Mutilated Mexico
the cursed people

-by Francisco Martín Moreno-

translated by J. Doug Ohmans
© copyright 2015

Text imprint Mexico City, Punto de Lectura, © 2004

     To my daughter Claudia, for your magical powers held since infancy, with
     which you make those who have the luck of meeting you on your path, immeasurably

Acknowledgements and deprecations

I should indicate here the explicit constancy of my most genuine gratitude to the Mexican
and foreign researchers dedicating to profusely studying [estudiar profusamente] Mexico's
past without any other commitment except an anxious search for the truth. Thanks for their
valuable contributions, for their arduous efforts and, in some cases, their disinterested
     I could not fail to mention, in particular, Ángel Moyano, who at all times was attentive
to the development of the present novel and who on many occasions showed me different
unsuspected pitfalls for me and who was indispensable to the happy conclusion of my
labors. Various viewpoints of hers were certainly sobering. Absolutely all and every
one of the conclusions are mine.
     In the same fashion, I should not let pass the opportunity to express my most
genuine disgust at the mercenaries of Mexico's history for having alienated, in exchange
for some bills or a public position, their knowledge, their imagination, their time, and
their talent in the despicable cause of the official history, which has so confounded
generations and more generations of Mexicans. Thanks to them we have tripped, in good
part, once and a thousand times, on the same stone.
     My most grounded condemnation is also aimed at the politicians who financed the
writing and publication of works for popular consumption and formation that impeded the
revelation of historical realities with which one might have constructed, without a
doubt, a better destiny for Mexico.

I have to write a brief prologue...

A long time ago--thus stories begin--when I was in primary school, my teachers, those
ignored authentic national heroes, revealed to me the existence of a rich and immense
Mexican territory known as Tejas, yes, with a 'j,' not as Texas, that was later robbed
from us by the gringos reverting to the diplomacy of annexation to try to legalize,
before the eyes of the world, a wily and unpardonable theft, which mutilated our country
forever. There, in the hallways, my rancor incubated and a resentment grew that persists
until today.
     Just that the rigged absorption of Tejas into the American Union of course did not
satisfy the expansionist appetites of our neighbors to the north, who also avidly coveted
Nuevo Mexico and California. What would the United States do to appropriate the above-
mentioned states when their offers of purchase were not even heard by the Mexican
government nor did the possibility exist of opening a political space to hear them? Very
simple: invoke the help of Divine Providence... When the yankees felt supported by the
Lord, they unholstered their pistols and after firing several rounds at the head of the
goods' owner, inexplicably opposed to making money, that is, after killing, according to
them, those who resisted evolving and enriching themselves, they took possession of the
neighboring property alleging self-defense, or in the concrete case, rights of conquest,
achieved in the name of God...
     In synthesis: when México refused to sell her lands, the ambassadors abandoned
that venue such that it was occupied by the military, true professionals specialized in
the mass extermination of man, the only creature in nature who uses reason to kill
collectively... The United States declared war on Mexico in May of 1846. The catastrophic
and no less traumatic defeat, as much of our armed forces as of the civil population, led
to the signing for peace in 1848, at nothing less than in Guadalupe Hidalgo, a location
"suggested" by President Polk's representative, because there there had supposedly been
apparitions by the Patron Saint of the Mexicans and, in this form, She would bless the
accords... As if it were nothing, and to our shame, the treaty was signed "IN THE NAME
OF THE ALL-POWERFUL GOD" to thus legalize, before God--of course before God!--before
humanity, history and the world, the great robbery of the 19th century. Who gave the
North Americans the right to speak and act in nothing less than the name of God...?
     With this fate we were stripped of prairies, plains, valleys, rivers, coastlines,
shores, and ravines, in addition to mining rights. As little as a few months after the
cessation of hostilities, gold magically appeared in California, a California which,
with all its immense riches hidden in the soil, had stopped being Mexican forever.
     Did we lose the war thanks to the military inferiority of Mexico?  False! We were
defeated by a chain of nameless treasons, as much on the part of the military as of the
politicians and of the apostolic Roman Catholic church, this last institution not only
the most backward in the Mexican nation, but also allied with the invader, just like
Santa Anna himself. The Church in alliance...? Yes! Allied with our enemies, because the
North American military hierarchy had guaranteed to the cardinals not to threaten their
goods or oppose the sect's exercises, always assuming the clerics would convince the
Mexican parishioners of the advantages of unconditional surrender before the North
American troops. The result? Puebla, among other cities, surrendered without firing a
single shot. One of the worst disgraces we suffered was when a Puebla bishop blessed the
odious flag of the stars and stripes...
     In what pertains to the capital of the Republic, if indeed there were fierce battles
where the Mexican soldiers demonstrated courage and dignity, civil resistance, once the
city had fallen, was so scarce that it is shameful. The quietly prayed slogan went more
or less like this: "Whoever kills or injures a North American will spend eternity in
hell..." How the destiny of  Mexico would have changed if the Catholic Church, on the
contrary, had proclaimed: "Make peace, kill a yankee..." The war would have acquired
another connotation...
     "Blessed is the Lerdo Law! Blessed are the laws of the Reforma! Blessed is Juarez,
Meritorious in the Americas, the true Father of the Independence of Mexico! He and only
he, together with a select group of notable Mexicans, managed to dislodge from the
nation's neck that enormous gelatinous leech called the Catholic Church, loyal to Rome,
to money, to political and military power, yet never to México, from which it rabidly
sucked the energy and denied it any possibility of progress and of political stability. How
much blood was shed from the immense majority of production goods being seized by a
voracious clergy that had forgotten its evangelical mission of divulgence!" That was said
in public forums on the Plaza del Volador, years after the conclusion of the war against
the United States and months before the French intervention would begin...
     Poor Mexico! Plagued by bribes and blows from abroad by modern privateers and,
furthermore, domestically divided by the ambitions and the unbridled egotism of its
leaders, deprived of a clear concept of patriotism to explain life, which, this indeed,
those who sleep on floor mats lost... Poor Mexico! Subject to an earthly clergy
authorized to charge the tithe, which in addition to owning finance, camouflaged
its title to banks, mortgages, land holdings, enterprises and capital, privileges and
patrimony defended with private armies, special tribunals, secret police, clandestine
prisons, and constitutional immunity for the high ecclesiastical hierarchy...
     Why did President Polk avoid the annexation of the whole country, "All Mexico,"
as his inner circle counseled, and only took Tejas, Nuevo México and California?
Because the North Americans only wanted to assume power in the unpopulated areas
where the superior race, namely their own, could freely settle, as Anglo-Saxons,
without any sort of contaminations: "We shall integrate a free, white race, of
Caucasian extraction, powerful, imaginative, industrious, literate, and productive,
never submitting to the racial degradation characteristic of mixed race..." In our
nation very few were aware that if Mexico did not disappear from world political
geography, it owed its existence to millions of indians settled south of the Rio Bravo,
of whom the chief in the White House wanted to know nothing... "I might have to
exterminate six million lazy and stupid aborigines, equally useless as our redskins.
No!" Polk shouted loudly in that January of 1848. "No, I prefer to go down in history
as an annexationist, not an assassin. Leave the Mexicans, who have filled the wings
of their national eagle with lead, there... The mixed race is impossible to regenerate...
Not only will it not fly again, but also they have sent it irremediably to perdition..."
     How to explain the popular reception showered on Winfield Scott, the victorious
North American general, when he arrived at the Plaza de la Constitución between
cheers and applause stemming from the balconies replete with aristocrats and a good
part of the moneyed section of the nation? Horrors! Impossible also to forget when he,
precisely the chief of the invading army, was later invited to be converted into nothing
less than the president of Mexico! This is called national solidarity? How was it
possible that many states in the Federation abstained from sending economic resources,
soldiers and arms to defend the invaded country, with the argument that "it is not our
     Rage overflows me. I should end the prologue here in order to explain the facts
such as they unfolded in the sacristies, in the barracks, in the National Palace, at
campaign stops during the war, in the White House, in the Capitol, on the Potomac, at
San Jacinto, and along the Rio Bravo, among so many other places. Many characters,
anecdotes and passages have not been considered with the required profundity in these
pages. I hope to have the opportunity to achieve that in the future. For this occasion,
I only wished to reveal in broad strokes that which occurred and to free myself, insofar
as possible, from the effect caused by the words of my teachers when they related the
great robbery of the 19th century. It was my contact with political impotence.
     We Mexicans do not like to remember when the yankees stole Tejas and deprived
us, aiming a musket at our forehead, of California and Nuevo Mexico, while we were
sprawled on the ground, forehead covered with dust. No, we do not speak or write of
the war against the United States because it produces in us the same sensation of
shame as the fact of recognizing the existence of a murdering brother, or of having
an immense scar on one's face, that she refuses to contemplate in the mirror. Thus it
is better, far better, to live as poisoned, without speaking of the historical trauma,
instead of shouting out our sorrows and complexes daily so as to return to having
     Pardon the omissions. They are involuntary. Pardon. Since I know it is impossible
to understand the nation in our times without knowing the México of the 19th century,
I hurried to tell of it. I was born to tell this; nevertheless, I do not ignore that I leave
the inkwell almost full. Yes, but, on the other hand, I have shouted until exhaustion.
Now, voiceless, I write...

                                                     Francisco Martín Moreno
                                                        Prado Sur, Mexico City
                                                               September of 2004leave

               First chapter
The three-hour revolution

                                               As long as we have Congress
                                               we cannot have progress...
                                                 ANTONIO LÓPEZ de SANTA ANNA

I, yes, I, I saw it all, was present at every one of the events. I lived through the most
diverse experiences alongside the authentic protagonists of history. I saw them
disconsolately mourning the emptiness of the defeat, who with tears flowing and upon
their knees before the beloved woman, moistened the ample cloth of silk suits and gold
brocades, reaching even to the crinolines with their spittle. Their wives or lovers in
turn remained immobilized, petrified. I never saw them trying to stroke the hair of the
powerful leader fallen in disgrace nor did I surprise them piously lowering their gaze
to express the extent of their sorrow. Neither the uncontrollable sobs nor the clenched
fists nor the laments nor the curses nor the invocations to treason, to cowardice and
sloth, convinced them to remove their gaze from the coffered ceiling or animated them
to concede, at least, a word of encouragement before the fiasco of the emperor, the
president or the defeated generals. They impatiently awaited the happy conclusion of
that pathetic explosion of weeping with jaws tightened and gaze averted, perhaps glued
to one of the monumental oils where the victorious deeds are eternalized, the
unconditional surrenders of nations and cities through the symbolic delivery of the gold
keys: only for the moments of unforgettable glory, once woven in silk, will it have been
worthwhile living.
     I was present at battles, bunkered to one side of the artillery, taking part in the
calvary's attack or I covered, together with the lancers, the rearguard retreat. I was
seated, surrounded by military decked in gala outfits, cuff links and stripes of gold,
high patent leather boots and tricolor bands crossing from one side to the other of the
inflated and decorated chests while they explained, in secret code, the details of the
final combat. I heard, at first hand, the revelation of the plans designed by campaign
officials soberly brought together around a table covered with unfolded and worn out
maps, upon which the high command team traced the strategies to be executed in the field
of honor. On other occasions, in elegant salons decorated with multiple flags, I joined
negotiations between distinguished gentlemen with monocles, jokes and levity who, once
the roar of the cannons was silent and without dwelling on the thousands of dead,
injured and mutilated, divided the world supported by the right of the conqueror to make
enormous, rich plans without displaying any more arms than smiles, or perhaps, a pair of
disguised threats and some cups full of bubbling champagne.
     Leaning against the wall or grasping the golden door handles of the palace alcoves
from where a country is governed, I heard, in loud actors' voices, the reasons for their
procedures, their initiatives and their intrigues, which they revealed to their women
while they covered them with kisses or rolled next to them in satin sheets at the same
time exploding in thunderous laughs. What pleasure it is possible to find in the
description of their exploits to reach success, above all if the interlocutor is the
beloved individual or, at least, the woman in whom he tries to produce an ephemeral
enchantment! How much satisfaction the leader gets when he displays his ingenuity, his
astuteness and his talent, like one who unsheathes his refulgent steel sword and
blandishes it about in search of a sonorous ovation so as to leave no doubt whatsoever
of his gratitude to the hardware instrumental in his triumph!
     With the proper opportunity I learned the details of the campaigns: journalists
committed to manipulate public opinion, distort the truth, deceive, awaken the appetite
for riches, justify, finally, actions before they are taken, legitimating them in
anticipation. I uncovered the recruitment of several secret agents, whose mission
consisted of infiltrating into the population and the local authorities of the nation
the advantages of intervening in an armed invasion. I knew of soldiers disguised as
settlers, of pastors in the service of God and of political expansionism, of columnists
become spy provocateurs, dedicated to uprising in the army. I came up against voracious
landowners disguised as diplomats and with shopkeepers, brokers, spuriously contracted
to represent, no less, Mexican affairs. I could participate in true cabals installed
in the interior of cathedrals and churches, where they designed the plans to enable coups
d'etat or finance armed movements against the liberal government dedicated to
expropriating the ecclesiastical goods.
     I was there, to one of side of the inquisitors, seated among the benches of the
church of La Profesa, when the high clergy, owner of lives and ranches in Mexico, named
Agustín de Iturbide to be charged with making Mexico independent of the Spanish
Crown. In this manner, the Catholic Church would not be injured either in its goods nor
in its privileges, as with the Courts of Cádiz. Of course the Mexican priests declare
independence so as not to risk the same fate as their colleagues on the peninsula! Even
more: I was present during the nights, years later, in the vestry, by the light of
enormous Passover votive candles, when the Mexican cardinals, in association with the
North American generals, invaders of the nation, agreed to the surrender of our peoples
and cities in exchange for the United States committing itself to leaving the patrimony
of the Catholic clergy intact. The pulpits and confessionals were good for something...
     I had contact with slave women, whose hatred of everything living, especially if
dealing with white-skinned human beings, was capitalized by the triumph of the cause,
whatever that might be. One of those blacks, precisely, gave to Santa Anna a perfumed
bouquet of wildflowers which hid the most poisonous of the known snakes. I could not
comprehend the treason of distinguished patriots when, suddenly, they appeared defending
the enemy's goals, once convinced, as much of the futility of their struggle in our
country as of the ethical quality of their contemporaries. I confirmed anew the
prospects of the weak confronting the strong; the incontestable power of the powder as
against the arrow; the inefficiency of the word against the laconic voice of the cannons;
the imposition of the law of the bullet above that disposed to codification.
     I discovered, perplexed, the secret plans of the loftiest politicians, especially
the North Americans, to make great territories the property of the neighboring nation. I
trembled before the scope of the lies spilled by supposed goalkeepers of liberty, of
democracy and of law, when they met in their congresses to convince themselves of the
imminence of an armed conflict of which we were entirely innocent... As James Polk,
president of the United States, said in declaring war on Mexico: "After repeated
threats, Mexico has trespassed the frontier of the United States, has invaded our
territory and has drawn North American blood on North American territory." False!
Not a single muscle of his face moved. Lying assailants! Their justification is nothing
more than a vulgar tale.
     I personally checked the pretexts to which the most powerful resorted for advantage
in treachery for splendid goods while incapable of avoiding, at every step, the
scrutinizing eye of history. I was invariably surprised when the illicit actions were
executed in the name, say, of Divine Providence, that supposedly led the settlers by the
hand to the places, lands and enclosures which, according to them, were theirs by
disposition of God... Of course they counted on powerful artillery to demonstrate the
irrefutable validity of their assertion. How can we be resisted--they rationalized--when
a supernatural force uses our armies to fight and deliver to us, thanks to the force of
arms, what was reserved to be our property and will be until beyond eternity? Amen...
We submit to an irrefutable celestial mandate, in the name of which we kill, rob and
take power of what is alien, obeying Superior instructions, removing unproductive goods
from demonstrably useless and clumsy hands to benefit illustrious, worthy and
progressive majorities. Should we feel guilty, perhaps, for having complied punctually
with the desires of the All Powerful? How many crimes have been committed in the name
whether of God or of democracy...!
     I was in the hallway of the president of the Mexican Republic, in the National
Palace, accompanied by liberals and conservatives, purists and radicals. At my side, I
could distinguish the figures of regally attired military, as well as politicians in
dark suits and ties, aristocrats of the Spanish court, Spaniards and natives of
illustrious lineage and ancient ancestry. Nearby, steps away, a group from the Catholic
Church hierarchy stood out dressed in elegant purple-colored gowns, covered with
precious stones, a marked contrast with the humble clothing, collars, pants, and black
coat of the priests recently graduated from the seminary who accompanied them,
instructed to dutifully remain however long on foot and without blinking, flanking with
all respect and in scrupulous silence, their illustrious lordships.
     I could carefully study the behavior of the lofty visitors, analyze their
conversation, evaluate their crossed eyes, balance their responses against the
restlessness of the other interlocutors who, without hiding their growing impatience
after several hours of waiting, consulted the clock, lit their pipe or cigar, correctly
aligned their purse within their jacket pocket or checked the shine of their shoes,
already ready to fulfill the nation's most important office, without imagining, unlike
myself, that the nation's first office, where their destiny would be resolved, had been
temporarily converted to a bedroom, within which the citizen general-president snatched
love from one of the maids, a mulatta overflowing with still firm flesh, young, timid
and fanciful, checked for hygiene and proper cleanliness for such an important venue.
What are they waiting for! To hell with them, for that I exist! I could piss in the face
of those out there and they would still smile because they are incapable of challenging
my powers. They will be sycophantic including any indignity that will permit them to
share in the loot...
     I lived ephemerally in innumerable different countries. I knew the origin of the
events and discovered the identity of the authors of decisions that altered the
direction of rotation of the Earth. Inexpressible intimate fantasies were revealed to me
conceived by the most conspicuous characters of our history. At every opportunity I
noticed the intentions of the protagonists, and also the resources they used to clean up
the facts. I discovered the true motives of the diverse actors. I was present when they
traced, alone or accompanied by their most loyal men, the offensive or defensive
strategies and, nevertheless, I had never dared to speak, to tell all as it was, without
protecting some and reviling the others, without condemning one cause and absolving the
other. I want to spread, explain, describe every one of the instants that I lived. To
make public the secrets, denounce the guilty and eulogize the unknown heroes if they
were. It is time to divulge, to shout with the little strength that still remains to me,
to exhibit, to say, to make my voice race with my own version of events without
contemplation, with the hope that someone, in the future, will edit or correct me, shine
more light and then and only then will we start approaching the truth, a truth which for
the moment only I possess...
     I shall recount without measuring the consequences. Let us begin. I do not ask pardon
in advance. No one deserves that, just as no one, or perhaps very few, deserve neglected
     You, yes, you, who are right here, standing upon that column of white marble and
who was immortalized in bronze with scrutinizing gaze fixed on the immensity of the
southern territory, get ready because you will pass eternity inside a garbage can and
you, who are in the can, thrown mouth downward, covered with excrement, will emerge into
the light and will appear on an equestrian sculpture riding a spirited steed who holds
his front legs up in the air like an honorable remembrance of your demise during the
combat. Hear me well: your ideals have been supplanted by miserable political interests.
And the principles...? Today, like yesterday, they continue to be auctioned to the
highest bidder.

