Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was born on February 21, 1794 in Jalapa, Mexico. Antonio's father was a former sub-delegate for the Province of Veracruz and proudly traced his ancestry back to the Basque Region of Spain. At the time of his son's birth he was operating as a mortgage broker in the nearby port city of Vera Cruz. Antonio's mother's surname, Lebron, is thought to have had a French origin, but she was regarded to be of pure criollo stock. School was not to Antonio's liking and as a youngster he went to work for a merchant in Vera Cruz. He didn't like that either and on June 9, 1810, with his parents assent, lied about his age, and joined the Spanish Army as a cadet assigned to a regiment of infantry in Vera Cruz.
The political scene in Mexico was in turmoil. In 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte had placed Joseph Bonaparte on the throne of Spain and triggered a series of events that led to the independence movement in Mexico. In 1810 Francisco Xavier Vanegas was named Viceroy of Mexico and was immediately challenged by Father Miguel Hidalgo's call for Mexican independence. In 1811 Cadet Santa Anna was part of a force sent to the Northern provinces to capture Hidalgo and to pacify Indians who were raiding Spanish settlements. Hidalgo was captured by other troops, but Santa Anna spent several years fighting bandits and insurgents in the area. He distinguished himself in these engagements, was transferred to the cavalry, and promoted through the ranks to first lieutenant in 1812.
In 1813 Santa Anna participated in the Battle of Medina and once again distinguished himself in battle - this time against Texas rebels. In 1814 he was transferred to Vera Cruz where he was assigned to the defense of transportation routes from the port into the interior of the country. The insurgency against Spain was still generating rebel attacks and Santa Anna was vigorous in his pursuit of the rebels. He continued to demonstrate great personal bravery under fire and was recognized as an imaginative and effective battlefield commander. He was promoted to captain in 1816.
On February 24, 1821 Colonel Augustin Iturbide announced the Plan Of Iguala which called for the independence of Mexico under a Spanish Prince. Santa Anna's home town of Jalapa supported the Iturbide revolt and Santa Anna was ordered to put down the rebellion there. On March 23, 1821, Santa Anna attacked the rebels in the nearby town of Orizaba. On March 29, 1821, in recognition of his action in support of the crown, the Spanish Viceroy promoted him to lieutenant colonel. Several hours later on the same day, Santa Anna joined the rebels and was promoted by them to colonel. The rebel leadership included men who were quite liberal in their thinking and Santa Anna professed to agree with them although he later explained that he did not understand much about political theory.
In response to the continued military success of the rebels, Spain sent a new Viceroy, General O'Donoju, to Mexico. On August 24, 1821 the Viceroy agreed to the fundamental points in the Plan of Iguala, but died soon thereafter before fighting between the royalists and insurgents had ceased. By the end of October 1822, rebel forces led by Santa Anna occupied Vera Cruz. A few days later, apparently fearing Santa Anna's growing popularity, Iturbide ordered him to "retire from his labors". An irritated Santa Anna dutifully went into retirement on his estate, Manga de Clavo, near Vera Cruz. The Spanish Parliament rejected the idea of a Spanish Prince ruling an independent Mexico and Iturbide crowned himself Augustin I, Emperor of Mexico. Late in 1822 Santa Anna was promoted to brigadier general and appointed Military Commander, and subsequently Governor, of Vera Cruz.
In December 1822, Santa Anna together with Guadalupe Victoria, Nicolas Bravo, and Vicente Guerrero, announced their opposition to Iturbide. On February 19, 1822, Iturbide abdicated and the following month the rebel army entered Mexico to establish a new government. The constitution of 1824 was drafted and Victoria was elected as Mexico's first president. In April 1824, Santa Anna was assigned as Military Governor of the Yucatan. While in Yucatan, Santa Anna attempted to mount an invasion and conquest of Spanish Cuba, but was ultimately unable to get the support of Mexico City. In April 1825, Santa Anna was recalled from the Yucatan and went into retirement on his estate near Vera Cruz. About this time he married Ines de Garcia from a well-to-do Spanish family living in Vera Cruz.