The U.S.-Mexican War and
    the Peoples of the Year 2000

 Conflicts of 1846-48:

Leader within Mountain Walls: 
Antonio López de Santa Anna


Inputs from the Politics of Today  

Inputs from History 

  • Population & Rebellion 

  • Deluded White Chieftains 

  • Conflicts of 1846-48:  
  • Opening Attack on Indigenous Life
  • A Border World Rebels
  • Officers Capitulate: Ampudia and Taylor
  • A Note on Strategy
  • A Note on Severed Heads
  • Leader within Walls:  Santa Anna
  • Generals for Social Order
  • The Sorting of Identities
  • The Future of New/Old Nations
    If Santa Anna was corrupt, he saps honor from U.S. victory over him.  If both patriotic and corrupt, he mocks the meaning of any nationalism. 

    His story included episode after episode in which he came close enough to outright treason that his enemies were willing to make the accusation: 

  •  his willingness to sign a document recognizing Texas independence, in order to avoid mistreatment or death at the hands of his Texas captors, in 1836
  • his willingness to hint at cooperation with U.S. authorities, in 1846, so that they would let him pass through the U.S. naval blockade, and re-enter Mexico
  • his readiness, during a critical time of the war with the United States, to spend time repressing his political enemies rather than concentrating force against the invader
  • his orders to abandon the port of Tampico, which then became a staging point for the U.S. expedition to Veracruz
  • his refusal to let guard forces at Tula undertake active operations
  • his failure to provide for his soldiers' subsistence needs, during the march toward battle with Taylor
  • his decision not to demand the last from his exhausted army, at Buena Vista, when that last stood some chance of destroying Taylor
  • his insistence, before the Battle of Cerro Gordo, and against competent topographical advice, that his ownership of lands in the area gave him expert knowledge of the terrain
  • his readiness, before the final battle for Mexico City, to make a truce with Winfield Scott, during which he intimated that a payment to him might facilitate negotiations
  • his failure to use his own authority to extract satisfactory tactical behavior out of Generals Valencia and Álvarez, then
  • his refusal to help Valencia against Scott, at Padierna, and
  • his own withdrawal from Mexico City when he had the alternative of organizing a popular resistance there.
     Some of this was carelessness, some was an ordinary human reluctance to risk death. The whole showed a man wavering between arrogance and fear, open to deals with the outside power that he pretended to despise. This was not heroism. Neither was it the simple political treason that his critics condemned.

    He believed that Mexico could pull inside its mountain walls, like a hacienda fending off brigands, and that any subordinate who wanted to venture out was simply defying his authority. He kept railing, justly, against people inside Mexico who would not supply his men. This ignored the fact that he and his class had built a government to which they paid few taxes, depending instead on customs duties collected in the very zone that he was now leaving outside the walls.  His hint to Scott for "bribe" money was another way of recognizing that external dependence, and his whole position acted out the falseness in the myth of the self-sufficient nation/hacienda.  The government of that nation-state was dependent on outside money.

    What Santa Anna could not know was that the character of that money was beginning to change.  Where it had once been the coin of mercantile transactions, it was beginning to make connections to investment opportunities inside Mexico.  Mexican military men who had armies to support (read: labor-forces to pay) were the active demonstration that such investment might sink roots into Mexican society.

    Santa Anna was responding to emerging conditions that had no label. He was building up connections, for himself as a middle-level leader, in a yet future society that reached over the bounds of any one nation. His arrogance validated his political claims within the visible bounds of his nation. His deal-making, protected behind that cover, was more "creative" than anything consciously projected by either his government or that of the United States.

    His conniving was also more to the point than the pictures that are usually painted of him in standard histories of the U.S.-Mexican War, from either the Mexican or the U.S. point of view. Mexican historians are reluctant to give up the picture of a flawed but grand hero, because he seems to stand for the nation. U. S. military historians, like patriotic military historians in any age, are reluctant to give up the picture of Santa Anna as a strong figure, since strong opponents are a foil to one's own heroes.

    The truth was more workaday, and less dramatic. Santa Anna, even that early, was the middle-level operative in an emerging transnational system where many individuals were beginning to stitch together the connections that would make the whole network cohere.

    He, and others like him (read: Porfirio Díaz), were eventually successful in creating the Mexican share in that system. Just by infusing that share with their claims to authority, they were giving that transnational system "state"-like qualities.  Long before the end of the 20th century, it would become a political network extending far beyond the bounds of any one territorial nation.


  • Ramón Gamboa, Impugnación al informe del señor general Santa-Anna (1849).
  • Antonio López de Santa Anna, Apelación al buen criterio de los nacionales y estrangeros :

  • ... sobre las acusaciones presentadas por el señor diputado don Ramón Gamboa (1849).

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