I shall begin my tale, then, choosing at my whim as much the place as the date of the
events that happened. I do not need crutches or documented resources contributed by
third parties or supporting evidence: my voice and my memory are enough, and also my
love of the truth and my desire to elucidate justice for once and for all.
     The place? Havana, in the first days of the month of January of 1846. I still remember
how I walked slowly upon the sand of the sea and traversed the beach with pants rolled
to avoid that the waves, invariably playful, would soak me. I arranged my reasons for
the last time, holding my shoes in the left hand, before arriving at the residence of
Antonio López de Santa Anna, on that Caribbean island, the largest of all the Antilles.
To call him "don" Antonio is to dignify him; to indicate him by his name, Antonio, is
the least that he deserves before reverting to any adjective to characterize his conduct
and confound the reader with an absence of objectivity. May the latter be who dictates
the final verdict.
     Who, with two ounces of brains and a minimal mass of dignity and of foresight,
would have permitted a Santa Anna to newly occupy the Presidency of the Republic, above
all after him being apprehended by Sam Houston in San Jacinto in that remote 1836, when
he took a "siesta" instead of defending the territorial integrity of Mexico? The Treaties
of Velasco, those he signed while imprisoned, on secret terms, behind the backs of the
government and the people of Mexico, to deliver Tejas to the yankees so as not to see
his handsome lush skin injured, did not that constitute a felony without name or limit
and, nevertheless, he returned to place, not once but several more times, the band on
his chest, just as he would do upon returning from the present Cuban exile in August of
1846? How is it possible to accept that after having been shamefully defeated in the war
against the United States of 1846-1848, having suspiciously lost each and every one of
the battles, he still was begged to return in 1853 to the Presidency for the tenth first
time and only so that he could deliver La Mesilla to our hated and admired neighbors of
the north?
     What nation is this, anesthetized, asleep, that permits the sacking of its goods,
the sale of its territories, the bare-face theft of its patrimony and can still embrace
the defrauders of the public treasury, exalt them, honor them and salute them with
pristine civic conviction? What do the Mexican people intend when they reverently flatter
the invaders, calling them North Americans of '46 or the French of '64? To what has civil
resistance been reduced before the armed foreign interventions? To what, to what, to
what...? What was the response from the capital-dwellers when the yankees took the
capital of the Republic at the end of the war in 1847? Perhaps Maximilian would not have
been eternalized in Chapultepec Castle, supported by Napoleon III, had he not felt
obliged to remove the military back-up before the real possibility of a war against
Prussia, a juncture of which Juárez took advantage to shoot the emperor at the
Cerro de las Campanas? What heroic popular exploit, what citizen opposition, fierce or
not, organized or not, was raised against the French invasion, except when national arms
were ephemerally covered with glory in the battle of Puebla of May 5th of 1862? If the
army was defeated, would Mexican society avenge the humiliation and night after night
kill a French soldier, not without previously removing their eyes with the thumbs and
hang them, in the next act, by the feet from the first lamppost... If...?
     It is not my intention to offer prayers for more than the courage to break with the
scheme of order that should prevail in every narration. What to do when fury overwhelms

What was Santa Anna, the famous "15 Nails," doing in Cuba, precisely during that warm
Cuban summer of '46? I would say: he "suffered" one of the exiles he would live in peace
and comfort throughout the length of his extensive political career.
     "Santa Anna could suffer ignominious defeats, dizzily flee as a coward, hide,
capitulate, sign shameful treaties in exchange for the conservation of his handsome
hide, betray his people and foreigners, negotiate in secret with the enemy, grant large
extensions of Mexican territory in exchange for his personal liberty, alter the truth
about his doings, yes, yes, whatever, but he will never lose that interior force, that
personal security, what is necessary to defend, according to him, at all costs, the
interests and the supreme and immaculate glory of the nation. There is the quintessence
of the Latin American boss. He could change his mind and his cause on innumerable
occasions without losing the loyalty of his companions. He will invariably be loved and,
even more, needed and respected."
     No one should lose sight that the dictator is a brilliant expert in distraction of
the public's intelligence, above all when he finds himself in difficulties and political
straits. In those moments the pressure will awaken in him a portentous imagination,
necessary to play with the thousand keys to the realm and study the endless magical
possibilities for exiting successfully from a new onslaught of adversity, the latter, a
silent and cunning player invariably present at every thrust.
     Our seasoned and picturesque character took advantage of another political
juncture in May of 1844 to once more exercise the title to the Presidency of Mexico. He
could be found running his Veracruzian ranch, dedicated to revising political affairs
from a distance and also to spitting tequila in the face of his fighting cocks to measure
their bravery and provoke them before combat. He never suspected that this new
recuperation of presidential power would have as consequence and outcome, the following
year, in 1845, indefinite exile on the island of Cuba, there, where I began my narration.
     On that occasion, a Mexican messenger from Washington presented himself in El
Lencero, his favorite farm, with notice of the annexation of Tejas to the United States.
More concretely: John Tyler, the North American president, had signed a treaty of
annexation with 12 Texian representatives. Of course it lacked, among other juridical
ingredients, ratification by the Congress of the United States, a goal difficult to
achieve, because Tejas would incorporate as a slave state, and with the votes of the
Texian representatives in the yankee Congress, would upset the balance of forces in the
Senate. Only that the intention of theft was there, once again, totally clear upon the
table, next to the golden opportunity required by His Excellency. He had to take complete
advantage of it. Tejas? Of course, Tejas! Let us go to her defense and her rescue... A
posse, yes!
     England played the leading role in Tyler's machinations. The north of the United
States was opposed to English penetration in the southern states because the British
appropriated, eventually, their respective markets... The south, for its part, also
rejected the English meddling, even the commercial, because the United Kingdom was
opposed to slavery. The espionage to opportunistically discover the European plans in
Tejas reach the extremely incredible. They try to impede the annexation and to fight for
the survival of the Republic of Texas.
     The chief in the White House, foreseeing the end of his government, accelerates the
annexationist paperwork without hiding from his cabinet his grave preoccupation with
respect to the English presence and ambitions in the south of the United States. Only
the insatiable British can derail the national project. An arrangement between Great
Britain and Mexico will be absolutely inconvenient for Washington. Let us advance, let
us win the match. The signing and ratification of treaties is imperative also, for why
should I permit Polk, my successor, to get the glory of having annexed Tejas to the
American union? The feat should be mine. The historical credit should come to me, to no
one else... Buy Tejas! Offer money in exchange for those territories! Corrupt the
authorities if necessary! shouted Tyler at the top of his voice: we already are familiar
with the surplus of the inclination among Mexicans to arrange their affairs and their
differences by means of the discreet interchange of bags of money beneath the negotiating
     What should be Mexico's response? Very simple: fight for the re-conquest of Tejas,
our Tejas, with a "j," never Texas a la North American. To state it otherwise or use
another name would constitute a complete blasphemy. No, we shall not sell Tejas to the
United States nor to anyone nor permit it to be stolen. It is a problem of national
honor. Tyler has perversely changed the name of his intentions: in place of annex he
should use the verb, rob. Before the White House concludes its diplomatic and political
plans and we lose Tejas for good, we should deploy our best effort to recover, through
the military route, that northern Mexican state, exceedingly Mexican for as long as
history is history.
     What do the gringos know of principles? They only know of nickels, dimes and
dollars. For them everything is on the market. Everything is a question of money,
no...? It is the same if they piously give you bread, in the manner of a Catholic
charity, or contemptuously throw it at your face... The results are radically different.
Have this! Swallow it and shut up! It should never be forgotten that we dying of hunger
possess dignity. There the French sold them Louisiana and the Spanish abandoned
Florida... For us, to sell a yard of Mexican land is equivalent to selling one of our
children in exchange for a fistful of gold coins.... Is it true that this cannot be
understood by a paleface? How to explain to those bandits, so elegant, the concept of
Mexican honor? It is inaccessible to them, no? Of course: one who contemplates their
life only through the prism of money will never understand it.
     Who felt in the initiatives to recover Tejas a true Pharaoh's task? Santa Anna,
the Meritorious, their indefatigable leader of the "15 Nails" of whom the populace made
fun. And did he not remain with only "15 Nails" when he lost one of his illustrious
limbs in the cause of the Pastry War...? May the sense of humor never falter! Let that
be the last which is lost along with hope...
     If anything could unhinge Santa Anna, His Excellency, it undoubtedly was the
existence of the Congresses, the opposition, the political counterweights pertaining to
a republican structure. In the mind of a dictator it became impossible to allow room for
such liberal and democratic institutions that would dare to challenge his indisputable
authority. How to refute someone who boasts of holding an apodictic title to the truth?
     In that spring of 1844, Santa Anna came out of our story at full gallop from his
ranch in defense of the interests of the Nation. More was not lacking. Good-bye to the
pledge to temporarily remove himself from the duties of president of the Republic. He
comes to power again. Give me back my tricolor sash. He skilfully took advantage of
Tejas' annexationist posture through a vigorous political campaign oriented to rescuing
that territory inherited from our grandparents. Shall we lose what is ours without
resisting...? Are we going to permit it to be ripped from us...?
     Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, the son of the priest José María Morelos y
Pavón, Mexico's minister to the government in Washington, lets Santa Anna know
that Mexico would have, in case of war with the United States, two and a half million
slaves, indians, abolitionists, in addition to the northeastern states which would
separate from the Union and add to the Mexican cause. The emissary is mistaken. His
Excellency is emboldened. Both agree that if the North American Senate should arrive at
approving the treaty of annexation, Almonte should protest with all severity, get his
passports from Tyler's government, close the embassy and return to Mexico.

