Questions and Answers
Q: Why was Santa Anna still important in the Republic of Texas?
A: General Antonio López de Santa Anna Pérez de Lebrón first came to power in Mexico in 1833, during one of Mexico’s many revolutions. He would dominate Mexican political life for the next two decades. Santa Anna was an energetic, imaginative, and charming man, with an instinctive grasp of the pride and will of the Mexican people. Some thought he would unite the country at last.
But Santa Anna was also deeply flawed. His cruelty and willingness to commit atrocities, such as those at the Alamo and Goliad, made him infamous around the world. Perhaps even worse for Mexico, he relied on instinct and was unwilling to learn new things; he lacked even a basic understanding of the geography or size of the vast territory Mexico claimed from Texas to California. In the end, Santa Anna’s foolishness played a major role in losing Mexico all the land stretching from Texas to California.
In 1836, Santa Anna personally led the Mexican army into Texas to put down the Texas Revolution. After his army was wiped out at San Jacinto, he was captured on the battlefield and was held prisoner in Texas for almost a year. During that time he promised to recognize the full independence of Texas; however, the Mexican government disavowed his pledge since it was made under duress. Finally Santa Anna was shipped off to the United States, where he made a colorful splash and was even celebrated by some abolitionists for his supposed opposition to slavery. After a meaningless meeting with President Jackson, he was allowed to return to Mexico, where he was forced into retirement.
Santa Anna only stayed away two years before jumping into the “Pastry War,” an international incident in which France attacked Mexico, supposedly over an assault on a pastry chef but really over large French loans on which the Mexican government had defaulted. Santa Anna rushed to Vera Cruz, where the French were bombarding the city. During the attack, he was struck by French cannon fire, and his leg had to be amputated. He was carted away, declaiming that he only wished to be buried in the field and remembered as “The Good Mexican.” The British stepped in and ended the dispute, but Santa Anna was hailed as a hero by the Mexican people. Before long, he was back in power.