Despite Santa Anna’s several comebacks throughout his career, Mexicans at large rejected him after he fled from the 1855 revolt against his last dictatorship. When he attempted to return to Mexico in 1867, his former compatriots captured, court-martialed, and sent him back to exile. Santa Anna made several pleas to return to his homeland from the start of this 19-year exile. He was 80 years old, nearly blind, and in poor health when President Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada finally allowed him to come home in 1874 (100).
Mis memorias: escritas de mi puño y letra sin ayuda de nadie en mi último destierro, manuscript, Antonio López de Santa Anna (author), page 89, 1874-02-12.
In the conclusion of his memoirs, Santa Anna writes, "Short, very short is the life of man; imperfect, his works; insufficient his power...sure, his suffering" (101). He describes the cruelty of his enemies, and expresses that he will forgive all offenses once the Mexican people have their own country, religion, and law. He writes that Mexico's history is not yet truly known, as foreigners have written a corrupt account of it. He articulates that he is confident that he deserves his country's gratitude, and that he has "greater confidence that posterity will do [him] full justice" (102).
During his last seven years of exile, Santa Anna wrote memoirs in an attempt to justify his actions, call out his critics, and glorify his career (103). In its prologue, he states, “My only desire is to leave to my country...a faithful account of my public acts” (104). Historians have noted that Santa Anna’s memoirs, entitled Mi historia militar y política (1810-1874), solicit vindication and are representative of Latin American autobiographical writing (105). Samuel Manickam, a scholar who focuses on Latin American narratives, argues that Santa Anna creates “silences” in his memoirs in order to exalt himself (106).
Santa Anna’s memoirs demonstrate how narratives can construct rather than evidence history. They reveal why we must think critically about a creator’s purpose, authenticity, and authority when we evaluate sources of information. While Santa Anna may have been a “puzzle to his contemporaries” (107), multiple perspectives from the past can help us reconstruct a more holistic view of his legacy. From historical to current-day accounts, we can make better sense of narratives when we consider them in social, political, cultural, and other broad contexts.
(100) Fowler, "Santa Anna of Mexico," 21, 231, 300, 344-345, 355, 388.
(101) Santa Anna, Mis memorias, 89.
(102) Ibid 92.
(103) Manickam, “‘El Seductor De La Patria’,” 1, 18.
(104) Santa Anna, Mis memorias, 2.
(105) Manickam, “‘El Seductor De La Patria’,” 18. See also Silvia Molloy, At Face Value: Autobiographical Writing in Spanish America (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991), 6-8.
(107) Lynch, Caudillos in Spanish America, 335.