The pretext utilized by Santa Anna to take power once more and again assume the
Presidency of the Republic, came to operate with perfection from a political viewpoint.
He returns from El Lencero to Mexico City on June 3rd of 1844, when he perceives the
precise moment to be crowned by the nation with golden laurel branches. He counted on a
delirious experience to detect the suitable opportunity for re-emergence. I offer
proofs from previous years of his ability to profit from whatever juncture presented
itself. For example:
     In 1829, Spain tried for the last time to recover Mexico, the great jewel in the
Crown, by means of arms. General Barradas, the chief of the Spanish naval expedition,
which was practically destroyed by a hurricane and other calamities, all of them
natural, such as tropical diseases, without having logged much more here than three
skirmishes in Tampico, Santa Anna winning not one battle, not one, yet however he wins
the war and takes advantage of the geographic and climatic juncture to hold himself
the indisputable victor.
     "The Savior of the Nation" constructs his prestige on lies. The mosquitoes, the
storms, the water quality, hunger, the vomit, the diarrhea, the erroneous crossfire
between the Mexican troops themselves, brought down more than all the Santannist bullets
put together. Was he not garlanded with the title of the Meritorious of Tampico, even
when he committed all kinds of stupidities that cost we Mexicans the gain of our
independence and prolonged, once more, our subjection to the Spanish Crown headed by an
also stupid man, as was Ferdinand VII? It can never be forgotten that he was almost taken
prisoner by the enemy, just as would occur years later in the battles fought in Tejas
against the North Americans, only that there they apprehended him in his new role of
general-president of the Republic. The intelligent spin of an error is equal to a
thousand triumphs...
     More? In 1838, ten years after the invasion by Barradas, when the Pastry War
occurred, with the famous French blockade of Veracruz and our man losing his left leg
during the bombardment, did he not know how to awaken the pity and tenderness of the
nation so that she would extol him, depicting him once again as a hero, now the
Meritorious of Veracruz, for having been mutilated in combat? A complete master
autodidact in the arts of opportunism. He lost the battle yet gained glory and public
commiseration, while meanwhile he substantially increased his political capital. It is
impossible to forget the text of the decree with which his historic decoration was

     The commander in chief wore on his breast a shield and cross of stones, gold and
     enamel, with two crossed swords, a crown of laurels interlaced in them, and at the
     point of intersection by the edge the following inscription: To general Antonio
     López de Santa Anna, for his heroic valor on December 5th of 1838, the Nation
     Recognizes. The shield is on a ribbon, the cross hanging from a buttonhole of his
     coat, the former celestial blue...

Of course the Nation remained in doubt with its son mutilated in the campaign. There
would be plenty of time to award and recognize his sacrifice. The Mexicans, ultimately,
compensate their politicians fallen in disgrace with raises, awarding them consolation
prizes as absurd as they are generous and suicidal.
     He returns again to the Presidency flying the Texian flag. Did Tejas matter to the
Meritorious? Of course it did! His only goal consisted in returning to power by popular
acclamation. That the people would ask for him in shouts. The festive receptions, the
cannon salvos fired by the artillerymen dressed in gala, the hot air of entire battalions,
a general pealing of bells and peasants' cowbells, the florid arches with his name
written with red roses, the musical bands, the ovations, the straw hats as well as
the felt ones flying through the air, the nightsticks and the overflowing enthusiasm
of the riffraff and the lepers, moved to tears whenever he returned to Veracruz to
sacrifice for the Nation, the same one he had lost, newly on his knees, his
reincarnation as the country's guide...
     Later they could overthrow him or revoke the mandate: his real challenge consisted
in returning to the Presidency as often as he wanted, imposing himself on his enemies,
overcoming prejudices, defeating the opposition, adversity and the most elementary
sanity. The conduct of the gambler. He could be with or against everyone. He would put
the sash on his chest whenever he pleased, taking advantage of the political current
in vogue, whether or not he believed in it. Ideological principles? None! Thirst for
eternal glory in the heights? Everything! Nothing would deprive him of the sensation of
weightlessness upon feeling himself a complete eponymous hero. Later he would retire to
El Lencero to pursue mulattas, to place his hand beneath their skirts or down the
neckline or to pursue them eagerly through the furrows between the banana trees. Is it
not true that to harass women, here, in the recalcitrant tropics, is to certain men the
best opportunity that life grants us, naturally not to all, just to the chosen, to
reconcile ourselves with the sorrows pertaining to our existence...?
     Santa Anna had been chosen, for the second time, president of the Republic and in
accord with the Basic Law, should have started the five years of his mandate on February
1st of 1844 but, as always, he had retired to his ranch to enjoy the aromas of the
Veracruz countryside without having taken possession of his elevated position and
having named as substitute president, Valentín Canalizo. It was nothing new: in
1833, the year of his first election, he had not presented himself either, to take an
oath to defend and protect the laws in his role as chief of the nation, in the framework
of a solemn ceremony. Nothing. At root, he will not swear anything before anybody
because he detests the existence of the Congress, abhors the ideology of the legislators
and becomes infuriated by their legal capacity to oppose his determinations. No, he did
not participate, among other reasons, at the plenum of the Legislative Power, as a clear
manifestation of disdain for the political position and the constitutional force of the
popular representatives. One year later he will close the Chambers, will dissolve them
as a proof of his authority. A coup d'etat. Of course it is a coup d'etat. Bumpkins!
Yokels a thousand times!
     He dictates. Imposes. Decides in a thunderous voice so that the subjects, his
subjects, not the citizens, will bow their heads before his egregious figure and
unconditionally accept the irrevocability of his decisions. His disgust with the new
Congress inflames him. He will not tolerate any type of limitations. Whoever dares to
contradict him will go to an underground prison or face a firing squad... Bureaucratic
distinctions enrage him... And his cocks? And El Lencero, the balumba, the chuchumbé,
the siquisirí, the marimbas, the horns, the zapateado and the mulattas? Ah, yes,
the revelry is much better than convening with insolent legislators who oppose offering
him concessions and refuse to give way when they meet him in some aisle.
     Until the 4th of June of that same 1844, four months later, and supposedly for the
Texian cause, he decides to exercise the position to which he has been elected as titular
president of the Republic, a political and juridical personality who, on the other hand,
many legislators, journalists and diplomats had refused to recognize taking into account
the military objectives for which he had returned to his ranch. If he is to return to
public life, as His Excellency irately alleges, it is undoubtedly for Tejas, Tejas, Tejas,
the thorn he has embedded in his soul since the disaster of San Jacinto, eight years
previously... In reality he seeks to return to impose his law, order to his liking. No
one respects Canalizo. Power slips from him like fine sand through the fingers of his
hand. The political decomposition can reach he himself very soon. It is the time to
intervene, to distract society with the threat of the war against Tejas, while His
Excellency calls together the "lost" legislators and journalists and "convinces" them of
the primacy of his plans with resort to different tactics, warnings and blackmail meant
to "lead them afresh along the road to the good and the truth..."
     He will know how to subject the rebel and deviant legislators distracting their
attention for the moment, by initiating a military campaign resembling that of El Álamo
in 1836, to recover the territories of the north about to be irreparably lost. He would
settle accounts during the march. Nevertheless, he was seriously mistaken if he thought
he would find an obsequious Congress and a press pliable to his suggestions and stunts...
     The estimated cost for the Texian campaign of 1844 was up to 22 million pesos,
almost double all the revenue of the State which was actually only twelve million. In the
press, in the streets, at the elegant soirées, on the streets of Mexico City, it is
said: "It is much better to sell Tejas, an uninhabited territory that has yielded us
nothing and obtain millions of dollars like those which France charged when she sold
Louisiana to the United States, than to fight a war without arms, without soldiers,
without money, and above all, with the immense danger of losing the entire country...
It is more intelligent to make a good deal than to fight a useless war... This is one
more maneuver by that little bastard to assume power again by taking advantage of the
apathy of our people... And now he is going to profit politically from Tejas. The
fool...! We do not even have for a scrap of steak to celebrate Independence day and
there that laughingstock wants to march to Tejas without powder and without an army...
If we fight a war for the rescue of Tejas the losses will never justify the gains in
the remote case that we happen to win it... Instead of using the money for the war,
let us use it to reconstruct and unite the nation."
     The Santannist threats appear: "Foreigners found within a league of the left bank
of the Rio Bravo will be executed as traitors." The draconian measures begin. The
warnings become deeds: in the month of June near Matamoros, a band of pirates en route
to the Yucatán is arrested. They clearly had trespassed over the border. In accord
with the instructions and, as an exemplary measure, the Mexican troops under the charge
of Pedro Ampudia, a Cuban 42 years of age, subjects the intruders to be shot after a
summary, very summary judgment. The chief of the expedition, Francisco Sentmanat, of
French origin, receives special treatment: he is decapitated with the objective of
exhibiting the head fried in oil on the Public Plaza of San Juan Bautista, as a lesson to
future pirates in the case, not remote, of new incursions.
     --No little gueros, we are neither little courts not little judges dressed in black
with great white collars, eh?--taunted lieutenant Enrique Araujo, charged with the
     --Didn't you cross the line drawn by my general Ampudia? 
     --Je suis perdú, monsieur...
     --But you crossed it, no, little monsieur?
     --Je ne sais pas.
     --Then screw you.
     --Que ce que c'est ça screw you...?
     --You will know right away.
     --Decapitate him! --were the orders of my general Ampudia--. Thus you will learn
not to mess with Mexicans or will have the need to learn Spanish... For what
already... To see whether when they cut off your head it continues with the same
chicken's ass to keep talking...
     One of the fundamental ingredients to initiate a war and also, one of the essential
to win it, is without doubt economic capacity, the financial fortress of the government
to militarily face an enemy, and more so, if the adversary is nothing less than the
United States. The national treasury in 1844 was not only broke, such as had occurred
since the first months of independence from Spain, but also was in the hands of the
speculators, given that even customs taxes were found to be mortgaged to creditors,
primarily English. Which institution possessed abundant resources? The Church. Only that
it would not extend credit, at least under duress, and in whose case, whoever would
threaten the sacred ecclesiastical patrimony would not wait long to notice severe
consequences for their conduct, neither in hell nor in purgatory, but right here on
Earth. Alternatives? His Excellency tried to increase taxes empowering unimaginable
tributary sources with the sole objective of being able to finance an armed conflict
against a power which, in 1812, had come to defeat no less than England and which, in
1836, for one reason or another, had also demolished part of the Mexican army headed by
Santa Anna at San Jacinto. The signals were clear and evident...
     The Mexican Caesar, newly installed, resolves that the four million pesos solicited
from Congress are insufficient. Ten are required, yes, at least ten million pesos so
that Tejas, our Tejas, will continue to be Mexican. The Congress refuses to accept such
exactions. If one wants to incite a country, in an irritating monologue, to subsequent
violence, they only should absurdly increase the rates of tribute and direct the resources
gathered, with so much effort, into the pockets of the military responsible for executing
the war budget. Can you imagine fraudulently inflating the war accounts or spending the
taxes collected with so much sacrifice from the citizenry on non-existent equipment?
     The congresspersons displayed considerable courage in their determination to defend
the autonomy and sovereignty of the Legislative Power, permanently held hostage by the
military who control the Executive. Iturbide arrested the deputies reverting to the
force of the army. Thus he ended his days... Neither Guadalupe Victoria nor Vicente
Guerrero committed a similar error. Bustamante did not go beyond threats backed up by
Lucas Alamán. Santa Anna orated saying the following: "As long as we have a Congress,
we have no hope for progress..." Apparently he has no compunction about closing the
legislative precincts despite having promised never to work against them again...
     Despite the economic and financial breakdown and the real possibility of
confronting a war, on June 13th of 1844, the day of Saint Anthony, His Excellency
organizes an opulent dinner of more than 800 persons drawn from the political and social
elite of Mexico. They arranged massive street demonstrations to demonstrate to him the
sincere affection of his people. "The masses, gathered in the square, wore hats
decorated with blue and white bows with the following inscription: 'Viva religion and
the noble Santa Anna.' Sinners had to keep them on, if the priest, by way of penance,
condemned them, additionally, to pray three or more Our Fathers. The gathering reached
its maximum expression when Santa Anna appeared on the balcony of the National Palace,
while the churches delivered their bells in waves and organized, in his honor, masses
of thanks in the cathedral, as in the churches and parishes of the nation. They would
never be able to forget that during one of these celebrations he had been named
Protector of the Nation."
     The agitation, in general, spread like a spark in a pile of pine branches, above all
when the money squeezed from a fed up, tired and exploited people who were told to pay
taxes in a per capita amount of 20 pesos, compared with 11 in England, seven in Holland
and four in Spain, was not even spent as promised. Betrayal. The word that every Mexican
has on the tip of her tongue. The national press stokes the bonfire through the newspapers
Siglo XIX, La Abeja and El Jalisciense, when they ask in their pages, "What are they
doing with those taxes...? Where are they going to give away our taxes, among others,
those we pay through every door, every window and for every dog who guards the home...?
The governors comprise a cabal of crooks, thieves..."
     The contributors know that their effort is wasted. The military openly dispose for
personal ends the poor collection achieved through painful sacrifices. Without
euphemisms: the tributes charged are stolen without stopping to think of the grave
national contingency. And the urgency? And the outstanding financial shortages? I have
told you to shut up! But if the money was to rescue Tejas... No...? Shut up, damn it!
They profit without the least scruple from the hopes and good will of the citizenry. Was
the nation not in danger? Who is going to believe in authority in the future? Tejas?
Properly speaking, who cares about Tejas...? It is only a Santannist political banner
for the mobilization of the masses and an effective tool for him to consolidate himself
in power. If the governors swindle society in moments of clear national contingency,
this attempt against civic confidence with the passage of time will become skepticism,
apathy or violence. Which reaction is the riskiest...?

