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Santa Anna made Mexico or Mexico made Santa Anna?

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  Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Santa Anna made Mexico or Mexico made Santa Anna?
    Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 10:14
I am reading yet another survey of Mexican history. I just finished the chapters on Mexico from the end of the first empire to the Reform.

The authors argue that Santa Anna imprinted on Mexico the many problems and vices that would characterize the nation for most of the 19th century: corruption, opportunism, grabbing power through coups, extravagant, deficit spending.

As a Mexican, this seems a very appealing judgment, since it leaves the nation of the hook, more or less. However, I feel that the historical situation of Mexico at the time made it the case that people like Santa Anna could actually grab power.

During Santa Annas heydays, the national leadership was deeply divided in liberals and conservatives who never learned how to compromise. In fact, they couldnt even agree on what kind of a nation Mexico should be. The military had a strong political influence in political affairs, being in many ways, the real source of political power. Mexico as a nation was more or less a criollo fiction, which was shared with some mestizos and Spaniards; most people identified with their small regional locality.

In times of chaos, it is often the amoral opportunist who manages to hold onto power. Santa Anna used these opportunities to grab money, power, and public adulation. At the same time, both conservatives and liberals used Santa Anna to get into power.

Santa Annas greatest failure was losing the modern American Southwest. He deserves a great part of the credit. At the same time, I feel that the Mexican political leadership deserves it too. They were unable to unite in times of crisis. In fact, kept fighting against each other as the invasion of Mexico was taking place. Not surprisingly, they either called or accepted Santa Annas helphis failure in Texas not being enough of a lesson that this man was unreliable, apparently.

Under a different political climate, people like Santa Anna never achieve prominence. Once they begin to display their ambitions, they are quickly put in placed either by the military itself of the civilian authorities.

In any case, I am interested in knowing what other people think about this.
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  Quote Maju Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 11:27
The authors argue that Santa Anna imprinted on Mexico the many problems and vices that would characterize the nation for most of the 19th century: corruption, opportunism, grabbing power through coups, extravagant, deficit spending.


Don't you think that some of these vices may have been partly inherited from the Spanish colonial administration which indeed was corrupt and deficit-spending by birth defect? Spain has also a paralell modern history of coups and opportunism that may be well rooted in the same subordinate status in the international order and in a poor burgueois developement.

The story is not very diferent than what you can see in other semi-colonial and post-colonial areas, including all Latin America but also Africa, Arab world, Asia and large parts of Europe. Only maybe the "central"  capitalist countries escape partly from that vicious circle, due probably to their better stabilished burgueois class and culture. You could blame Santa Anna, but you could also blame the Catholic Kings or Colombus, or you could blame the international order of things and the lack of faith in humankind potentials (lack of revolutionary spirit) caused by a long depredatory period in the history of humankind.

Do you actually think that those vices are exclussively Mexican?

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  Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 13:32
Originally posted by Maju

The authors argue that Santa Anna imprinted on Mexico the many problems
and vices that would characterize the nation for most of the 19th
century: corruption, opportunism, grabbing power through coups,
extravagant, deficit spending.


Don't you think that some of these vices may have been partly inherited
from the Spanish colonial administration which indeed was corrupt and
deficit-spending by birth defect? Spain has also a paralell modern
history of coups and opportunism that may be well rooted in the same
subordinate status in the international order and in a poor burgueois
developement.

The story is not very diferent than what you can see in other
semi-colonial and post-colonial areas, including all Latin America but
also Africa, Arab world, Asia and large parts of Europe. Only maybe the
"central" capitalist countries escape partly from that vicious
circle, due probably to their better stabilished burgueois class and
culture. You could blame Santa Anna, but you could also blame the
Catholic Kings or Colombus, or you could blame the international order
of things and the lack of faith in humankind potentials (lack of
revolutionary spirit) caused by a long depredatory period in the
history of humankind.

Do you actually think that those vices are exclussively Mexican?



No, these vices are not exclusive to Mexico; and yes, obviously they were inherited from Spain since most of the participants of these events were criollos, although there were many notable mestizos involved in these events as well.

You are also correct about how what occurred in Mexico also happened in the rest of Latin-America. In many ways, the history of most of the ex-colonies from Spain have the same plot.

That being said, please notice that we are probably on the same side, but using different arguments.

The authors of the textbook put the responsibility on most of these traits in the hands of Santa Anna. Their actual argument is better qualified, but that is the essense of what they are saying. This is the claim that I find it hard to agree with.

