Santa Anna, Antonio López de

Born: 1794-02-21 Veracruz, Mexico

Died: 1876-06-21 Mexico City, Mexico

Born into a prominent Spanish colonial family, Santa Anna joined the colonial militia in 1810. He fought against a Mexican independence revolt that year and in Texas in 1813. He advanced quickly through the military ranks and remained an officer until 1821, when he sided with the independence movement. Santa Anna won promotion to general after liberating Veracruz and became a large landowner in the new Mexican state. He helped overthrow Mexico’s nascent monarchy in 1823 and in establishing the new republic. The following year, the new president appointed him governor of Yucatán, where he began to consolidate power. In 1828, Santa Anna led a coup in support of Vicente Guerrero and succeeded in installing him as president. The following year, he successfully repelled an attempt by Spain to retake Mexico, confirming its independence and his own reputation. Guerrero’s presidency quickly collapsed and Santa Anna was instrumental in restoring order, winning election as president in 1833. He set about weakening the power of the conservatives and Catholic Church but soon reversed his course, dissolving the Mexican legislature and reversing his previous liberal reforms. This provoked revolts in several states, although only Texas succeeded in winning independence. He personally led an army into Texas in 1836, most famously taking the Alamo, but eventually lost to Sam Houston’s forces at the Battle of San Jacinto, during which he was also captured. The United States released Santa Anna in 1837, and he once again assumed control of Mexico's military to repel the French invasion in the Pastry War. Although Mexico lost the war, Santa Anna rebuilt his political reputation and again won the presidency, instituting a much stricter dictatorship and staging an unsuccessful invasion of Texas in 1842. His administration collapsed in 1845, and the new legislature exiled him to Cuba. Following the outbreak of the Mexican War, Santa Anna returned to Mexico again, took command of an army, and declared himself president, but failed to repel the American invasion. Following the war, the Mexican government exiled him to Jamaica. Santa Anna moved to Colombia in 1850 and then came back to Mexico in 1853 to lead a conservative revolt. Once again president, he negotiated the Gadsden Purchase and proclaimed himself dictator in perpetuity. Benito Juárez overthrew Santa Anna in 1855 and he fled to Cuba a second time. The Mexican government tried him for treason in absentia.

Will Fowler, Santa Anna of Mexico (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007).