The rejection of their tributary strategy could not be more evident. He does not manage
to convince, because he tries to achieve it democratically, without imposing his
viewpoints with a fist or reverting to shouts or to intimidating threats. Santa Anna
senses his defeat with an unerring sensibility. El Lencero, how about returning to El
Lencero...? He notices with his sophisticated canine sense of smell the approach of
problems of a high degree of complexity, the horror of negotiation instead of the
infinite advantages of imposition. Who invented these Congresses and consensus when
everything can be resolved with a whip or club slammed opportunely on the desk...? In
the case of the idiots the first attempt to relocate them on the good road through
bribery or the invitation to occupy a high public position was always fitting, thus
facilitating access for them to power and to money. If one dealt with an intransigent he
could be accused of treason at any institution, imposing on him without prior judgment
a long stay in Ulúa, in a pestilent hole without view of the sea or, in the best of
cases, cordially invite them to place their backs against the wall and wait a few
instants until the echo of the thunderous discharge echoes over the immensity of the
     "15 Nails" only lacked a good pretext to retire with due dignity from the
Presidency again, to abandon it and go once more on horseback throughout the perfumed
Veracruzian countryside. He had only been three months in the National Palace and was
already asphyxiated by bureaucratic problems lacking in glamor... Tejas, the reason for
his return and the justification for displacing Canalizo, the puppet, in a 19th century
Maximato, can wait. Tejas? Ah, yes, later! How to justify his exit this time or,
perhaps, his flight from power? Chance, another mute and invisible protagonist,
returned to take part in the game bringing about an unexpected, opportune, tragic,
and irreversible solution.
     In the same manner in which, only three months previously, that magical messenger
had placed in his hands, at the crucial moment, the notice of the annexation of Tejas to
the United States, in the same fashion another herald, an old employee of the family,
his face contrite and twisted, mute, with a glassy stare, trembling pulse, dressed in
strict mourning with a black velvet suit, high boots and a hat with feathers of the same
color, placed in His Excellency's hands, without saying anything, a small white envelope
decorated with a fine black border. Only the president's name, written in very small
characters, with splendid calligraphy, appeared in the lower left hand margin.
     Santa Anna observed the wrapper. He turned his head to obtain some information from
the envoy's face, a man in his confidence won through consistent loyalty. The latter
then lowered his gaze. He avoided that of his patron, who had difficulty breathing and
remaining standing. Who, who is no longer? He would have wanted to shake the man by his
short lapels, who perhaps had come to take away his peace forever.
     --Who is gone..., he added in a now faltering voice, paralyzed by fear.
     Silence. Trembling of lips. Mortality had been so treacherous and cruel to him... He
fixedly stared at the envelope. He did not remove his gaze. What new reality did that
short note hold? Only two or three lines could modify his luck. Impossible to touch it.
It would remain defiant upon the desk. If he did not read it, would it then not change
his destiny? Where would he find the courage to open it? The famous military hero is
found seated there, cowed, incapable of sinking the letter opener into a corner of the
damned envelope. Upon doing so his life would change forever. Forever? What is such
terminology in the mouth of Antonio López de Santa Anna? Was not His Excellency
the friend of the people, cities, persons and societies, and even of the nation as a
whole? How could he be left so intimidated when he dictated the destiny of millions of
men and women?remain
     He dispatched the messenger with a brief motion of his wrist. He bolted the door.
With a double key he closed the carved oak door that enclosed the presidential office.
He instinctively checked his perfectly shined boots. He looked out the window. He had
rarely seen the Plaza so clean. He paused observing the equestrian statue of Carlos IV
magisterially executed by Tolsá. At those moments who would be interested that that
Spanish sovereign had ceded the throne of Spain to Napoleon and, thereby, had
unintentionally propelled the explosion of Mexico's first independence movement. Who...?
     Tolsá, Carlos IV and his most beloved Napoleon, with all his incredible battles
and his empire, could well go at that moment to hell itself. Let us see who dared to
read the letter?
     I am capable, he said to himself, of forcibly challenging every one of the Mexican
generals, of attacking the entire yankee army, of defeating each one of the Texian
annexationists by sword, of dueling a thousand Sam Houstons if it were necessary, yet
for the love of God, do not make me open that envelope. I am not strong enough...
     He went around and around the desk like one seeking to cling to an object,
something, whatever, before drowning. He sat down. He breathed deeply. He remained
immobile for a while and finally took in his hands a black obsidian letter opener with
the national crest engraved in the silver sleeve. No sooner had he read two lines than a
pair of large hands held him by the throat preventing his breathing. He suffocated.
Inés, no, no, Inés. His wife had been left defeated by a mortal pneumonia. It was
August 23rd of 1844 when the cathedral bells slowly rang in tune with a macabre
tolling. The clergy was well informed. Inés had died, they well knew, comforted,
blessed and with every spiritual aid.
     Santa Anna supported his head on the cover of his desk. His aspect was that of a
suicide who had tried one shot. He let his arms fall to the sides of the chair. He
remained thus for a long time as if he were recalling all the memories of his fruitful
matrimonial relationship. The laughter, the perfumes, the texture of that bewitching
skin, the breath of rosewater, the imperceptible touch of her invariably naive little
fingers, the unjustifiable innocence at her age, the maternal feeling, Toño. Toño, not
here, since the children and the employees, you know, mattered little to the general-
     He recovered slowly. He let his tears fall. Very soon all the bells of the basilicas,
churches, parishes, monasteries, and convents would call to mourning. In every office
of government, companies, schools, businesses, studies, and newspapers black crepe
appeared. The entire country dressed in mourning. The flags were indefinitely lowered
to half-mast over the entire centralist Republic. The pain, intense and constant, pursued
him day and night, to the extent of having to retire once more to his El Lencero ranch
to cry of his sorrowful loss alone... The needed pretext had become a present fact. And
the campaign for Tejas for which he had returned to the Presidency? And the unfailing
defense of the supreme patriotic interests? And the initiative of tribute collection? And
the open resistance of the Congress and the cover-up by the Catholic Church? And the
mutilated Country? Ah, yes, the Nation, yes, yes, very well, let it wait: I am going with
my sorrow to the Veracruz countryside to miss my Inés, Inés. Ay Inés! Why are you
gone...? Surely I shall find you in the valley, in the mangrove swamp, knitting a new
shawl while you swing from the branch of an oak tree, reading beneath the protective
shade of the oilcloth, forgetting oneself in the woods or asking that the mature avocados
be cut or, better, preparing some enmolados with hot sauce, the favorites of the Prez,
or making tamarind juice to help tolerate the tropical heat...
     My general, and the Presidency...?
     Ah, yes, that too...! I shall see to it that Canalizo comes back.
     --Have them saddle my horse. Have it be La Morena: I shall not travel by carriage.
I want to breathe the pure air of Puebla. I shall go to El Lencero along the route of
     His beloved and legitimate wife, adored mother of his children, had died after 19
years of happy matrimony. When they both married, he was 31 years old and she only 16.
How he had adored that exquisite and virtuous woman! He never thought he would own the
strength necessary to be able to support his painful passage through life, a weight
similar to that which he carried as best he could, the black day of the battle of San
Jacinto... Where would he find the strength necessary to resist a similar sorrow? To
such an extreme went the sensation of emptiness and of loss of such an enthusiastic,
loyal and devoted companion throughout the better part of his life, mourning impossible
to convey, that after only a month and a half later, that is, six weeks later, victim of
terrible sorrow, with 50 years on his account, he returned to contract nuptials, this
time with María Dolores de Tosta, who herself counted only 15 years of age and
who, defying all the predictions with regard to the duration of the happy link, would be
the woman who will bury His Most Serene Highness, in the most pathetic solitude after
suffering true attacks of diarrhea, now beginning the year 1876, during the government
of Lerdo de Tejada.
     It is known that Santa Anna's marriage took effect on October 3rd of that same
1844. In the same way that he failed to appear to take possession as president of the
Republic, he similarly was absent at his second nuptials. Once don Juan de Dios
Cañedo had been empowered for matrimonial effects, he organized, at a distance, a
lavish religious ceremony and a sumptuous banquet to entertain his invitees, the most
select and distinguished of the era's high society. Meanwhile, he, installed in his El
Lencero ranch in Veracruz, his native state, successfully tried to escape from funerary
recollections and from the sorrow of mourning, employing a singularly lovely girl in
raising fighting cocks, whom he discovered one happy afternoon while the beautiful
mulatta passed in full flight in front of him with her shoulders exposed and a colored
skirt, carrying a leaf loaded with green plantains, until losing her among the
interminable alleys of banana vendors.
     Even in the printing of the nuptial invitation the hand of the boyfriend could be
seen, as excited as he was absent from the wedding:

     On Thursday the 3rd of October, at seven o'clock in the evening, the wedding will
     be celebrated, in the main salon of the National Palace, of the Most Excellent
     Señor Constitutional President of the Republic, division general, Meritorious
     of the Nation, don Antonio López de Santa Anna, with the Most Excellent madam
     señora Dolores de Tosta. The interim president, division general don
     Valentín Canalizo, who has the honor of presenting, begs You to add luster to
     such an august ceremony with your personal attendance.