My argument is that historical circumstances made it possible for someone like Santa Anna to become powerful. This is not taking away responsibility from Santa Anna, but given the well deserved responsibility for supporting him to the new Mexican nation.

But let me comment quickly on the topic of corruption. What we call today corruption is an evolutionary strategy that has served well humanity for most of its history. Having a powerful man giving positions of power or wealth to his relatives and friends is a way of improving the chances of survival of one's group. This behavior only became tainted as "corruption" with capitalism and the rise of the modern nation state.

Capitalism encourages to have the best qualified person honestly performing their job to increase profits. The nation state insists that everyone within a country actually belongs to the same kind of people, so the normal preference given to one's own ethinic group should be granted to every person of the same nationality.

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  Quote Maju Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 17:15
Well, I must say that I'm largely ignorant of Santa Anna's history and merits/demerits. He just seem the typical espadn, anyhow.

As you say Capitalism (and any kind of organization, probably, but Capital brings that maybe to the extreme, due to extreme competitivity) requires that administrators must be not 100% honest but eficient. There's no honesty in Capitalism, let's be honest with ourselves. But an eficient capitalist society, one that is able to compete succesfully needs low levels of corruption and high levels of honest appliance of the laws. Else the situation rapidly degenerates and Capitalism becomes pure Mafiosism and that is a very risky bet from the viepoint of Capital and much more from that of the nation. The Mafious state can't be half as eficient as the state of rights, because inner competition is settled through vicious means that actually ends putting the nation in a bad situation, as it's leaders, both political and economical, are easily bribed and the economy of the nation ends up in foreign hands (directly or indirectly, sooner or later). So it's more in the interest of the nation than in that of the Capital that law and rights are enforced equally for all. The less corruption the best for the nation and the best for the market too. Maybe it's worst short term for some "investors" but long term even they get benefitted from a healthy business and social enviroment.

If generations learn since childhood that fair-play yields nothing, they won't play fair and that ends in such situations where corruption and mafias are generalized. If generations learn civics and realize that they are also rewarded from behaving civically and law-abiding, then the social structure will be much more healthy and bussiness overall will succeed more.

At least that what I think. It's a "moral" or rather ethical question. But nt something just of principles but something that yields diferent results. Eventually being ethical is good for the whole and therefore the whole (the nation) must punish severely and systematically all corruption. More than just an ethical question is a question of statemanship.

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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 17:30

hugo:

Santa Anna may have been unsuccessful because he was a victim of circumstance.

The independence of Mexico from Spain, like most of the rest of Latin America from colonial status, occurred in the absence of much experience in republican government (failure to compromise, etc.).  Consequently, what government existed shortly after independence coalesced around the army.  So frequently, the military provides the only element of organization and discipline in a polity where there is little experience or confidence in government.  The military is a command culture.

I don't know what Santa Anna's opinions and outlook were at the time of independence, but as he was a military leader, and he got in the middle of it all, he became one of the early "caudillos."  If not him, it would have been another one.  



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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 17:55

Damn thousand times Santa Anna.

He was a criollo born and raised at Xalapa, Veracruz. Sosad to share the birthday with him

Grandson of spaniard inmigrants, Antonio de Padua Maria Severino Lopez de Santa Anna y Perez Lebron, felt attracted soon by the army. He was enlisted at the Infantry Bataillon Fijo de Veracruz at the age of 14 years old. Santa Anna fought soon on the sucessful uprising of the Green Flag Rebellion at Texas. He was condecorated at the Battle of Medina for courage and promoted to the rank of liutenant.

Back in Veracruz he fought agaisnt the mexican insurgents, till the sides switch of Iturbide. Santa Anna then fougth agaisnt his former mentor and protector, a spaniard colonel which I do not recall his name at this moment.
Santa Anna escorted to the last Spaniard Viceroy Juan de O'Donoju from Veracruz to Mexico City.
Rebelled agaisnt Iturbide following the uprising of former insurgent leaders as Nicolas Bravo and Vicente Guerrero.
Santa Anna previously flirtered to the elder sister of Iturbide with the hope of became part of the imperial family. The Lady was 60 years old, whilst he was a young brigadier of 30 years old.

Santa Anna got the word from Vicente Guerrero that he will be promoted to Minister of War , instead of that, Santa Anna was sent to the remote province of Yucatan and set as Governor. Broke the relationships of the Yucatecan peninsula with Cuba. However, this situation could be economically disastrous for the Peninsula. Then Santa Anna projected a Mexican Invasion to Cuba and take it away from Spain.

