Soldier, revolutionary, statesman, and villain of the Alamo
Antonio López de Santa Anna Pérez de Lebrón was born in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico on February 21, 1794 to Antonio López de Santa Anna and Manuela Pérez de Lebrón. He grew up in a middle class home. His father, being a minor statesman, was able to afford a limited amount of schooling for him. Shortly after he left school he tried his hand at being a merchant, which didn't take very well. In 1810 he became a soldier for the Spanish Crown in the Veracruz infantry under the command of Joaquín de Arredondo.
Through the beginning of Santa Anna's career of soldiering he remained loyal to the Spanish Crown, participating in several revolutionary suppressions. Arredondo, his commanding officer, was brutal to rebel forces. Mass executions would follow these suppressions, which Santa Anna witnessed first hand. Some believe this led to Santa Anna's savagery, once he was in power, in suppressing rebellion against him, such as the Texas Revolution. He rose in the ranks quickly and by his 27th birthday was a colonel.
Shortly after this, in March of 1821, he had a change of heart, and in the middle of fighting revolutionary forces led by Agustín de Iturbide, he switched sides, joining Iturbide against the Spanish. Later Santa Anna would be instrumental in liberating Veracruz for wish Iturbide made him the general and Commander of this, his home province.
However, it didn't take Santa Anna long to change his mind again. In December of 1822, because of personal differences with Iturbide, Santa Anna betrayed him, declaring Veracruz a republic and renouncing Iturbide's rule of the province.
In 1828 he gave up the life of soldiering for the political life and became the Governor of Veracruz. He spoke frequently of founding "the Republic of Mexico," of which he was elected president of in 1833. However in 1834, because of problems with the senate, he declared that Mexico was not ready to be a democracy. The government that emerged was an autocratic-theocracy, a shift of power from the people back to the landowners and the Roman Catholic Church, and Santa Anna as their dictator. He had become so victorious in his grabs for power and use of his army alike; he sometimes referred to himself as "the Napoleon of the West."
With the rebellion of Texas, Santa Anna traveled there with his army to subdue the Texicans, as he had with the other rebellions against him. They met little oppositions until coming to the Mission San Antonio de Valero, or what the Texans called the Alamo. For 13 days Santa Anna's men laid siege to the Alamo until they finally overwhelmed the last of the 198 militia who defended it, included Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Those who had not died in combat were executed. Although every man in the Alamo was slaughtered, it was a great victory for Texas. Over 2000 of Santa Anna's men lay dead at the walls of the mission.
Two months later Santa Anna's army was defeated by a force lead by Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto. The day after the battle, Santa Anna was captured and brought before Houston. He is said to have given the secret distress signal of the Master Freemason to Houston and blamed the executions of the Alamo militia on a subordinate general. He then agreed to have his army retreat. Houston was not hostile to him and they spent the rest of that day sorting out the boundaries of Texas. With Santa Anna so compliant, Houston did not kill him as the other Texans wanted. He saved his Masonic brother and allowed him to return to Mexico.
However, with his defeat in Texas, his rule had become impotent and he was soon deposed. He spent the rest of his life being exiled again and again from Mexico, only to be allowed back again and again. The last three years of his life, he lived in Mexico with his daughter and son-in-law, as he had become penniless.
He died July 20, 1876.
I didn't want to include this in my writeup because it didn’t really fit with the mood of the rest of it. This paragraph, which talks about Santa Anna's meeting with Sam Houston the day after the Battle of San Jacinto, made me laugh so I’m just going to quote it, taken from:
Feeling edgy, Santa Anna asked for -- and got -- some of that familar pain-killer he saw being administered to the wounded Houston. And so they had a mellow conversation for the rest of the afternoon, the two men basically dividing up North America while stoned on opium. Santa Anna agreed to have the Mexican army retreat, and recognize an independent Texas with its border at the Rio Grande. (The Nueces River would have been more logical, having long been the Mexican state border for Coahuila y Texas. It may simply have been harder to find on a map.)
Perhaps instead of fighting a duel, President Bush and Saddam Hussein should sit down and toke a few. Learn from history my friends.