The first intimate encounter between an inexpert young girl, timid, ignorant and curious
and a gentleman stud jackass who had already come around at least ten times in the arts
of seduction and in knowledge of the bed, matrimonial or not, is an experience worthy of
being told and re-created to the extent of departing at least a few paragraphs from
historical and political narration and of dedicating a few lines as a brief homage to
this happy pair... Is there perhaps a more important experience in the life of people?
     Like all tropical Veracruzians, López de Santa Anna will need fancy footwork
to demonstrate that he is a great fighting cock... For did not he look like the
grandfather of María Dolores or Lola, Lolita, Lola...? We shall see...
     --Take a good look and shut your snouts, envious ones!
     The young girlfriend, doña Lola, was immediately sent to the president of the
Republic before the dance would conclude and the artificial torches be lit. The last
course of the banquet had not been removed nor had the many-layered cake of white
meringue between the illustrious representative and the girl been cut, when an elegant
assistant to His Excellency had already spoken to a caretaker of doña Dolores
requiring her presence in the personal carriage of the chief of the Mexican State.
She still heard the chords of the war band when she hurriedly crossed the patio of
honor, almost hanging off the arm of the chief assistant, on her way to the central
door of the National Palace.
     --Are we traveling at night?--asked the young wife without hiding her preoccupation.
     --Yes, ma'am...
     --And the bandits of the Rio Frío and those on all the roads leading to
Veracruz? What happens if we meet up with the devil Manuel Domínguez?
     --Do not worry, my lady: they know too well that if they attack this carriage it
will be the last act of their lives. They carefully choose their victims so as to rob
them without major consequences... The emblem with the national eagle on the door is
unmistakable, furthermore, we know all the pirates down to their little fingers...
     --And my parents...?
     --I have instructions--countered the official without hiding a sardonic smile--to
move you all to El Lencero at your earliest convenience - his evasive language was
     --And when will that be...?
     --When mister President so resolves.
     Love, love, I know too well that we have our whole lives ahead, but today, today I
need you at my side more than ever... Come, come, fly to this glorious nest that the
larks of the fields have made every day for you... Do you hear their song? It is yours,
the same as the starlight...
     Santa Anna waited for doña Dolores with all his retinue of assistants at the
outer door of the residence of the ranch at El Lencero. The nannies were there, the
women with keys, the maids, the cooks, the pickers, the horsemen, the rooster men, the
ranchers, the trios, the musicians, the harpists, the machete men, the peasants and the
peons, all in formation with their heads uncovered awaiting their new patrona. They had
been duly instructed to hide the slightest presence of mourning. Will she be like lady
Inéz? Will she like the countryside or be a city dweller and lover of cards? Will
she think we are her slaves and kick us around?
     The president dressed completely in white: pants and long-sleeved shirt with some
cuff links with brilliant rubies and emeralds, the colors of the tricolor flag. His attire
contrasted with a red kerchief knotted around his neck and, always obligatory, his three-
square hat, his favorite, the most well-known in his land. He had paid special attention
to his boots of the same cut and aspect, equally white, so that in no case could it be
distinguished which of his legs was made of wood.
     Finally, after various hours of waiting, which were possible to bear thanks to a
permanent supply of lime water, he made his triumphal entrance into the carriage in
which doña Dolores traveled. The season of abundant rains kept the presidential vehicle
from raising enormous clouds of dust in its wake. In the distance could be heard the
whiplashes of the driver upon the sore flanks of the black beasts. Ay, if only they
dared to use an animal of a different color...!
     When the horses stopped, one of my general-president's assistants opened the small
door of the carriage so that the first lady of Mexico would descend. The comments
regarding her age would be punished with moist and strenuous lashes. Mrs. Dolores
allowed to be seen, before anything else, a show stitched from pistachio-colored silk
and upon descending revealed a great dark green hat confected with various eyelets from
which hung a transparent veil that covered her entire face. At that moment five marimbas
brought from the port especially for the occasion began to play. Her regal dress, also
of silk, covered with pleats to adjust the waist according to the young anatomy of that
woman, almost a girl, shone impressively thanks to the great volume of crinolines. The
pronounced neckline permits observing the birth of some radiant breasts, saturated,
obsequious to the viewer, who had better be careful not to be discovered during that
necessary free espionage, in his role spent until his termination recovering, from the
presidential bedroom, every morning and after the siesta, the full chamberpots of
doña Lola and of His Excellency.
     The first lady extended her gloved hand to president Santa Anna, who received it
with exquisite courtesy between his people, at the same time presenting her, with
elemental chivalry, a brief genuflection, followed by a reverent inclining of the head.
Santa Anna abstained from kissing that fragile extremity, for he was only disposed to
concede such homage when bare hands were offered him. In no case would he make an
exception; not even in dealing with his own wife. The forms were the forms. The etiquette
manuals were the etiquette manuals and would have to be respected as if they dealt with a
     A silent exchange of glances between them was then produced. Searching looks, avid,
timorous, curious, defiant. Neither of the two uttered a single word. The dust played
around their shoes. Indeed the illustrious señora had a virginal expression. The
citizen chief of the Nation took between his hands the first lady's right and, placing
it on the back of his left, like one about to dance a waltz, parsimoniously led her
towards the interior of the handsome mansion. For an instant the lover thought of
grasping the beloved firmly between his arms, but he remembered his wooden leg, and
imagining a scandalous fall with his woman in an embrace, was caused to desist in his
plans. A loss of dignity of such proportions could not be permitted. He ridiculous?
Never! Much less on this day at this hour...
     The enormous group of employees thought it obvious that the first official act of
the pair would consist in a visit around the estate where, above all, he would show off
his roosters to doña Dolores, one of the great prides of his existence, but the scene
concluded when both entered the largest, most luminous habitation directly, which
opened onto the main patio. The curtain fell for all the assistants and the curious with
a loud door slam. They would know nothing of Mrs. Lola for at least three days.
     Santa Anna's very young lady awaited a glass of lime or rice water, a shot of sherry
or tequila to give her strength, a brief refreshment, a tub bath as comforting as
healing, something, perhaps an exchange of opinions regarding the wedding in the
National Palace, the banquet, the party itself, the decorations, the musical band, the
comments of the invitees, the first dance as married hearing the pair's favorite piece,
while she was taken and rhythmically embraced throughout the length and width of the
salon by don Juan de Dios Cañedo. All that would have fit within the terms of a formal
conversation, but no; once alone, López de Santa Anna began by removing his hat while
he spoke of the heavy trip from Mexico City. In the next act he slowly removed, one by
one, his gloves. The more she clearly noticed the intentions of her husband, the more
anecdotes and recent passages she recited with great rapidity to cover up her nervousness
and gain courage. Indeed she would be going to need it...!
     --In my father's cart--said the first lady--the potholes were intolerable, above all
during the rainy season. You arrived at you destination with your back in pieces--she
kept babbling while the Mexican Caesar, standing, turned delicately so as to unbutton
his suit.
     To whom, with ten million curses, thought His Excellency, did it occur to cover
these little buttons with cloth? I need the little fingers of a 15 year-old to be able
to open them...
     Little by little, and with patience, they were conceding while she jumped from one
subject to another no longer having the slightest doubt about her immediate fate.
     When Santa Anna finished the torture of the buttons, he pulled his clothes down
while Dolores instinctively covered her chest. The president then knelt before his
woman--as he had done once or a thousand times?--and she lifted first one leg and then
the other until disengaging totally from her dress. Doña Dolores did not stop talking.
On occasion she closed her eyelids as if sending prayerful thoughts to the heavens.
     The husband engaged again when the lovely youth shared her fears concerning thieves
and how they comforted her in Mexico City so she would have no doubts regarding her
     --More buttons? thought His Excellency in furious silence when he discovered that,
in addition to the slip and the crinolines, he still would have to fight a mortal duel
against a corset that subjected and enhanced her trunk and bust and, at the same time,
outlined the shape of the waist, and all that, together with the thousand laces he would
have to untie, seemed to be a conspiracy perfectly laid by Lucifer during a night of
insomnia with the sole and precise goal of causing him to despair and his inspiration to
     Yet nothing would stop Santa Anna. No one had been born or would be born who could
contain him. One by one he untied the laces of the corset until it fell at the feet of
the maiden, who remained with her back to the leader. He well knew that the slip was
generously low-cut and when Lola were to turn at those moments he would discover the
handsome fate that destiny provides for its spoiled sons. He abstained from making her
turn. She stuttered and repeated anecdotes without noticing who she was denying. She
could simply insist on whatever passage she pleased because His Excellency did not hear
or pay attention to her tales nor would he be able to repeat a single one of the subjects
that had formed part of her conversation. Conversation...? In every case: monologue...
     Behind lady Dolores, the president of the Republic subtly caused the last of the
petticoats, the damned petticoats, to descend. It only remained to remove the diminutive
panties decorated with small pink monkeys, seams and frills exquisitely sewn on the
garment for the surprise and fascination of her fortunate mate. Antonio saw nothing.
Absolutely nothing. All that he noticed was the skin, the color and the texture of the
skin. The exquisite sweat, sometimes icy, the uncontrollable humidity, the enervating
aromas, the demonstrations of the language of that clearly untouched body. O, marvels of
     The chief of the Nation, elected by the majority of the Congress, was perhaps
unaware of falling to his knees beside his nymph. She kept silent without removing her
arms from her chest while she continued compulsively biting her lips. His Excellency
then embraced her legs from behind. He kissed the edge of her knickers and her back,
while turning to the task of libidinously disengaging her from the last hiding place
where she could hide her shame. On feeling as if his own heart was near exploding close
to her chest, he decided to persist, to continue to bury his thumbs between the slip and
her skin, yes, yes, that skin whose pores awakened to the passing of his expert fingers.
Thus the most delicate part of the feminine wardrobe was descending until reaching the
floor itself. Without receiving greater instruction, doña Lola raised her feet, one
by one, until remaining completely nude with her eyes tensed, firmly tightened and
respiration scarcely contained.
     If at least they had arrived from Mexico City at night and the slight light of an
oil lamp had facilitated the outcome. If one had not suffered so much brusqueness.
Brusque? Well he was never brusque, Antonio could not have been more careful and
delicate. Hasty? Alright. Brusque? In no case. Lady Lola needed a preamble, something to
set the scene, compose the time, decorate it, suggest it, to be lived deliberately,
leaving at least space to breathe and prepare herself before a lovely episode so much
discussed, imagined, fantasied, feared, and desired...
     Antonio continued to embrace her from behind kissing her buttocks. I saw it, I saw
it, no one told me this. Know it, know how it was. After several moments, His Excellency
stood up while lady Lola's skin again became populated with small pearls of sweat. It
was then when he took her by the shoulders and made her face him. She covered her body
with her hands, extending her hands. She would have had to have a hundred arms and a
hundred hands to cover her lovely anatomy that for the first time a man could enjoy in
all its splendor. She tried to embrace the president but he stopped her. He wanted to
contemplate the most beautiful being in all creation and fill his eyes forever with those
images he would never forget. He perused her completely to admire her. Now indeed time,
history and existence could slow down. Tejas? To hell with Tejas or Texas, whatever...!
     Finally ever more intense embraces and kisses arrived. Doña Lola did not know how
to kiss. She had never done it. Yet she reckoned with a good teacher. Open the mouth,
yes...? Loosen the lips, do not squeeze them, moisten them, release the tension, let
eyelids fall, give yourself over, release, my life, you will be very beautiful, you
shall see.
     Just as a French philosopher said: you can have everything in life but nothing
more... This is included because when Antonio took her by the shoulders and delicately
pushed her until seating her on the bed while he, for his part, let down his Veracruzian
garb, at that precise instant he noticed, horror of horrors, an absence of the masculine
response to make that woman vibrate with shock, curiosity, desire, and surprise, the
whole set of crossed emotions that led to confusion and to pleasure.
     The president, who during the previous foreplay has clearly considered that
fleeting limitation, ignored such a circumstance to distract attention from what
threatened to be a scandalous shipwreck. It would be something passing, inexplicable,
yet in the end, passing. If at least he had perceived a negative signal, a bad odor,
disagreeable breath, but everything about her emitted a heliotropic aroma. Apparently,
the mother of lady Dolores or some aunt or friend had instructed her in detail in the
most exquisite aspects of feminine hygiene and delicacy. Such that there there was
nothing. Where then? How to blame her...?
     Santa Ana removed his pants while lady Lola, like an angora cat, lying down, turned
discreetly towards the window. How beautifully shone Mount Orizaba! It was the best view
in the illustrious habitation. With two expert kicks of his wooden leg His Excellency
undressed, leaving his left stump exposed at the height of the knee. In an instant he
too remained completely naked surrounded by nothing more than the brass structure of the
bed. Yes, yes, but the commanding wand, the most intimate symbol of his power, the
depository of his virility, the origin of his strength, was found to be deficient, worn
out, indifferent, apathetic, exhausted, dying, lost, and absolutely mute and unmotivated.
Kissing his woman would not help, whether he rode her, whether he invited her to all
sorts of maneuvers that she, being the first time, executed with true horror: nothing.
Absolutely nothing. The man did not react. He excused himself. I am going to the
bathroom, love. Wait for me, I shall return soon...
     Without moving and half-closing her eyes, lady Dolores heard a scathing tantrum, a
true cataract of apostrophes, of desperate invective and epithets never heard by a human
     From the bathroom,  Lola, Lolita, Lola! while I could hear the following curses of
the purest Veracruz extraction:
     --Piece of the great bastard cabrón--said Santa Anna taking the battered cannon
into his hands and shaking it for dear life to make it react. Are you not aware that
I am the president of the Republic, the grand animal, and am not disposed to consent
to disobedience of this nature? Eh...? Respond! Respect me, damn it. The chief of the
Mexican State is speaking to you. Do not remain quiet like an imbecile...
     In the next act a slap was heard against the Talavera tiles in the bathroom and
perhaps a kick against the copper bathtub.
     --Is this how it will be, miserable mess? Are you not aware that I am the chief of
the Nation and do not accept felonies? Do you know how many I have ordered shot for less
than this...? Eh...? Eh...? Eh...?
     The shouts were heard, the harangues, the insults, even the blows, slaps were
heard. Slaps? Well, the impacts were heard one after the other, yes, yes, yet we shall
not talk of virility...
     Do you know what is ridiculous? Can you imagine how I am going to charge you for
this? Do you understand that if I wanted I could order you burned alive...? How do you
suppose, for the love of God who knows and forgives everything, that I am going to
remain with my woman if I already fail on the first encounter as if I were a coward
which, you well know, has often beaten me on the field of honor? I am, you great
bastard he said, holding it firmly and looking in its face: the Meritorious of the Nation
to a Heroic Degree, the Meritorious of Tampico, the Meritorious of Veracruz and they
know me as the Napoleon of the West, the Protector of the Nation, the Invincible
Liberator, the Mexican Caesar, the Liberator of the Mexicans, the Father of Anáhuac,
the Guardian Angel of the Mexican Republic, Visible Instrument of God, the Savior
of Peace, and the Immortal Leader... Now do you understand with whom you are talking...?
     Silence. Absolute silence. Doña Lola finally smiled. Now she would have more power
over him. The invective continued. Did you know that I was also distinguished with the
Medal of the War of Independence, with the Great Cross of Cordoba, with that of the
Catholic Isabel, that I am a Division general and that by law you answer to me for the
treatment of His Excellency. Do you know that, know that, know that...? Eh...? Eh...?
     The complaints that extended well into the night served no purpose. Lady Lola slept
comfortably after the carriage ride from Mexico City. She slept with an angelic smile.
She had so much to tell. He never came out of the bathroom. He did not resume making a
single sound or say anything. Impossible to be bored with Santa Anna. Very soon he
would be able to prove that, in relation to this latter, there was no doubt about that...

In the fall of 1844, the streets of Mexico City were found infested with thieves,
pickpockets and beggars. The lepers, the lower class, wandered through the neighborhoods,
where the drunks, prostitution, unemployment, and vagrancy showed increasingly the reach
of the social degradation. The violence and the robberies proliferated out of control at
the same time that the authorities confessed their inability to eradicate crime and
assassination in its most diverse modalities. Poverty and its consequences were the
subjects of conversation of the aristocracy and of the moderate sectors. "A substantial
increment in the national income is indispensable if we want to avoid societal ruin,"
was said in the national press... In contrast with the helpless majority, a small minority
consisting of military leadership, financial speculators, corrupt politicians, without
forgetting of course the high clergy, profited from immense fortunes. "Some displayed
their wealth with Asiatic splendor living in richly furnished mansions, transporting
themselves through the city in imported carriages and betting surprising amounts on
the cockfights." The differences, in plain sight, were abysmal.
     A sorrowful nostalgia for the colonial era was supported by the moneyed classes who
suffered the effects of the reigning political chaos and endured, defenseless and worried,
the economic stagnation with all its consequences. At any moment violence could explode,
given the monstrous social disequilibria. They benefited, indeed, at the moment of
purchase of the facilities of authority by means of bribes and, at the same time,
contemplated with horror the consequences of the collapse of the law that supported
them... They missed the imparting of justice during the interminable years of the
Viceroyalty, just as the majority missed the punctual supply of meat, bread and agave
at the accessible prices known during the government of the viceroys. Why celebrate
independence so much? Why...? What do we gain? The vanity of being free in exchange for
being miserable? was asked by some reputable columnists through their writings published
in newspapers of wide circulation.
     Justice was auctioned off. The Mexicans seemed incapable of learning the hard
lessons of life. The tribute system seemed to be hounded by inefficiency, bureaucratic
excess and corruption. Very few Mexicans had access to any type of education; the
ministries and the Catholic faith were in decline; crime, unfamiliarity with the law and
the continuation of chaos, in general, augmented the public distress: everything pointed
towards the economic and political collapse of the nation, above all its social dissolution,
which would lead in expedited fashion to total anarchy. An expression, a fear dominates
the life of Mexicans, above all among the capital-dwellers: the fear of a new armed
uprising, this time oriented to overthrowing the substitute president, Canalizo, a man
who, confronted with the slightest adversity, tipped his head in the direction of El
Lencero, in the same manner that a religious fanatic, in case of necessity, prays on her
knees, with the fingers of the hands interlocked and turned toward the heavens in search
of explanations, instructions or answers. The Congress opposed legislating more tributary
increments: they rejected the initiatives dictated by the president and inspired by His
Excellency. Spirits reach the level of overflow against the Santannism represented by
Canalizo. Anyone could hear how the round bullets slid the length of the cannons. Even
the most ignorant identifies the spark to light the burners. The majority clearly
perceive the dry stamping of military boots during formation hour in the Plaza de Armas.
Violence floats in the environment.
     The blow? The awaited and desired blow is headed by Mariano Paredes Arrillaga, a
general resented by the Mexican Caesar for having humiliated, reduced and crossed him
after having been named governor general of Mexico City and, above all, for a drunken
celebration that led Paredes himself to awaken Santa Anna, who slept placidly in his
quarters in the National Palace, with shouts. He never forgave him. General Paredes
Arrillaga, financed of course with money from the clergy, finally raises arms from
Guadalajara against the Santannist government. How many armed movements and wars
did the Mexican Catholic Church finance to defend its material interests, instead of
dedicating itself to divulging the gospel? On the first page of Republican Dawn:
"This religious institution, the most retrograde of any existing in the country, has
doubtless been the one most responsible for the Mexican chaos of the 19th century,
which we still suffer up to the present day."
     Paredes has a concrete, specific mission: to raise an army, recruit soldiers, find
resources to lead it, well-equipped, to the rescue of Tejas. Such were his official
instructions delivered in writing. The result? In place of fulfilling his obligations,
aligning the battery of artillery and orienting the cavalry in a northerly direction to
recover Tejas, he headed instead toward the high plain, more specifically at the target
of the president of the Republic. Neither the people nor the mob revert to arms, it is
the generals who protest brandishing pistols, muskets, swords, and shields. And the
citizenry observe a new work of political theatre. Soon the panic spreads. We are not
here to settle internal differences nor to capture power at such a crucial moment that
requires the absolute unity of the nation. We should take everyone by the hand and
defend our country. There will be time to settle accounts. Nevertheless, the military
return to making use of the word. That nation should beware in which the generals
deliberate and decide the best option, according to them and their personal interests,
for the citizens...
     Santa Anna returns precipitously from El Lencero to Mexico City on November 19th
of 1844. He seems a little more composed about the overwhelming pain of mourning.
Inéz, my love, life of my life. God will hold you eternally in your sainted glory... He
comes ready to combat Paredes and strengthen Canalizo. To dispense justice. To impose
institutional order and respect. He knows that if he subdues his old subordinate, the
military triumph will bring him great political popularity. Since they already know his
hidden intentions and his double use of words, some legislators make known the danger
involved for him in dissolving the Congress: you, general, have forfeited presidential
immunity and an attempt against the Legislative Power could lead you to a court martial
the same as any soldier. He extends all the necessary guarantees to the legislators.
"I have no hostile intentions against you."
     His Excellency unleashes a compulsive and successful action in the recruitment of
conscripts destined to combat the troops of Paredes. The future warriors appeared chained
in plazas and in streets marching to the barracks. If any of them managed to escape he
would implacably pursue them until dealing with them, but if on the road one encountered
another youth of the necessary age, the fetters would be immediately be placed on his
feet and his hands tied. In the next act he was hauled, like a rabid dog, without
ceasing his attempts to bite, until being tied with the rest of the private soldiers
ready to give their lives, if the case occurs, for the defense of the nation... Volunteers
are characterized by their absence. And the defense of the juridical order without which
the nation will be lost? Very well, if someone else bears the arms.
     The Meritorious sets off three days later, first, en route to Querétaro. This locality
also had joined the rebellion in solidarity with Jalisco. At every step the bad news
is surprising. Desertion increases day after day. Many fewer recruits are awakened than
go to bed. They flee. They escape at the first opportunity. His power evaporates. He
misses the warm and flower-perfumed bed that he abandoned against his will at El Lencero.
I now will return, my vida,: I shall put these so and so's in order and shall return
swollen with love to your arms. Think of me. I shall hang Paredes from a eucalyptus tree
and return to your side. Worship me. I shall not be long. Light an Easter candle. Wait
for me. I shall teach you the best Veracruzian songs. Please notice, my love, the picture
in the library where I appear mounted on a white horse on the day of my first Presidency.
Do I not have a Napoleonic air? Do you admire me? Do you truly? Say so. Confess it. I love
you crazily, your Toñis...
     He arrives quickly at Querétaro the 24th of November. Neither the governor nor
the military commander of the zone accords him the logical honors of a chief of State.
Canalizo's cabinet, not the Congress, has empowered him to subject Paredes to the use of
force, yet he, His Excellency, is now nothing but a high official of the Mexican army
who, of course, does not merit distinctions inherent in the investiture of a president
of the Republic, as would be the case with Canalizo, his buffoon. The Meritorious is
infuriated. He causes the members of the Departmental Junta, and functionaries and
military attached to the armed uprising of Guadalajara, to be arrested. He apprehends
the greater part of the leadership and begins sending them to Perote. If he changes an
order it is after "suggestions" from the local clergy, to whom he submits like a lamb.
"Whatever you say," replies Santa Anna. "The Church is the owner of the money and the
Mexican conscience. Go back! In silence..." Yes, but the damage is done.
     The national Congress rejects the Santannist excesses and tries to sanction the
secretaries of Canalizo's cabinet, who named Santa Anna head of the army to control
Paredes. For his reply he circulates in the Chambers of Deputies and Senators a rough
draft with three items: The immediate suspension of Congress, the repositioning of Santa
Anna as president and of Canalizo as his substitute, and the recognition of the right of
the government to restore order and conduct the war against Tejas as would be most
convenient without increasing taxes.
     The deputies react furiously to the text. They fail to recognize it. They ignore
it. They insist on calling the cabinet to the Congress. They do not appear because they
"are very busy," they allege. On December 2nd of 1844 the army abruptly enters the
legislative precincts and takes both Chambers. The Meritorious in a veiled way orders
its indefinite closing very much despite his promises. It signs its own condemnation.
His Excellency moves outside of the law. The legislators deny his authority to commit
such a misdeed. Furthermore, no one enjoys such legal faculties as to close the Congress.
The legislators, stubborn in the defense of their cause, will continue in session at a
new location. 55 against 45 vote against any sort of subjection to a dictator. The
margin is alarmingly narrow, but democracy triumphs.
     Mariano Paredes Arrillaga advances towards Mexico City instead of heading north, to
Tejas, to prevent the annexation. He insists on delivering a coup d'etat against the
Executive Power, in the same way that Santa Anna administered a coup d'etat against
the Legislative Power.
     If some heroes are unjustly ignored in the first decades after independence, those
are, with meridian clarity, the Mexican legislators. Since Iturbide's Empire the
senators and deputies are public figures, all of them civilian, tenacious defenders
of their opinions and of their convictions in the heart of their respective precincts,
very much despite the threats and the personal danger they run by confronting an
Executive Power dominated by the military hierarchies, one more despotic and intolerant
than the next. Those authentic great men, worthy popular representatives, deserve to be
rescued from anonymity for having bet everything on making their principles and ideals
valid in an authoritarian environment of absolute impunity. A similar homage is due,
undoubtedly, to the Mexican journalists of those years, for having denounced a
catastrophic reality that the political chiefs, their contemporaries, tried ineffectively
to hide, reverting to blackmail, persecutions and attacks of every variety in order to
prevent the truth from flourishing. Their columns should be jealously saved in the great
annals of history and, nevertheless, these are found empty and dusty...
     Antonio López de Santa Anna in 1833 promised not to dissolve the Congress and
nevertheless did so. He dissolved it! In 1843 he extended all manner of guarantees to
deputies and senators despite having pawned his word, shutting the venue where they met
to forge the Mexico of the future. He closed it! In 1844 he promised anew to respect the
power and the sovereignty of the legislators and swore to submit unconditionally to
their determinations. Did he comply? In no way! For the third time he shut the bronze
doors where the nation's representatives met for the welfare, evolution and progress of
the nation.
     In 1833, 1842 and 1844, the Guiding Angel of the Mexican Republic, the Visible
Instrument of God, Mr. Meritorious, closed Congress, canceled the deliberations,
dissolved the assemblies where modern Mexico is designed and, with that, prevented that
Mexico should consider, should speak and pronounce, that Mexico should resolve, that
Mexico should determine and freely and democratically choose the course most convenient
on its face to her interests and desires. The country's destiny was twisted, grew like a
deformed tree, from when a single man decided to resolve for all and society consented
to it. The mutilation was massive, deep and wounding. The great interpreter of the
national will did not commit only one monstrosity, which as shall be seen, would
represent a very high cost to the young Republic recently independent from Spain.

