shifts from one side of the political spectrum to the other responded to the insecurities of Mexican nationalists and the vacillations of the republic's fractious political class.

Upon assuming dictatorial powers, Santa Anna promptly annulled Gómez Farías's reforms and abolished the constitution of 1824. The authoritarian principles that underlay Santa Anna's rule were subsequently codified in the constitution of 1836, also known as the Siete Leyes (Seven Laws). Under the constitution of 1836, Mexico became a centralist regime in which power was concentrated in the president and his immediate subordinates. The states of the former federal republic were refashioned as military districts administered by regional caudillos appointed by the president, and property qualifications were decreed for congressional officeholders and voters.

The nationalist and authoritarian style of the new centralist regime soon brought it into conflict with the loosely governed lands of Mexico's northern frontier. Santa Anna's efforts to exert central authority over the English-speaking settlements in the northern state of Coahuila-Tejas eventually collided with the growing assertiveness of the frontier population that described itself as Texan.

In 1836, a small band of Texans fought the Mexican Army from inside an old mission chapel known as the Alamo. Texans fighting for independence from Mexico had seized the structure and sent Mexican troops away from San Antonio the previous December. Colonel James Bowie and Colonel William B. Travis commanded the small force defending the Alamo, including the famous backwoodsman Davy Crockett. The Mexican army, led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna had been ordered to recapture the Alamo and take no prisoners.

On the morning of March 6, 1836, General Santa Anna recaptured the Alamo, ending the 13-day siege. An estimated 1,000 to 1,600 Mexican soldiers died in the battle. Of the official list of 189 Texan defenders, all were killed.

On April 21, 1836, Sam Houston, commander of the Texas Army, led 800 troops in a surprise attack on Santa Anna's 1,600 men. Shouting, "Remember the Alamo!" the Texas Army won the battle at San Jacinto in 18 minutes and secured Texas independence from Mexico. Texas remained independent for nearly 10 years, becoming a state in 1845.

From 1855 to 1874, Santa Anna lived in exile in Cuba, the United States, Colombia, and the then Danish island of Saint Thomas. In 1865, he attempted to return and offer his services during the French Invasion posing once again as the country's defender and savior, only to be refused by Juárez who was well aware of Santa Anna's character. In 1869, the 74-year-old Santa Anna was living in exile in Staten Island, New York and was trying to raise money for an army to return and take over Mexico City. During his time living in New York City, he is credited with bringing in the first shipments of chicle, the base of chewing gum. He failed to profit from this, since his plan was to use the chicle to replace rubber in carriage tires, which was tried without success.

In 1874, he took advantage of a general amnesty and returned to Mexico. Crippled and almost blind from cataracts, he was ignored by the Mexican government that same year at the anniversary of the Battle of Churubusco. Two years later, Santa Anna died at his home in Mexico City on 21 June 1876 at age 82.

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Page last modified: 23-01-2017 15:32:16 ZULU