See his memoirs, Mi historia militar y política (1905); his autobiography (ed. by A. F. Crawford, 1988); biographies by W. H. Callcott (1936, repr. 1968) and O. L. Jones (1968); R. G. Santos, Santa Anna's Campaign Against Texas 1835-1836 (1968).
Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (February 21, 1794 – June 21, 1876), often known as Santa Anna , was a Mexican political leader who greatly influenced early Mexican and Spanish politics and government, first fighting against the independence from Spain, and then supporting it, rising to the ranks of general and president at various times over a turbulent 40-year career. He was President of Mexico on eleven non-consecutive occasions over a period of 22 years.
During the next few years, in which the war for independence reached a stalemate, Santa Anna erected villages for displaced citizens near Veracruz. He also pursued gambling, a vice that would follow him all through his life.
In 1821, Santa Anna switched sides and declared his loyalty for "El Libertador": the future Emperor of Mexico, Agustín de Iturbide. He rose to prominence by quickly driving the Spanish forces out of the vital port city of Veracruz that same year. After Santa Anna declared his loyalty to the Emperor, Iturbide rewarded him with the rank of general, but in 1823 Santa Anna was among the military leaders who supported the Plan de Casa Mata to overthrow Iturbide and declare Mexico a Republic. Later, Santa Anna would play important roles in replacing presidents Manuel Gómez Pedraza and Vicente Guerrero. By 1824, Santa Anna was appointed governor of the state of Yucatán. On his own initiative, Santa Anna prepared to invade Cuba, which remained under Spanish rule, but he possessed neither the funds nor sufficient support for such a venture.
In 1829, Spain made its final attempt to retake Mexico in Tampico with an invading force of 2,600 soldiers. Santa Anna marched against the Barradas Expedition with a much smaller force and defeated the Spaniards, many of whom were suffering from yellow fever. Santa Anna was declared a hero, and from then on he styled himself "The Victor of Tampico" and "The Savior of the Motherland". He always made himself "Royal Looking;" His main act of self-promotion was to call himself "The Napoleon of the West".
Gómez Farías worked hard to root out corruption, which angered many of the powerful among the military, wealthy landowners, and the Catholic Church. When they voiced their displeasure, Santa Anna dismissed Farías, declared the Constitution suspended, disbanded the Congress, and worked to concentrate power in the central government. This was applauded by some conservatives, but met with considerable disapproval from other sectors.
Several states went into open rebellion: Coahuila y Tejas, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Durango, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Yucatán, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas. Several of these states formed their own governments, the Republic of the Rio Grande, the Republic of Yucatan, and the Republic of Texas. Only the Texans defeated Santa Anna and retained their independence. Their fierce resistance was possibly fueled by reprisals Santa Anna committed against his defeated enemies.
The Zacatecan militia, the largest and best supplied of the Mexican states, led by Francisco Garcia, was well armed with .753 caliber British 'Brown Bess' muskets and Baker .61 rifles. After two hours of combat, on 12 May 1835, the Santa Anna's "Army of Operations" defeated the Zacatecan militia and took almost 3,000 prisoners. Santa Anna allowed his army to ransack Zacatecas for forty-eight hours. After defeating Zacatecas, he planned to move on to Coahuila y Tejas.
Santa Anna was soon defeated by Sam Houston's soldiers at the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836), with the Texan army shouting "Remember Goliad, Remember the Alamo!" A small band of Texan forces captured Santa Anna, dressed in a dragoon private's uniform and hiding in a marsh, the day after the battle on 22 April.
Acting Texas president David G. Burnet and Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco "in his official character as chief of the Mexican nation, he acknowledged the full, entire, and perfect Independence of the Republic of Texas." In exchange, Burnet and the Texas government guaranteed Santa Anna's life and transport to Veracruz. Before Santa Anna could leave Texas, 200 angry volunteer soldiers from the United States threatened to remove him from his boat and kill him as it left the port of Velasco. Back in Mexico City, a new government declared that Santa Anna was no longer president and that the treaty with Texas was null and void.