Ever more confusing and alarming news arrives from the north, from the United States,
from Tejas. The yankees no longer know how to disguise what up to that moment would be
the theft of the century. On the 8th of June in 1844 the federal Senate in Washington
had rejected the treaty of annexation by 35 votes to 16. The opposition of the legislators
did not hinge on the fact of the measure being just or unjust to Mexico, but instead
that the addition of a slave state could lead, in the future, to a war of secession
in the United States. It is submitted again on the 11th of June of 1844 but the
constitutional closing of the sessions period prevents arriving at an agreement.
"The Mexican troops--they say--have already camped on North American territory. For war
only the official declaration is lacking. Armed conflict is a reality." False, false.
"15 Nails" has not even arrived at the border. And furthermore: he has not left Bajío.
What invasion? They confuse with disinformation so as to incline the balance of the
decisions against their neighbor to the south.
     Meanwhile in Mexico the political chaos penetrates the nation again and the
domestic noise prevents knowing and opportunely discovering what is plotted abroad
against the nation for it, in this case, to at least try to take some defensive measures,
while in the United States James K. Polk arrives in the White House. There is no time
nor pause to unravel the hidden dangers in this threatening reality. He wins the federal
election in October, 1844 with 170 votes against 105. He will be an implacable
tormentor. Deaf, unshakable and fanatical. The primary subject of his campaign speeches
is concerned with Tejas, "for a start," the annexation of Tejas. This "for a start" will
cause raised eyebrows among those who know how to read between the lines of political
texts. The expansionist possibilities fascinate the North American electorate. Polk's
words incite, move, shake. He is the reincarnation of the "Founding Father." The idea
pleases, seduces, is accepted, of acquiring the new territories using any tool... We
shall reach the Pacific... It is the voice of Divine Providence. Let us observe it. Let
us vote for Polk. He is the man. He speaks the truth. Let us follow him. We shall grow at
his side...
     So Polk is the guilty one and the electorate is innocent? Poor Mexico! When the
North American people voted for Polk I simply said: Poor Mexico! I already knew the
candidate thoroughly and could anticipate the consequences of his government...
     With the election of the leader in the White House, I considered it settled: "it is
nothing but a mandate of the North American people to execute the annexation of Tejas...
It is the triumph of expansionism, the very guarantee that Tejas will be annexed... Polk
is the master spirit in the Texian intrigue. He concentrates all his power, his influence,
his imagination, his time on that goal." The problem of slavery will occupy the center
of the debate. The Oregón territory will come to be the property of the United
States, through negotiation, in terms of the 54-40 latitude, the famous southern
frontier of American Russia, Russian Alaska and Alta California. He will loyally fulfill
his campaign promises despite dealing with conflicting English interests, those of his
cousin brothers... The British press publicizes: "Polk is the triumph of everything that
is wrong in America." Who is Polk finally? Ex-president Andrew Jackson smiled: he was
his man...
     James Knox Polk had been born in North Carolina in 1795, two years after Sam
Houston and only one year before the birth of Antonio López Santa Anna Pérez Lebrón,
in the city of Xalapa. In those times, the protagonists of history kept appearing, one
by one, in the political scenarios of the American continent. No one had a previously
assigned role. Who believes in destiny, in an intelligence superior to the human
capable of ordering the lives of millions of beings and, where there is no possibility
whatsoever of defense or of resistance since we are dealing with an irrevocable
divine mandate? Two and two are four. God said so. These are your instructions in
your brief existence. You will be this or that. To say nothing...? How? Were the poet
and the philosopher mistaken when one maintained that "everyone creates their own destiny"
and the other, that "whoever can change their thinking can change their destiny"? Were
they in error?
     Nothing is written. Or perhaps Divine Providence in effect ordered that the United
States should defeat the Mexicans throughout the length of an unjust war? She, the
Divinity, decided to deprive Mexico of half of its territory so as to oblige someone's
interests? Did she herself forge the nation in such a way as to facilitate the gigantic
territorial plunder and plan the return of Santa Anna to power over 11 occasions? Should
we direct our gaze and our protests to Providence because Washington, Rousseau or
Voltaire were not born in Jalisco or the Yucatán?
     Better, a thousand times better that we return to Polk, a descendant of Presbyterian
immigrants, who held that since Adam, Abraham, the prophets, and Jesus Christ, the works
of man and his work constituted the only path to their salvation. The fruit of their effort,
they concluded, is the only correct path towards God. From these examples, concepts and
precepts Polk structures his personality. He will be a compulsive, indefatigable worker,
obstinate, of fixed ideas, determined to reach his goals, the same ones he takes to bed
to lie in insomnia and escape all possible rest, since being anointed president of the
United States. Work and only work, intolerance in that regarding the achievement of his
aims, ambitious, introverted, possessed of an iron will, an obsessive in relation to his
elevated tasks, incapable of delegating and determined to involve himself compulsively
down to the smallest details, all that attached to very precarious health since his
earliest years of age, will end his life as soon as three months after having finished
his constitutional mandate in 1849, when the Mexico-United States military conflict had
concluded and he himself had had the golden opportunity of announcing, still as head of
State, the discovery of gold in California, a California which, of course, was no longer
     Polk, an avid reader of the classics, a lawyer, graduate with honors, governor of
Tennessee in 1839, possessing legislative experience of almost 15 years, the greater
part of them as the main "lieutenant of Jackson" in the Congress and afterwards as the
spokesman for the president himself, also a native of North Carolina, sharing a passion
with his compatriot, friend and now colleague: both are motivated by an extraordinary
expansionist appetite. Both want to annex Tejas, at whatever price, to the North American
political organization. Both mount a plan to achieve it...
     How does he reach the White House? Martin van Buren, the Democratic ex-president
of the United States and Henry Clay, his rival from the Whig party, both political
adversaries declare themselves opposed to the annexation of Tejas. Neither Whigs nor
Democrats, no one, declares in favor of Tejas. A most serious error of political strategy.
An aged Jackson, a fierce enemy of Mexico, realizes that the position of Van Buren,
also his ex-secretary of State, is equivalent to cutting their own necks. We shall not
permit him to obtain the Democratic nomination if he is not committed to fighting for
annexation with all his powers and faculties. How after so much effort are we going to
allow losing Tejas and even more, serve it on a tray to the English, so that they would
be, eventually, who would develop that promised territory neglected for centuries by the
Spanish Crown?
     Jackson, in the role of court counselor to Polk, tired, foreseeing the arrival of his
demise without having managed to achieve his dream of an American Texas, one more star
on their flag, a fixation, an obsession, murmurs lightly in the ear of his countryman,
in fact already retired from public life, the advantages of adopting a political
discourse that includes the annexation to the Union of a slave Tejas, with the former
being said with due euphemisms and discretion. To this position will be drawn the
extreme defenders of the institution of slavery, with their millions of votes. The
country will be divided, yes, but Tejas will be ours, James. You will win the elections,
be in the White House, just like I myself was for eight years...
     Only Tejas? Would Polk so respond? I am not aiming only for Tejas, dear and
respected Andrew, I am going for all Oregón, even when it is British: I shall know
how to convince them; I am going for Nuevo México and California, whether it be
through a negotiation or through war itself; I am going, brother, as far as the Pacific
Ocean, to find a way to those thousands of miles of munificent coastline so as to allow
direct commerce with China and am going--he tells him at the end of the summer of 1844--
lastly for Yucatán and Cuba, to surround and duly take control of revenues from the
Gulf of Mexico. Gulf of Mexico? We will have changed the name. Soon we can erect a
gigantic colossus, the American Colossus of Rhodes, upright, Herculean, invincible, with
one foot in Florida and the other on the Yucatan peninsula, contemplating the immensity
of the Atlantic Ocean and with a single glance threatening the freebooters, pirates and
European aliens who have a distinct intention toward this work and toward the realization
of fruitful negotiations with those with whom we are called to be friends in the
     Andrew Jackson now did not have to focus his preoccupations towards England: they,
James, our cousins first or last will come for Tejas, Oregón and California, he
would have told him in his tired voice. By taking control of those territories they could
form "a ring of steel that will cost oceans of blood to be able to destroy it..."
     Forget it. Leave them to me: I know, believe me, where to firmly apply pressure...
     Deeds sped up: Van Buren was, of course, excluded due to his anti-annexationist
position. In the Democratic convention in Baltimore, Polk is named the official candidate
after intense lobbying by Jackson with all the party bases. The ex-president, his political
father, his brother in political combat, his intellectual tutor, will not separate from
his pupil during the entire presidential campaign. We shall be assured of success, James:
I know this. It was not in vain that I was the tenant of the White House for such a
long time.
     Polk declares during his travels throughout the country: "Our nation is God's latest
and best effort to initiate a new phase in the history of humanity." His speeches
insistently refer to God and to God's country. "We are the heirs of everything achieved
through blood and humanity's treasures during four thousand years in the land of human
liberty... My nomination responds to the necessity for Tejas to be annexed to the United
States. I shall focus all my power, my influence, my imagination, and time in the
pursuit of this objective... Our Texian brothers need us... If you vote for Polk, you
will be voting for the annexation of Tejas, for the expansion of our nation and our
consolidation as a prosperous nation called to be the lighthouse to the world... All the
Texian territory belongs to us ever since the Louisiana purchase... We shall negotiate
with Mexico as a courtesy: that nation is not the legal owner of Tejas... I would a
thousand times prefer a Mexican Tejas than one turned into a British satellite... We
have an indemnification agreement with Mexico, and if they do not comply with it the hour
will have arrived to take other measures..." Unbeatable pretexts to justify a war
for the conquest of California and Nuevo México...
     The election of 1844 will be recognized as most important in the history of the
United States. In those elections the North Americans voted for the annexation of Tejas
and for the reoccupation of Oregón, a double objective, in accordance with the promises
of the Democratic candidates during the campaign. On October 14th James Knox Polk and
George M. Dallas were elected president and vice-president, respectively. Both received
a popular mandate, inescapable instruction from the North American public. It is the
triumph of expansionism very much in spite of the risk of a war. A clear invitation, an
authorization to perpetrate a gigantic robbery. An exhibition of the misery of values
when placed against the power of money. Divine Providence has dictated the last word:
Polk to power! I have spoken!
     The new chief in the White House will come to appropriate all the national territory
with the support of his cannons, as opposed to a highway robbery, in which only knives,
pistols and machetes are used, or even a sorry club to dispatch the victim, it was said
in the Mexican political circulars.
     The quick learners captured the scope of these brief words pronounced the day he won
the election, some four months before taking possession: "This precious deposit of
liberties should be developed and extended by means of war only under special
conditions... The United States has an indisputable and perfect right to intervene in
another nation whenever by means of such interference it promotes its own interests, as
well as the cause of liberty."
     The English diplomats clearly notice Polk's intentions in relation to Tejas. He is
going for it. There is no doubt. Mexico and the European powers should insist upon the
recognition of a Republic of Tejas, an independent Republic, free and sovereign, before
it is absorbed by the United States. Yes, yes, obviously yes, but with whom do we deal in
Mexico City? Who is the legal representative of this nation? Santa Anna or Paredes or
whatever other transitory boss? The chronic Mexican political instability reproduces the
necessary environment to facilitate the North American felonies. It is like serving up
the country on a tray to be devoured by the yankee hyenas. Is the danger they run not
evident to the Mexicans? While they stir power amongst themselves and assault the scarce
national treasury and debate whether to be a Federal or a Centralized Republic, Polk and
his followers study the best way to do away with the country. Ay the Mexicans! Who will
defend them? They contemplate the problem in its true dimensions and, nevertheless,
invest their attention and their time in conflicts whose solution is not pressing, in
exchange for avoiding the principal and urgent conflict, how to avoid the mutilation of
the national territory.

