Biography of Anastasio Bustamante:
Anastasio Bustamante y Oseguera (July 17, 1780 - Feb. 6, 1853) was a Mexican general and politician who served as President of Mexico on three occasions. He fought in Mexico's War of Independence
, but mostly on the Spanish side before supporting General Agustín de Iturbide and the Plan of Igualá. He is most remembered in Mexico as the man who ordered the execution of popular revolutionary hero Vicente Guerrero.
Bustamante Before Independence:
Anastasio Bustamante was born in the town of Jiquilpan in the present-day State of Michoacán. His family was poor, but young Anastasio received a good education. He studied in the Guadalajara Seminary before going to medical school in Mexico City. He finished his degree and moved to the city of San Luís Potosí, where he became close with the family of Félix María Calleja, a Spanish General who would later become Viceroy of New Spain.
Bustamante in the War of Independence:
In 1808, Mexico was beginning to lean towards independence: Spanish King Ferdinand VII was a prisoner of Napoleon and Spanish rule was erratic at best. In San Luís Potosí, Calleja organized a cavalry regiment and made his friend Bustamante a lieutenant. The regiment was mobilized after Father Miguel Hidalgo
kicked off the Mexican War of Independence and saw action at the Battles of Aculco and Calderón Bridge
and the re-taking of Guanajuato. Bustamante served well and was promoted to captain.
Bustamante and Independence:
Bustamante continued to fight on the royalist side and would be eventually promoted to colonel. Calleja served as Viceroy from 1813-1816 and Bustamante supported his friend loyally. Bustamante also became friends with another rising star in the Spanish military: Agustín de Iturbide. Calleja was recalled to Spain in 1816 and the tide began to turn in favor of the rebels. In 1821 Iturbide, then Spain’s most important General, suddenly switched sides under the terms of the Plan of Iguala. This move, which achieved independence for Mexico very suddenly, was supported by Bustamante. Iturbide rewarded Bustamante with a promotion to Field Marshal and a position in the Provisional Governing Junta of 1821. Bustamante was serving as military commander away from Mexico City when Iturbide was brought down by his enemies in 1823.
Bustamante and Guerrero:
Bustamante joined the conservative federalist faction and was jailed for a time before being freed on orders of Guadalupe Victoria and reinstated as general. As part of a political compromise in 1828, the influential Bustamante was named Vice-President under Vicente Guerrero. Guerrero, a hero of the War of Independence, was a liberal and there was no love lost between him and his conservative Vice-President. In 1829 Spain sent an expeditionary force to reclaim Mexico. At the same time, military leaders in Campeche and Jalapa declared themselves in opposition to Guerrero’s government. When Guerrero left Mexico City to fight these enemies, Bustamante made his move, convincing Congress to depose Guerrero. Guerrero fought against this multitude of enemies but in January of 1831 a 50,000 peso reward for his capture paid off: Guerrero was betrayed, captured and executed under orders from Bustamante.
Bustamante’s First Administration:
Bustamante first took office on January 1, 1830 after Congress ousted Guerrero. Bustamante's term began with a great deal of anger at him over the ouster and later execution of the popular Guerrero. Veracruz rose in revolt under Colonels Pedro Landero and José Andonegui and General Antonio López de Santa Anna
. A federal force broke up the rebellion and Landero and Andonegui were killed, but Santa Anna escaped. Uprisings in Matagorda, Acapulco and Tampico followed. In August of 1832 Bustamante personally took the field, leaving General Melchor Múzquiz behind as president. Other towns joined the general uprising and in spite of an impressive victory at El Gallinero near San Miguel de Allende
, Bustamante soon found himself surrounded. After Santa Anna defeated him in battle near Puebla in December of 1832, Bustamante entered negotiations. Manuel Gómez Pedraza became President and Bustamante fled to Europe with his family.
Bustamante’s Second Administration:
After spending three years in exile in Europe, Bustamante returned to Mexico in 1836. In early 1837, Congress named him President once again: he took office on April 19, 1837. He declared that he accepted the position in order to protect peace and the rights of the people of Mexico. He was still very unpopular, however, and the uprisings that plagued his first administration flared up again almost immediately. To make matters worse, France invaded Mexico because Mexico had defaulted on certain debts. The Pastry War
, as it came to be known, was a disaster for Mexico. On March 20, 1839, Bustamante left office to put down an uprising in Tampico: he left Santa Anna in charge.
Bustamante’s Third Administration:
Barely four months later, Bustamante returned to Mexico City and resumed the Presidency, which had since been turned over by Santa Anna to Nicolás Bravo
. He tried to beef up the army for a campaign to re-take Texas, which had revolted in 1835, but was hampered by insufficient funds. In July of 1840, General José Urrea led a revolt which briefly captured Bustamante, but he was freed by loyal troops. Santa Anna marched to Mexico City to help Bustamante but later decided to join the rebellion instead. Uprisings flared once again, particularly in the Yucatán. By August of 1841 Bustamante was under siege in Mexico City: he again negotiated his way out, leaving office on September 22, 1841. Shortly thereafter, he returned to exile in Europe.
Legacy of Anastasio Bustamante:
Bustamante remained in Europe until 1845, when he returned to Mexico to offer his services during the Mexican-American War. He was named a General but did not see any action during the war. He also served in Congress. After the war, he once again was assigned to putting down uprisings. He died at the age of 72 in 1853.
Bustamante was a typical Mexican politician during his era. He was in and out of power as the fortunes of the far more charismatic Santa Anna waxed and waned. It is not surprising that although he served as president on three occasions, he was never elected by the people and never lasted longer than two and a half years in power.
Bustamante was an unpopular president and the people of Mexico never really gave him a chance to lead. He was disliked for many reasons. First of all, he had spent most of the war of Independence fighting for the hated Spanish. After the war, he had supported Emperor Iturbide, who was himself disliked by the people. But Bustamante's worst crime was ordering the execution of popular war hero Vicente Guerrero. With these stains on his character, the common folk of Mexico never could warm up to Bustamante.
That's a bit unfortunate, because Bustamante might have done good things for Mexico. It was during his third term that Spain recognized Mexico and sent an ambassador, ending an era of periodic invasions and hatred. In spite of the fact that he fought for Spain during the War of Independence, he later proved on several occasions to be a loyal Mexican, most notably when he returned from exile in order to help his homeland fight off the US invasion. Although he had dictatorial tendencies, he did seem to have some respect for the rule of law and democracy.
Gómes Méndez, Sergio Orlando and Rosa Ortiz Paz, Ostwald Sales Colin, José Sánchez Gutiérrez. Historia de México. Mexico City: Limusa, 2007.
Orozco Linares, Fernando. Gobernantes de Mexico. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985 (2008)