The History Channel’s latest series event, Texas Rising, is a sweeping epic that covers the events after the fall at the Alamo, and the subsequent battles for independence against such adversaries as the formidable, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the General of the Mexican Army. The series, which premiered on Memorial Day, kicked off with more than 4.1 million viewers. In the program, there are a number of characters who enrich the overall series and are each described in detail.
One of those characters is Santa Anna, who is described as the tyrannical ruler of Mexico. Portrayed by Olivier Martinez in the series, the Mexican general was known for being cruel and ruthless, but also flamboyant as a politician. Martinez brings the character to life with a flair that easily encompasses the descriptions of the man himself. While Texas Rising is a dramatic retelling of actual events and people, Martinez brings to life a general who was larger than life with ease.
In honor of the Texas Rising series, the History Channel has put together a list of six facts that people may not know about the real life Santa Anna. While those who have studied historical events may know that the Mexican general was a dominating force in the history of the country after it gained its independence in 1821 from Spain, the History Channel has pulled together some interesting facts about the Mexican leader that are maybe a bit more obscure or less known.
- Following Mexico’s independence from Spain, the country had to deal with a lot of political dysfunction. Santa Anna chose to take advantage of this discord in the country and over the course of his career, the general was the head of the Mexican government a total of 11 different times. Depending on what the political climate was at the time of his rule, he was fluid in his leadership. Over the course of his time as president of the country, Santa Anna declared himself as a conservative, a democrat, a liberal and even a dictator.
- In honor of a man he himself had idolized, Santa Anna declared himself as the “Napoleon of the West.” In fact he was so enamored with the French Emperor, that he collected artifacts of Napoleon’s and even devoured biographies revolving around the man. Santa Anna even mimicked many of his heroes tactics such as leading his men from the front, and even making his men march the way that Napoleon’s own men had marched.
- In 1838, Santa Anna led an army against the French who had invaded Veracruz. The general was injured in the battle after being shot in the leg. Doctors were actually forced to amputate his leg and it was buried at his hacienda in Veracruz. In 1842, when he resumed his role as president, Santa Anna had his leg exhumed and then placed in an ornate coach that was brought through Mexico City. His leg was then buried in an elaborate state ceremony. When public opinion turned against Santa Anna in 1844, the leg was once more dug up, but this time by an angry mob that tied the leg up and dragged it through the city calling for the cripple to be killed.
- In 1847, during a battle of the Mexican-American war, Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg was actually captured as a trophy of the battlefield. The leg was taken by Illinois soldiers and has since been housed in the Illinois State Military Museum. Although the Mexican government has repeatedly requested the return of the limb, those requests have been denied.
- Santa Anna was exiled a number of times as well. At one point he was even exiled to Staten Island. After spending a number of years on the island, he finally returned home, just prior to his death in 1876.
- It was Santa Anna that introduced chewing gum to the United States. At the time of his exile to Staten Island, the Mexican general brought chicle with him. This was a rubbery, chewy substance that was harvested from sapodilla trees in Mexico. His personal secretary and assistant ended up showing the substance to a man named Thomas Adams, who thought he could use the substance to make a substitute for actual rubber. Santa Anna actually worked with Adams in an attempt to earn enough money to return to his homeland. After spending well over $30,000, Adams was unable to create the substitute rubber and instead added in sugars and flavors and created chewing gum with flavor.
While many of these facts about Santa Anna are never touched upon during the History Channel’s series event Texas Rising, they help enrich the character for anyone interested in learning more about the men and women involved in the real life story behind the program. These are just some of the interesting facts associated with a man who was not only a ruthless dictator, but also a military tactician. For anyone looking to get a peak at Martinez’s Santa Anna, the Texas Rising series event continues on the History Channel through June 15.
By Kimberley Spinney
The History Channel: 6 Things You May Not Know About Santa Anna
Press Releases from the History Channel
GLV: ‘Texas Rising’ Memorial Day on the History Channel
Photos by Prashant Gupta – Courtesy of the History Channel