In Mexico the convulsion, of course, continues. While His Excellency aims to apprehend
Paredes Arrillaga and shoot that accursed traitor, in the capital of the Republic,
José Joaquín de Herrera is quickly put in charge of the actions and is consolidated
as the most visible figure of the anti-Santannist movement. Paredes, the father of the
armed uprising, is discarded, marginalized, ignored very much despite his angry and
infuriated protests. He is the usurper usurped. He does not manage to arrive from
Guadalajara to crown his movements. His project aborts. He desists. He will not be the
pretender to power. Santa Anna, distant from the center of politics in Bajío, is now
considered as only a mere army official in clear decadence. A lion without fangs, a snake
without poison, an eagle with a filed beak, without sight or claws... Nothing from nothing.
     And Polk...? Polk, yes, Polk...! Be careful with Polk, damn it...!
     Listen, hear, you, yes, you with the impatient voice: the troops loyal to the
Veracruzian, desert. Every morning, upon emerging and lining up, there appear fewer, as I
said, many fewer soldiers under his command. They flee during the night. They escape at
the first opportunity. He is being left alone. He sinks. Despairs. His thoughts begin to
turn to being a president without office, without territory and without a nation to govern
nor an army to command. He knows how to measure the danger. He smells it like wolves to
blood. For the first time he thinks about the possibility of exile. How about Cuba?
They have said that the mulattas made of ebony shells are marvelous... He shall travel
with Lola. Ay, Lola, Lolita, Lola...
     Canalizo, His Excellency's puppet, diminishes, shrinks and vanishes before
Herrera's incontestable authority. Out! Leave! He delivers the interim Presidency
without a single shot being fired. He receives every guarantee that he will not be
harmed... He cannot stand to see blood, much, much less his own, nor can he bear physical
pain... Careful with him! There are no wounds, not even an exchange of insults or of
threats in this latest coup d'etat. Give me the power! Here it is: Have it! Everything
fixed. Can I retire now? The "revolution" is consummated in three hours. The new
president, José Joaquín de Herrera, ensures the arrival of peace and of concord.
Santa Anna remains suspended in a vacuum, just like Paredes himself.
     War? Which war, Herrera asks. Though they may call me a traitor and an apostate: we
have nothing to gain in a war against the United States, less, much less in the military
and financial conditions in which we find ourselves and since, in effect, we have much
to lose...
     And Tejas?
     We shall seek other implements than arms. I assure you they exist. How about
     President Herrera engages in long conversations with the accredited ministers of
France and Britain in Mexico. The two recommend to him recognizing the Republic of Tejas
with the diplomatic endorsement of Europe. Otherwise the United States could try to also
appropriate the north of Mexico and, perhaps, the whole country. Tejas would serve for
now as a kind of wall, a rampart, a defensive barrier to contain the expansionist
appetites of your neighbor to the north, sir.
     "We, your European friends, would help the strengthening of the new Republic in such
a way that, as our interests in your country grew, any problem with Tejas, monsieur,
would be a problem with Europe and all that does not suit anyone."
     Both diplomats carefully confess their authentic interests in Tejas: an important
market for their manufactured goods, as well as an excellent producer of cheap cotton.
We have here the truth hidden in their friendly and neutral participation. In reality,
upon being presented with such a pressing event, little or nothing could cause Herrera to
be rescued from a grave problem with the United States, given the distance, geographically
speaking, the weakness of the Mexican government and the growing American military
strength. They would take his chestnuts with their cat hands... You do this or that,
and if it works we will share it, congratulations, or if the contrary, well, to lick
your wounds as God, our Lord, sees fit for you to understand...monsieur.
     --Tejas has the same right to declare independence as did Nueva España when it
split from the Spanish Crown, and the United States from the English. Do you not think
so? Accept, please, the validity of that argument--the Europeans argue.
     --Permit me to try to refute that thesis - interrupts president Herrera. Tejas was
already deliberately invaded by the United States before 1820, taking advantage of our
incapacity to populate those so immense and distant territories. They reverted to the old
strategy of president Jefferson consisting of legally or illegally populating the desired
surface, developing it, arming it from the military viewpoint, and later they require, on
whatever pretext, separation from the owning country through the device of an independent
Republic and later proceed to annexation of the state to the American Union, through
an agreement of invading pirates. They create a nation artificially and later they steal
it... No gentlemen, that was not the case either with the United States or even less
with New Spain after three centuries of domination. The yankees have been trying to take
over what is ours for about 30 years resorting to whatever guile and criminal sophistry
occurs to them.
     A first draft is written between Mexico and those European powers with the objective
of recognizing the independence of the one-time Mexican state. Tejas is lost, understand
that. With or without the Treaties of Velasco, Tejas is lost... What we are dealing with
is to choose the best option to save the rest of the country. There are no other possibilities:
One Tejas constituted as an independent Republic, backed by ourselves, or a Texas annexed
to the United States with all those consequences and future implications. Choose! Do you
or do you not want a wedge between Mexico and the United States? Is it so difficult for
the Mexicans to recognize reality and abandon their byzantine concepts regarding honor
and dignity that only confuse in making practical decisions...?
     Fear of change paralyzes the Mexicans. The risk petrifies them. Nothing ought to
move or be altered. Dogmatism in politics, obstinacy, blindness, deafness, temperamental
and unreflective negation, almost suicidal fanaticism cemented into intolerant principles,
understand these however you wish, it is like walking in the dark and falling headlong
into various traps set by our adversaries... Let us think. We shall analyze. Observe.
We will understand... What is the point of falling into an irrational monologue?
     And why not...?
     Because it should not be!
     And why should it not be?
     Because it should not be... Because it should not be... Because it should not be...
     Is that diplomacy? Is that negotiation? Is that talented? It is so easy to manipulate
a fanatic who is subject to a scenario that no longer exists...

That December of 1844, months before the Cuban retreat, Antonio López de Santa
Anna would never forget. Never had any despicable act so much hurt his historical
image. Vandals. Criminals of the Nation. Forgive them God: they know not what they do,
except your will. But hear me well, I very rarely dare to distract Your attention: boil
them alive, bake the populace, and my adversaries in general, in the same oil used for
burning the feet of the defunct Cuauhtémoc. Cover them with a lot of resin and
Christian charity and cause them to burn like human torches for my country...
     Granted all the constitutional guarantees on the part of president Herrera, 32 of
the deputies headed by Llaca marched through the streets of the city to symbolically
re-take the popular representation Chamber. His Excellency already, in Bajío, was an
ousted president and a general without an army or followers. A political cadaver and
defeated military. The populace desiring adventure, thirsting for vengeance and
diversion was summoned to the street manifestation of the reconciliation. The voices of
protest and celebration joined in an improvised chorus that intoned litanies to liberty.
     "In anonymity all Mexicans are very valiant," Santa Anna would say in Cuban exile.
"In a group anything kills and insults, but I would like to see them face to face in a
duel at Chapultepec, at dawn, sponsored by their godfathers..."
     You have sought to duel in those conditions, Your Excellency?
     Of course not, but I would like to see them...
     Ah, good...
     Delirious masses fed up with the Meritorious were added to the demonstrations
improvised by the legislators. Many senators were carried on shoulders while they
shouted: "Down with the cripple! Long live Congress! With this Congress, indeed there is
     Very soon he stopped being the Napoleon of the West, the Nation's Protector, the
Mexican Caesar, the Father of Anáhuac, the Visible Instrument of God, to suddenly
become "the Spirit of the Devil... Demon of Ambition and Discord... an Accumulation of
Vices and Inconsistencies... the ungrateful Man disloyal par excellence... Disgusting
bandit! Contemptible and immoral aspiring dictator" declared newspapers as well as
pamphlets distributed at random in the city center.
     All this occurred until the throng arrived at the Congress. Would the celebration
end there? Was the overthrow thus celebrated of a scoundrel who attained the presidency
for the eighth time only to loot the nation's strongboxes and the citizenry's pockets?
Does the fiesta that we deserve as an exploited people reach that far?" Paredes had been
right in his declaration: We want an accounting for the 60 million pesos spent in the
last two years! An end to speculation! Re-install the constitutional liberties of Congress!
     Suddenly the movement took another unexpected course. It was impossible to contain.
Ay, if only His Excellency had been in Mexico City to prevent it... Who could control an
upsurge full of citizens thirsty for vengeance, drunk on liberty, partying and destruction,
lacking reconciliation and desirous of returning at least some of the many blows received?
Mexico is a nation eager for justice, which it has scarcely enjoyed in all its intensity
during its existence and therefore when they shout, "kill," when they warn, "hang" and
when they sing they lament their fate.
     Someone then exclaimed at the top of their voice: Let us go to the Plaza del Volador
and destroy the statue of the dictatoooor!
     The idea caught on like a fire in the straw. It was the 6th of December of 1844, the
same day that Congress confirmed José Joaquín de Herrera to the Presidency of the
Republic, when the tide, a human avalanche, invaded the historic plaza located a few
streets behind the metropolitan cathedral. They roped, from different angles, the
bronze figure of the Mexican Caesar. Yes, yes the one where Santa Anna appeared on foot
pointing with his right hand towards the north, toward Tejas, that which he would
re-conquer after besieging and taking the El Álamo mission. False, a thousand times
false that holding up the national mint so often was necessary, according to what the
uncouth said. The people are unjust in their asseverations and sentences. They
bleated in unison emitting savage sounds and proffering all sorts of insults. The mockery
was in capitals and generalized. The billy clubs and the old wives' tales were repeated
from one to the other. How much pleasure can observing a people's happiness produce?
Not even in the celebration of independence was so much popular enthusiasm awakened.
     When the head of the dictator hit the floor with a dry impact, the crowd swirled
about among furious shoves as if a gigantic piñata had fallen from the sky. They spat
on it, kicked it, danced around the inert bronze, broke cobblestones from the street
with kicks so as to smash them onto the image of the former idol. The people reciprocally
raised their arm in a signal of victory. One of the mob urinated on the face of the
Meritorious of Tampico and also of Veracruz, while he cried with joy and the rest of the
people exploded with laughter. The transients cautiously joined the celebration not
without first verifying the absence of the police. In the same way that by superstition
someone reverentially touches the gown of the Virgen of Los Remedios to obtain her divine
protection, so did the people hit the fallen sculpture with a kick, with a belt, with a
closed fist, or simply sat atop it as if wanting to be immortalized in a picture, to
exact their quota of vengeance. I was there too, I roped Santa Anna's neck, I mooned him
to his face...
     Soon the hullabaloo concluded as happens at a Mexican party when the musicians and
all their flutes, mandolins, trumpets, violins, and guitars stop. Was that the celebration
of the overthrow of the tyrant? Of course not! One lost voice in the throng suggested
the pace and direction to continue.
     --Let us go to the Santa Paula cemetery and disinter the damn rascal's foot!
     The execution of the proposal was not left waiting. The human avalanche then turned
shouting, truly enraged, towards the crypt. No one could prevent the passage. Very few
were disposed to try. Among the rabble were various ex-ministers of Santa Anna, ex-
friends, general and politicians who had sworn him loyalty before the nation's altar.
     We recall that on the 28th of September, 1842, two years before the popular
uprising, the general-president had authorized the exhumation of his leg, lamentably
lost during the Pastries War of 1838, so that it could be buried with all the honors
inherent in a "hero" in the Santa Paula cemetery. The president himself, who had
accepted the proposal with his well-known humility, on that occasion headed the solemn
procession, while one artillery band, among seven others, interpreted funeral marches
during their movement through the streets of Mexico City. The remains of the mummified
leg of Antonio López, held in a perfectly varnished oak box covered with the national
flag, were taken, at a slow martial pace, set in monotone time dictated by drums
accompanied with fanfares, towards the metropolitan cathedral, where it would be offered
a Te Deum, a mass with all the rigor of Catholic liturgy, in honor of the extremity
lost by the Meritorious of the Nation.
     The spectacular ceremony of 1842 continued when the procession kept marching, in
absolute silence, in the direction of the vault. They only paused at side streets and
intersections to hear prayerful feelings or the sorrowful voices of poets, who declaimed
verses to honor and remember the patriotic exploit of the Immortal Leader. A cavalry
regiment dressed in gala uniforms, helmets of silver-plated steel, black boots and red
jackets with decorations, stripes and multi-color bars, trotted rhythmically at the
front, while a bugle emitted recurrent calls to recall the seriousness of the imposing
necrological homage. A well-nourished group of select cadets from the Military College,
with bayonets attached, handled the small coffin, preceded by important dignitaries of
the Catholic hierarchy, from the diplomatic service assigned to Mexico, as well as
distinguished representatives of Congress and of the nation's provinces, who arrived
with contrite faces to the very place where, following the most rigid protocol, the
mummified leg of the Savior of the Nation would be exhumed. To seal the event, an
impressive cenotaph was constructed that would immortalize, when facing future
generations, the undying and unpolluted gesture of the hero.
     Two years later the masses, in their debauchery, pulled down the fence that guarded
the cemetery and proceeded to destroy funerary sculptures, tombstones, small mausoleums,
vases placed atop improvised urns, breaking monumental sepulchers, night lights, the
small walkways carefully flanked with bricks, until reaching the cenotaph and attacking
the chapel with machetes, while sonorous vivas, shouts and ovations were heard. Suddenly
and as if by the art of magic, the ropes and shovels appeared. The shouts were deafening,
improper in a venue where one obligatorily should maintain composure and respect:
"Go screeeew your mother, 15 Nails...!" "Screeeew her...!" the majority of the crowd
festively responded.
     This occurred again and again until a group disinterred the remains of the leg, the
box of precious woods converted to splinters and, once they had the so often blessed
extremity of "15 Nails" in their possession, leaving the cemetery, among shoves and
entreaties and the you already carried it, it is my turn, now is my turn, they pass the
foot, man, they drag it through the streets, smacking it against the street lamps until
the bones are completely broken. The people then went, moved by an asinine inertia, to
the Santa Anna Theatre, recently inaugurated, to pull down the statues of the dictator
and destroy the name on the sign. In subsequent acts, they destroyed any lettering or
statue they found on their way displaying the name or the image of the former Meritorious
of the Nation.
     Upon returning to the Plaza del Volador, they put together a small pyre such that
the remains of the leg were converted to ashes while the mob danced in small jumps around
the fire, in ritual Aztec circles, moving their arms, aiming rhythmically toward the sky
and immediately towards the ground, as if thanking the pre-Hispanic gods for the occasion
to avenge so many affronts suffered since the first night that the wind blew. To this day
I cannot understand where the conches came from, the drums and the small cookers to burn
incense, and the torches. Still less how the plumes and maracas appeared, until it
matched an authentic national fiesta. The magic of the people, their wisdom, their
authenticity, their understandings!
     I cannot fail to denote right here the impression it caused Santa Anna when he was
told the fate of his beloved leg, lost in the defense of the nation. It is impossible to

     Companions in arms! I could support with pride the detachment of an important
     member of my body, gloriously lost in the service of our native land and as some of
     you were witness; but that pride has been converted into pain, sadness and
     desperation. You should know that those mortal remains were violently extracted
     from their funerary urn, which was broken with the goal of removing the member
     and dragging it through the streets to make a sport of it... I know your surprise
     and your shame; you are right, those excesses were unknown among us. Friends!
     Obeying destiny I shall leave you. There in foreign lands I shall remember you. You
     will always be the support and ornament of our nation. God be with you.

