Santa Anna, Antonio López de [key], 1794–1876, Mexican general and politician. He fought in the royalist army, but later joined Iturbide in the struggle that won independence for Mexico (1821). Santa Anna then entered upon a long and tortuous political career. His actions were governed by opportunism rather than by any fixed principle, and he shifted his allegiance from party to party, his fortunes rising and falling with bewildering rapidity. He led the revolution against Iturbide (1823); aided, then revolted against, Vicente Guerrero; and turned against Anastasio Bustamante after helping him to power. His victory over the Spanish when Guerrero was in power gained for him a popularity which he turned into political capital; he was ever afterward “the hero of Tampico.” Elected president for a term beginning in 1833, he struggled with the vice president for power and established himself as a reactionary dictator in 1834. He went to Texas to crush the revolution there and became a sort of ogre in American eyes because of the slaughter at the Alamo and the brutality of the massacre at Goliad, which was carried out under his orders. His defeat and capture by Samuel Houston at San Jacinto (1836) put a temporary halt to his political career in Mexico, but his shrewd political sense, aided by the accident of losing a leg in an attempt to repulse the French at Veracruz (1838), restored his prestige. Driven from power after a wasteful, corrupt presidential administration (1841–44), he returned from exile—with U.S. aid apparently—and again became president (1846–47). He commanded in the Mexican War, but his defeats at Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, and Puebla and the loss of Mexico City sent him again into exile. He returned and ruled (after Dec., 1853) as “perpetual dictator” until the revolution of Ayutla again drove him into exile (1855) and brought Benito Juárez to the fore. After several attempts, he was allowed to return to Mexico (1874).
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).
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