English: Antonio López de Santa Anna

Santa Anna Image via Wikipedia

Folks, earlier today between taking care of chores around the house, I watched a recent movie of “The Alamo” — not the John Wayne version, but the version with Billy Bob Thornton and Dennis Quaid.

One moment, I’m washing dishes and Travis is rallying the Alamo troops to defeat the onslaught of Mexicans. Next moment, I’m starting a fire in the fireplace and the Mexicans are climbing the walls of the San Antonio mission. I’m cleaning trash off my desk and Davy Crockett, as the sole male survivor of the Alamo, is sitting on his knees encouraging Santa Anna to surrender. Remember, it’s a movie.

Among the final scenes of the movie, Gen. Sam Houston (Dennis Quaid) captures Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto near what is now the Houston ship channel.

Now for most of us, our interest and knowledge of Santa Anna pretty much stops there. If you’re like me, you assume that Houston took Santa Anna as prisoner. Put him on trial, maybe. Perhaps hanged him. Maybe. For me, I really stopped thinking about him once he was captured — till today.

Turns out that after he was captured in April 1836, acting Texas president David G. Burnet and Santa Anna signed the Treaties of Velasco: “in his official character as chief of the Mexican nation, Santa Anna acknowledged the full, entire, and perfect Independence of the Republic of Texas.” In exchange, Burnet and the Texas government guaranteed Santa Anna’s life and transport to Veracruz. Back in Mexico City, however, a new government declared that Santa Anna was no longer president and that the treaty with Texas was null and void.

For the next several years, the Mexican general was in and out of the government. Sometimes he was in favor, sometimes not. By 1855, even his allies and friends had had enough of him. A group of liberals overthrew Santa Anna’s government. He fled the country. He was tried for treason in absentia and all his properties were confiscated by the Mexican government.

In exile, Santa Anna lived in Cuba, Columbia, St. Thomas … and, ironically, the United States. In 1869, 74-year-old Santa Anna was living in exile in Staten Island, New York. He was trying to raise money for an army to return and take over Mexico City. During his time in New York City, he is credited with bringing in the first shipments of chicle, the base of chewing gum. He failed to profit from this, since his plan was to use the chicle to replace rubber in carriage tires, which was tried without success. Thomas Adams, the American assigned to help Santa Anna while he was in the United States, bought one ton of the substance from Santa Anna. Adams’ experiments helped to found the chewing gum industry with a product that he called “Chiclets“.

Later, Santa Anna was given a general amnesty, and he returned to Mexico, where he died in Mexico City on June 21, 1876.

So, in the end, the bloodthirsty Mexican general, known as the Napolean of the West and responsible for killing defenders of the Alamo, was known indirectly as the father of chewing gum.