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Chaos in Mexico, 1829-31

In the presidential contest of 1829, Vicente Guerrero, the former revolutionary and vice president at the end of President Victoria's presidency, ran for president against Manuel Gómez Pedraza, a conservative scholar who had been Foreign Minister and Minister of War under President Victoria. Guerrero won the most votes cast by eligible voters, but Mexico's House of Representatives, apparently influenced by conservatives, elected Pedraza. Guerrero claimed that he had been cheated, and rather than let Mexico's judiciary decide the issue in accordance with the Constitution, Santa Anna and his troops intervened on the side of Guerrero, while cries of "Viva Guerrero" were frightening property owners. Armies fought skirmishes. Santa Anna and Guerrero won. Pedraza withdrew, Guerrero was made president and Santa Anna was rewarded. He became both a general and governor of the state of Vera Cruz, a warlord of sorts, demanding contributions from men of wealth and demanding a list of those who had not contributed – which increased contributions dramatically. And Santa Anna's estate in Vera Cruz grew to thirty-five miles along the gulf coast.

Since 1823 Ferdinand VII had been back in power in Spain, and he was watching the instability in Mexico and believed that the time was ripe to extend his reactionary policies to reestablishing Spain's authority in Mexico. A Spanish force sailing from what was still Spain's colony, Cuba, landed a force of 2,600 at Cape Rojo south of Tampico on July 6, 1829. It was during yellow fever season on Mexico's gulf coast. Congress gave Guerrero emergency dictatorial powers, and President Guerrero gave Santa Anna the job of defending Mexico from Spain's invasion.

In September, at the Battle of Pueblo Viejo, Santa Anna defeated the invaders. The Spaniards lost 908 men, mostly to disease. The Mexicans lost 135 dead and 151 wounded. The invaders were permitted to sail back to Cuba. Santa Anna was elevated in the eyes of many Mexicans. Like other peoples – Germans, Russians and people in the United States – Mexicans appreciated heroes. Congress bestowed upon Santa Anna the title of "Benefactor of the Nation" and in Vera Cruz were celebrations and church services of praise.

Liberals, meanwhile, had assuaged conservatives by giving the vice presidency to one of their own: Anastasio Bustamante. Following the defeat of the Spanish, Guerrero refused to surrender his dictatorial powers. Conservatives moved against Guerrero, and in December Guerrero responded with a decree to put himself in command of an army to suppress the insurrection against him. The conservatives held that Guerrero was in violation of the constitution. In February, Congress declared President Guerrero unfit for office and voted for Bustamante to replace him. Guerrero with a public following took up arms against the Bustamante government. In January 1831, Guerrero was captured, and he was shot to death on February 14.


Latin America: the Development of its Civilization, Third Edition, by Helen Miller Bailey and Abraham P Nasatir, 1973

Caudillos in Spanish America, 1800-1850, by John Lynch, 1992

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