Victoria was born in 1786 in Tamazula de Victoria, Durango. He studied law at the Colegio de San Ildefonso. In 1811 he joined the revolution proclaimed by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and fought under José María Morelos. After Morelos's execution he joined forces with Vicente Guerrero and fought in the regions of Veracruz and Puebla.
After his defeat near the town of Palmillas, Veracruz, he remained hidden in the mountains until Agustín de Iturbide and Guerrero issued the Plan de Iguala, which called for an independent Mexico governed by a constitutional monarchy. Firmly republican, he supported General Antonio López de Santa Anna and signed the Plan de Casa Mata with the purpose to overthrow Emperor Iturbide.
He became the first president of Mexico after the overthrow of Emperor Iturbide. Victoria chose his new name for symbolic significance: "Guadalupe" to give thanks to what he claimed was the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and "Victoria", which means victory.
During his tenure he abolished slavery, established the "Colegio Militar" (Military Academy), and signed diplomatic treaties with all major powers. In 1827, Victoria's presidential term was disrupted when his vice president Nicolás Bravo led a revolt against the Republic government. However, the insurgency was easily suppressed by Generals Santa Anna and Guerrero. In 1828, Bravo was captured and exiled to Ecuador.
Victoria died of epilepsy in Perote, Veracruz, in 1843 and was buried there. On August 25, 1845 he was declared "Benemérito de la Patria" (Hero of the Nation) by Congress. In 1925 his remains were moved to the mausoleum at the base of El Ángel de la Independencia in Mexico City.