Santa Anna was a master of the political retirements. Appointed 10 times president of Mexico since 1820's to 1850's. Fought agaisnt the spaniard invasion of Tampico in 1829 and the Congress named him Benemerit and Savior of Mexico. Leaded the expedition agaisnt the rebels of the far way province of Tejas still part of the mexican state of Coahuila. His campaing was bloody and angered to all the anglo settlers against Mexico. Ambushed and captured, Santa Anna forgot to his country and agreed to sign the independence of Tejas from Mexico, depsites that as prisioner he could not make any agreement with the invaders.
Back in Mexico after 1 year captivity , he retired to his Hacienda Manga de Clavo at Veracruz. During the so called Pastry War between Mexico and France, he waited for the authorities of Veracruz city to call him to organize the defense. Without consulting with the Congress, he organized a force to expel to the French without having either artillery or a Navy. Santa Anna was badly wounded by cannonf fire. Lost a leg and 2 fingers of his left hand. Survived and his honor was restored at the eyes of the public opinion. No other Caudillo or President since the independence war did a sacrifice like him on battle
Santa played political games since the beginning of his political life colonialist/insurgent, imperialist/republican, centralist/federalist, Conservative/Liberal. He was a chamaleon of the political stage.
He leaded the army during the disastrous campaing of 1846-1848. An anecdotic part of the US Mexican War. Santa Anna was not President when the war started. He was brought back to Mexico by Polk with the hope to achieve the sales/purchase of Northern Mexico from Santa Anna. He was disemabarked by a US ship and crossed the blockade of the US Navy at Veracruz.

Greatest traitor of all, may he burn in Hell.

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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 18:01

Jalisco:

Well, I guess we know how you feel about Santa Anna.

Seriously, thanks for the biography.

Any thoughts on whether another general might have been different?

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Sep-2005 at 18:31
Originally posted by Jalisco Lancer

  Sosad to share the birthday with him

Are you sure? Wikipedia says his birthday is februari 21st, I thought yours was the 20th. so you're one day older.

I think both instability created Santa Anna and Santa Anna created instablity. It worked to both sides. His making and breaking alliances with whoever he pleased was only possible because the country was in a chaos. At the same time Santa Anna made that chaos worse. It's a kind of vicious cirlce.
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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2005 at 17:01

Santa Anna was a reflect of the society of that time. People loved and hated him with the same intensity.
He was El Caudillo, the strong man of Mexico.
Santa Anna during the final years of his goverment, he became a Dictator and dissolved the Congress. Put on jail or exiled to several liberals as Benito Juarez.

Took for himself the Tittle of Alteza Serenisima.
Agree to sell the territory of La Mesilla to the US in exchange of $ 15 Million USD.

He created a personal guard brought from Russia.
In order to support the expenses of his pompous court, he created several new and exentric taxes:

Tax applied to dog owners ( with the exeption of the blinds ).
Tax applied per every door and window per house in all Mexico.

Juan Alvarez rebelled in the south and finally expelled to Santa Anna from the office.
Santa Anna lived on the exile at Colombia where he bought a house that belonged to Simon Bolivar.
Returned to Mexico during the French Invasion some 10 years later to offer his services to the Mexican empire. Santa Anna was not allowed by Bazaine to disembark and was deported back.
Came back to Mexico years later of the death of Pres. Benito Juarez and died on the poverty in Mexico City.



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  Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Sep-2005 at 17:43

Originally posted by hugoestr

I am reading yet another survey of Mexican history. I just finished the chapters on Mexico from the end of the first empire to the Reform.

The authors argue that Santa Anna imprinted on Mexico the many problems and vices that would characterize the nation for most of the 19th century: corruption, opportunism, grabbing power through coups, extravagant, deficit spending.

As a Mexican, this seems a very appealing judgment, since it leaves the nation of the hook, more or less. However, I feel that the historical situation of Mexico at the time made it the case that people like Santa Anna could actually grab power.

During Santa Annas heydays, the national leadership was deeply divided in liberals and conservatives who never learned how to compromise. In fact, they couldnt even agree on what kind of a nation Mexico should be. The military had a strong political influence in political affairs, being in many ways, the real source of political power. Mexico as a nation was more or less a criollo fiction, which was shared with some mestizos and Spaniards; most people identified with their small regional locality.

In times of chaos, it is often the amoral opportunist who manages to hold onto power. Santa Anna used these opportunities to grab money, power, and public adulation. At the same time, both conservatives and liberals used Santa Anna to get into power.