While captive in Texas, Joel Roberts Poinsett — U.S. minister to Mexico in 1824 — offered a harsh assessment of General Santa Anna's situation, stating:
To this message, Santa Anna made the reply:
In 1838, Santa Anna discovered a chance to redeem himself from his Texan loss, when French forces landed in Veracruz, Mexico in the Pastry War, a short conflict which began after Mexico rejected French demands for financial recompense for losses suffered by some French citizens. The Mexican government gave Santa Anna control of the army and ordered him to defend the nation by any means necessary. He engaged the French at Veracruz and, as the Mexican resistance retreated after a failed assault, Santa Anna was hit in the leg and hand by cannon fire. His ankle was shattered and this resulted in the amputation of his leg, which he ordered buried with full military honors. Santa Anna famously used a cork leg after the amputation, but it was captured and kept by American troops during the Mexican-American War. It is on display at the Illinois National Guard Museum in Springfield. The Mexican government has repeatedly asked for its return. Despite Mexico's capitulation to French demands, Santa Anna was able to use his wound to re-enter Mexican politics as a hero.
Soon after, Santa Anna was once again asked to take control of the provisional government as Bustamante's presidency turned chaotic. Santa Anna accepted and became president for the fifth time. Santa Anna took over a nation with an empty treasury. The war with France had weakened Mexico, and the people were discontented. Also, a rebel army led by Generals Jose Urrea and José Antonio Mexía was marching towards the Capital, at war against Santa Anna. The rebellion was crushed in Puebla, by an army commanded by the president himself.
Santa Anna's rule was even more dictatorial than his first administration. Anti-Santanista newspapers were banned and dissidents jailed. In 1842, a military expedition into Texas was renewed, with no gain but to further persuade the Texans of the benefits of American annexation.
His demands for ever greater taxes aroused ire, and several Mexican states simply stopped dealing with the central government, Yucatán and Laredo going so far as to declare themselves independent republics. With resentment ever growing against the president, Santa Anna once again stepped down from power. Fearing for his life, Santa Anna tried to elude capture, but in January 1845 he was apprehended by a group of Indians near Xico, Veracruz, turned over to authorities, and imprisoned. His life was spared, but the dictator was exiled to Cuba.
In 1851, Santa Anna went into exile in Kingston, Jamaica, and two years later, moved to Turbaco, Colombia. In April 1853, he was invited back by rebellious conservatives, with whom he succeeded in retaking the government. This reign was no better than his earlier ones. He funneled government funds to his own pockets, sold more territory to the United States (see Gadsden Purchase), and declared himself dictator for life with the title "Most Serene Highness". The Ayutla Rebellion of 1854 once again removed Santa Anna from power.
Despite his generous payoffs to the military for loyalty, by 1855 even his conservative allies had had enough of Santa Anna. That year a group of liberals led by Benito Juárez and Ignacio Comonfort overthrew Santa Anna, and he fled back to Cuba. As the extent of his corruption became known he was tried in absentia for treason and all his estates confiscated. He then lived in exile in Cuba, the United States, Colombia, and St. Thomas. During his time in New York City he is credited as bringing the first shipments of chicle, the base of chewing gum, to the United States, but 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. The American assigned to aid Santa Anna while he was in the United States, Thomas Adams, conducted experiments with the chicle and called it "Chiclets," which helped found the chewing gum industry. Santa Anna was a passionate fan of the sport of cockfighting. He would invite breeders from all over the world for matches and is known to have spent tens of thousands of dollars on prize roosters.
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 when the anniversary of the Battle of Churubusco occurred. Santa Anna died in Mexico City two years later, on June 21 1876, penniless and heartbroken.
Santa Anna married Inés García and fathered five children. She died in 1844. After a month of mourning, the 50-year-old Santa Anna married 15-year-old María Dolores de Tosta and fathered several more children by her. Santa Anna is rumored to have wed the very young Melchora Barrera during his occupation of San Antonio de Béxar in 1836. He sent her back to Mexico City where he provided for her and their child.
Legend has it that his lack of preparations or even defensive measures prior to the Battle of San Jacinto were due to his being entertained by Emily Morgan, a mulatto girl, in his tent. It gave rise to the song "The Yellow Rose of Texas." There is however, no historical proof that his meeting with Emily Morgan ever occurred.
In 1897, Santa Anna's grandson by his second marriage, Santa Anna III (1881–1965), entered the Jesuit order.