Santa Annas greatest failure was losing the modern American Southwest. He deserves a great part of the credit. At the same time, I feel that the Mexican political leadership deserves it too. They were unable to unite in times of crisis. In fact, kept fighting against each other as the invasion of Mexico was taking place. Not surprisingly, they either called or accepted Santa Annas helphis failure in Texas not being enough of a lesson that this man was unreliable, apparently.

Under a different political climate, people like Santa Anna never achieve prominence. Once they begin to display their ambitions, they are quickly put in placed either by the military itself of the civilian authorities.

In any case, I am interested in knowing what other people think about this.

From the posts above, I would say Mexico made Santa Anna. 

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  Quote Jalisco Lancer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Sep-2005 at 12:55




Here's Santa Anna's Biography:

SANTA ANNA, ANTONIO LPEZ DE (1794-1876). Antonio Lpez de Santa Anna Prez de Lebrn, soldier and five-time president of Mexico, was born at Jalapa, Vera Cruz, on February 21, 1794, the son of Antonio Lpez de Santa Anna and Manuela Prez de Lebrn. His family belonged to the criolloqv middle class, and his father served at one time as a subdelegate for the Spanish province of Vera Cruz. After a limited schooling the young Santa Anna worked for a merchant of Vera Cruz. In June 1810 he was appointed a cadet in the Fijo de Vera Cruz infantry regiment under the command of Joaqun de Arredondo.qv He spent the next five years battling insurgents and policing the Indian tribes of the Provincias Internas.qv Like most criollo officers in the Royalist army, he remained loyal to Spain for a number of years and fought against the movement for Mexican independence. He received his first wound, an Indian arrow in his left arm or hand, in 1811. In 1813 he served in Texas against the Gutirrez-Magee expedition,qv and at the battle of Medinaqv he was cited for bravery. In the aftermath of the rebellion the young officer witnessed Arredondo's fierce counterinsurgency policy of mass executions, and historians have speculated that Santa Anna modeled his policy and conduct in the Texas Revolutionqv on his experience under Arredondo. He once again served under Arrendondo against the filibustering expedition of Francisco Xavier Minaqv in 1817. The young officer spent the next several years in building Indian villages and in occasional campaigns, while he acquired debts, some property, and promotions. In 1820 he was promoted to brevet captain, and he became a brevet lieutenant colonel the following year. In March of 1821 he made the first of the dramatic shifts of allegiance that characterized his military and political career by joining the rebel forces under Agustn de Iturbideqv in the middle of a campaign against them. He campaigned for Iturbide for a time and was promoted to brigadier general. In December 1822 Santa Anna broke with Iturbide over a series of personal grievances, and he called for a republic in his Plan of Casa Mata in December 1822.

After serving as military governor of Yucatn, Santa Anna retired to civil life and became governor of Vera Cruz. In 1829 he defeated the Spanish invasion at Tampico and emerged from the campaign as a national hero. In the course of this campaign, he demonstrated several of his characteristic military strengths and weaknesses; he was able to pull an army together quickly and with severely limited resources, but he also combined elaborate planning with slipshod and faulty execution. He rebelled against the administration three years later and was elected president of Mexico as a liberal in 1833, but in 1834 he stated that Mexico was not ready for democracy and emerged as an autocratic Centralist. When the liberals of Zacatecas defied his authority and an attempt to reduce their militia in 1835, Santa Anna moved to crush them and followed up his battlefield victory with a harsh campaign of repression. In December 1835 he arrived at San Luis Potos to organize an army to crush the rebellion in Texas. In 1836 he marched north with his forces to play his controversial role in the Texas Revolution. After his capture by Sam Houston'sqv army, he was sent to Washington, D.C., whence he returned to Mexico. He retired to his estates at Manga de Clavo for a time, then emerged to join the defense of Mexico against the French in December 1838 during the so-called "Pastry War." He lost a leg in battle and regained his popularity. He was acting president in 1839, helped overthrow the government of Anastasio Bustamanteqv in 1841, and was dictator from 1841 to 1845. Excesses led to his overthrow and exile to Havana.

At the beginning of the Mexican War,qv Santa Anna entered into negotiations with President James K. Polk. He offered the possibility of a negotiated settlement to the United States and was permitted to enter Mexico through the American blockade. Once in the country he rallied resistance to the foreign invaders. As commanding officer in the northern campaign he lost the battle of Buena Vista in February 1847, returned to Mexico City, reorganized the demoralized government, and turned east to be defeated by Winfield S. Scott's forces at Cerro Gordo. Secret negotiations with Scott failed, and when Mexico City was captured, Santa Anna retired to exile. In 1853 he was recalled by the Centralists, but again power turned his head. To help meet expenses he sold the Mesilla Valley to the United States as the Gadsden Purchase and was overthrown and banished by the liberals in 1855.

For eleven years he schemed to return to Mexico, conniving with the French and with Maximilian. After a visit from the American secretary of state, W. H. Seward, he invested most of his property in a vessel that he sailed to New York to become the nucleus of a planned invading force from the United States. Disappointed in his efforts, he proceeded towards Mexico, was arrested on the coast, and returned to exile. From 1867 to 1874 he lived in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Nassau. During this time he finally abandoned politics and wrote his memoirs. In 1874 he was allowed to return to Mexico City, where he lived in obscurity until his death on June 21, 1876. He was buried at Tepeyac Cemetery, near Guadalupe Hidalgo. Santa Anna was married twice, to Ins Garca in 1825, and, a few months after the death of his first wife in 1844, to Mara Dolores de Tosta, who survived him.


source: http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsa29 .html

.....no single instance was any man punished for a political offense....few dictators, in possession of absolute power for the same length of time, surrounded by the same circumstances, can say as much....he is not the sanguinary monster which some have supposed him to be---American Envoy to Mexico Waddy Thompson, 1846.

Antonio Lpez de Santa Anna
Fought more battles than Napoleon and George Washington combined, eleven times President and Dictator of the second largest country in the world prior to 1836, captured and caused the loss of half of Mexican territory (one million square miles) beginning on the battlefield of San Jacinto in 1836, released to become President and Dictator of Mexico 7 times more over 40 more years, periodically exiled for a total of 20 years----

"......it is very true that I threw up my cap for liberty with great ardor, and perfect sincerity, but very soon found the folly of it. A hundred years to come my people will not be fit for liberty. They do not know what it is, unenlightened as they are, and under the influence of a Catholic clergy, a despotism is the proper government for them, but there is no reason why it should not be a wise and virtuous one."---Santa Anna in reply to former American envoy to Mexico Joel Poinsett after his capture by Texians 1836

"General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna died in this city on the 21st inst. However he may have been condemned by parties, his career formed a brilliant and important portion of the History of Mexico, and future historians will differ in their judgment of his merits. General Santa Anna outlived his usefulness and ambition, and died at the ripe age of eighty-four. Peace to his ashes"--Obituary Mexico City 1876

[Image: idealized portrait in full regalia from Hanighen's Santa Anna: Napoleon of the West, 1934]

.....no single instance was any man punished for a political offense....few dictators, in possession of absolute power for the same length of time, surrounded by the same circumstances, can say as much....he is not the sanguinary monster which some have supposed him to be---American Envoy to Mexico Waddy Thompson, 1846.

source:
http://www.tamu.edu/ccbn/dewitt/santaanna.htm
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  Quote Reymuntzin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jan-2009 at 20:26
I would contend that one issue apart from those that obviously contributed to the failure of successive states from the Empire of Iturbide to the various Republics of the 19th century of Mexico is the absence of national identity/nationalism/patriotism. During the entire first century of independent Mexican history, no political or social institutions in Mexico enjoyed the perception of having universal legitimacy. Mexico, like Brazil, twice sought to continue the hegemony of empry that was imparted to them by Spain but was unsuccessful. This was due in part to the immense size of the initial empire in 1821 which included most of current Central America, and the isolation of those provinces that yielded extremely loose loyalties to any central governments be them Imperial states or Federal Republics. It was not until the Revolution of 1910-29 that a true Mexican national identity began to emerge in the style of Justo Sierra rewriting Mexican history in a fashion that would be supportive of the Revolutionary "Mestizo" regime. Strong men, be them Iturbide, Santa Ana, Diaz or Calles could never survive as current residents of Los Pinos do today. They relied on the compliance of the Army and of local caudillos and caciques. Today Mexican Presidents have political institutions propping up the state and rely far less on the compliance of an ever weaker Mexican military.
 
I too am of Mexican heritage but have had the good fortune to have been born in Arizona and partially educated in Mexico. I am grateful to have the opportunity to discuss issues of empry in Mexico from a unique perspective and hope this site enjoys continued success.
RJT  
If only I had the army and the time, oh what wrongs I could right.
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