An opportune and necessary parenthesis should be inserted even when it briefly
interrupts the narrative. While the mob snatched the foot of the Meritorious and
demolished statues and sculptures and on their way enthusiastically and vengefully
destroyed everything that displayed his image and his name: since another coup d'etat
was occurring in Mexico, the White House lost no time and won space, even more when
they learned that governor Micheltorena of California had been deposed, in December of
1844, by some "Californio" natives supported by "some Americans" in order to install an
autonomous government. Californios supported by some Americans install an autonomous
government...? Our territory mutilated by some camouflaged yankees? Or that is, is it
not only Tejas...? Alright, alright, we shall continue fighting over the foot of the
Mexican Caesar. We shall keep walking with a firm and decided step in the direction
of hell.
     An editorial in the London Times holds that the United States very soon will
dominate those parts of the North American continent that are not defended by force and
Great Britain's resolution.
     And Santa Anna? The Meritorious had already moved from Querétero and knowing
that the situation was lost, with very scant forces, prepares to furtively "attack" Puebla
aiming towards Veracruz, flirting with the idea of exile. They say the warm waters of
the Cuban Caribbean are revitalizing, no...? In his interior he felt more dead than the
dead. He was told that he and Canalizo had been dismissed by Congress and that he would
have to answer for a series of crimes, among them robbery of Guanajuato's House of Money,
to which he replied with his customary fanfare:
     "I will defend my constitutional rights. One should remember that I continue being
president of the Republic. I have 12,000 men and shall return to the capital to restore
order and my government". A lie, another lie. He was no longer president, and much
less had twelve thousand men nor had the prestige or the authority to restore any order.
     Santa Anna well knew that his fate depended on the audacity of his enemies. He
discreetly abstained from fighting against Herrera nor against anyone. He wisely
controlled his lethal verbiage. He only had his gaze fixed on Veracruz, on the port, on
the sea, on a brig that would take him far from the public, those idiots at every level
of society who would never understand the dimensions of my benevolence or of my talent
or my capacity to govern this so rich and wasted territory. Ay me! I am misunderstood.
     He was already thinking of retirement when an episode occurred that was on the verge
of costing him his life. In three months he had lost Inés, Inés, Inesita, his beloved
wife, had been overthrown by Herrera and partly by Paredes, and had known of the savage
and barbaric attacks committed against his  blessed extremity. Was the punishment
enough...? No! Life had reserved another test for him, this time mortal, to measure the
temper of the iron from which he was forged.
     The desertions had been coming in fearful increases. Impossible to contain them.
Santa Anna wrote to president Herrera asking him for authorization to leave the country
accompanied by some of his faithful for whom he sought benevolence and respect for their
stripes and for their salaries in such a way that they might live with dignity in exile.
     His petition was denied. He would have to face justice for all the outrages committed,
which were not few and on the contrary, certainly serious. You will be judged by the law.
Herrera dreamt of the possibility of hanging Santa Anna. Do you know what a law is, a norm,
an obligatory and compulsory disposition...?
     Faced with such a reply, in the village of Las Vigas he let go of the 500 soldiers
that he harbored and surrounded himself lightly with five persons, gave up part of his
military costume, putting a straw hat on backwards, as well as a poncho to hide the
jacket. Thus he rides on horseback until arriving at Veracruz and embarking on the way to
Cuba together with Dolores, Lola, ay Lola, Lola, Lolita, Lola...!
     Among the five in his party one could be particularly distinguished: don Alejandro
Atocha, a North America naturalized Spaniard who, a certain time previously, had
collaborated near to Santa Anna until becoming a man in his confidence. Atocha, as we
shall see, played a determinative role in the grand conspiracy organized to mutilate the
immense territory inherited from Nueva España. Time and only time have allowed the
reconstitution of one of the key figures in the history of Mexico, one of the most
prominent protagonists, whose connections few, very few researchers have been able to
discover or suppose. In later pages I shall dedicate space, ink, paper, shame, rage, and
time to concern myself with this sinister character, certainly always ignored by the
Mexicans. I will relate his entire story such as and how I lived it.
     Yet let us return, return to the scene of the deeds: even when Santa Anna accepted
that El Lencero was not a safe place for him, given that it would be the first place where
they would look for him, he decided to head in that direction. Before arriving at the
village of Xico, only ten kilometers from Xalapa, perhaps lost in very hilly country, he
suddenly came across a group of aborigines, who required him to identify himself. Routine
procedures. Santa Anna gave, of course, a false identity and claimed to be searching for
mines. It was not easy anyway to discover his political personality camouflaged as they
found him, almost like a local peasant.
     Everything began when some of the natives suspected the fugitive president for the
color of his skin, his hands scrupulously manicured, and with such educated and careful
speech. When they required him to get down pointing seven machetes and a couple of swords
at him, while several others had their arms sheathed, the evidence was discovered that
the indians sought: the wooden foot.
     --Therefore we immediately asked him to dismount. A mine explorer no way, for you
are the very devil of Santa Anna. 
     Without recovering from the surprise he attempted a recourse that he considered
infallible among Mexicans.
     --Very well... Yes, actually it is I--he clarified without losing composure--and so
that I may continue on my path here I leave you with two thousand pesos that will fall
from the sky on you...
     --Money...? We earn that every night with highway assaults, little president,
just that a rooster like yourself does not always fall into my saucepan, right, little
comrade...? questioned the leader of the group in search of a joint decision.
     --Then what in the hell do you want? asked the Meritorious losing patience while he
threw a pile of gold coins on the ground.
     --I think what our troops want is for us to cook you like a tamale so you will
stop going around making as much trouble as they say you do, mister...
     --Cook me like a tamale? Do you know, you piece of animal, that this nation exists
thanks to me?
     The chief of the indians, Manuel Domínguez, a very well-known and recognized
character in the mountains of Veracruz and Puebla, turned his head like a parakeet,
putting his face in profile with ceasing to attentively observe His Excellency. He did
not blink. He did not move or remove the scornful glare and added, imitating the
language of the participants in the abject hierarchy of his band:
     --And what is that country? How far does it extend...?
     --It reaches all of California, Tejas, Nuevo México and, to the south,
Yucatán...--interrupted Santa Anna, feeling saved since he had been able to string
together a few words with his picturesque interlocutor, barefoot, toothless, without
having ever shaved, with crusts of clay on his feet, dressed in a blanket with his hat
pushed backwards and only held at his chin thanks to the beard; yet this: at no moment
did he let go of the handle of the, machete.
     --Ah...! That is why your rule is so wide, no...?
     --It is not only wide--Santa Anna clarified--but also rich...
     Bring the wood!-- the chief ordered considering the conversation over.
     --But would you be that crazy?--intoned the Meritorious stepping back, quickly
removing the poncho and throwing the hat to the floor. He exhibited his impressive jacket
bordered with gold threads. He unholstered his pistol and pointed it at his sequesterer
and victimizer. --You ignore it yet I defeated Iturbide and thanks to that extinguished
the Empire; I promoted the Federal Republic, defeated Barradas at Tampico so that our
nation would not become a colony of Spain again; defended Veracruz from the French and
gave my leg to my country in exchange for the glory and liberty of the Nation and now
fight against the mutilation of Mexico because the yankees want to rob Tejas from us and
you want to cook me like a tamale--he concluded while he brandished the pistol and with
his left hand unsheathed his sword with its brilliant incrustations of emeralds and
shells of mother-of-pearl.
     --With that pistol you could only wing one of us, maybe I myself, if I let
you-- the indian responded undaunted. --After which those that remain will cook
you like a tamale. Better that you stop bragging and get into the saucepan. Skin him!
     --For the glory that is God, stop. I cannot end my days like this--sitting at the
point of kneeling in search of mercy.
     --You, Joel, bring the biggest male plantain leaves that you can find. You Sebas,
go get some pitchers and ask my old lady to give you the biggest pot she has to make the
stew. You, Nachito and you, Felipe, gather dry wood and branches because to cook this
little bastard is going to take some time.
     When he least noticed, Santa Anna had been disarmed and held from the back, while
they ground his head in the suffocating dirt. Most of them fought for the right "to
slash his stomach and remove the guts like you skin the damn lambs for barbecue."
     --Shall I twist your neck like the chickens, chief? Shall we light it?
     What saved the life of His Excellency? The sudden appearance of a priest who
intervened so in the name of God let us avoid savagery, my children...
     --Yet little Father, the Lord ordered this bastard skinned an eye for an eye and
a tooth for a tooth.
     --We cannot bring about justice with our hands. If I am here and managed to arrive
in time, it is because God sent me to save the life of one of his sons before you all
cook him.
     Santa Anna silently smiled. He bowed his head in the manner of a devout who begins
to expiate his sins on the day of Final Judgment.
     The priest took the arm of the accused and among them all they took him prisoner
to Perote so that there he could be subjected to a Christian and civilized trial. His
Excellency then saw in the corner of his eye how Nachito and Felipe arrived with the wood
and the torches. When already riding they caught up to Joel, completely frustrated, who
threw the kettle to the ground containing the cooking water... Damned little priest...
     Once imprisoned in the Castle of Perote, at the beginning of January in 1845, he
requests a paper and pencil. He wanted to communicate with his family. It is like
conceding the final request to one condemned to die. An act of generosity before the
fall. Let me write. To say good-bye, at least, to my own, to my loved ones: for mercy...
The Caesar had sent a series of letters to president Herrera complaining of the
unhealthiness of the jail, of the stench that filled the cells and of the bad treatment
received, unacceptable in terms of his rank. Let him keep lamenting his fate. We should
see that bare-faced bandit hanging from a leafy cypress from Chapultepec woods. Grant me
what I ask, finally, for these lines will be the last ones written in my life.
     The text that "15 Nails" composes is not sent to Dolores nor to his children or
friends, nor is it a final message of love to his people to whom he bids farewell forever
before the possibility of an immediate firing squad: remember me with love, know you
were loved and wanted, and I could err yet always acted in good faith seeking your
welfare and that of the nation. Good-bye, good-bye, owners of all my thoughts... No,
nonsense. The Meritorious of the Nation sends a secret missive, with very precise
instructions, to Manning and Mackintosh, a British banking company where he
orders the transfer of his personal funds to Cuba, in such a way that under the
protection of the English flag they cannot be confiscated, in any case, by the Mexican
government, a cabal of bandits who want to keep for evil the savings obtained during so
many years, the undeniable product of the sweat of his brow, his children's sacred
patrimony, which paradoxically matched the embezzlements from the public treasury.
     The trial against the Benefactor commences. Charges? Having attacked the government
founded on the Organic Basis and having dissolved the provincial assembly of Querétero,
among many others. Herrera, known as "the spotless president" because he never robbed
anything, does not depart from expedience. He reads with a magnifying glass every one
of the tribunal's resolutions in relation to processing that miserable traitor. He
changes the guard regularly. He fears an escape achieved by arrangement with
subordinates. He knows too well the craftiness of the accused. The rats already find
a hole to escape or hide in. He would have liked to hang him the same way that, in
his time, president Guerrero, His Excellency's companion, wanted. With what pleasure
he would have personally given president Herrera the instructions for a squad of
soldiers to execute Santa Anna. In that sentiment he coincided with the desires, also
frustrated, of the kin from El Álamo and from El Goliad, among many others who
desired his extinction before he continued causing damage... Guard him well, he can
escape with more facility than a dunghill rodent...
     The Mexican newspapers at the start of 1845 asked for war. Herrera, a man certainly
weak but wise, is opposed again to confronting the United States with arms. "I propose,
on the other hand, a military reform to dismantle the political control apparatus that
Santa Anna has dominated for more than a decade." I will likewise execute
bureaucratic reform. We shall return to Federalism. I shall implement constitutional
reform in deep agreement with modern times and in conformity with the national political
     While the process against His Excellency unfolds, now in the year of 1845, Herrera
is failing with his objectives. Just like Santa Anna he was defeated by a politics in
favor of war to attain the re-conquest of Tejas, a territory that he himself had lost in
1836. Now the new president of the Republic also staggers under the weight of opposing
reversion to arms from an offensive, not defensive, point of view, just as his own
secretary of Foreign Relations, Cuevas, had said: "It would be best to recognize the new
Republic of Texas and avoid a major conflict with the United States, for which Mexico is
not prepared." A curious nation the Mexican, no? Santa Anna is deposed, among other
causes, for supporting the war, and Herrera in brief will be overthrown, among other
reasons, for refusing to support the same war, that is, for the contrary, for proposing
a national crusade for peace and negotiation... One falls for supporting and the other
for not supporting it...
     In the same way that in 1822 Iturbide did not manage to promulgate the promised
constitutional text and this project remained archived in his political agenda and, for
this and for other erroneous decisions, he was deposed, Herrera similarly will not be
able to promulgate the desired modifications to the Constitution and also will be ousted
less than a year after having occupied the Presidency...

The events move faster than my capacity to tell them. Before president Tyler will turn
over power to James Polk on March 4th of that same 1845 and to fully justify his stay in
the White House, he should have very quickly resolved a pending matter that neither
Andrew Jackson himself nor Martin van Buren, his predecessors, could complete during
their respective tenures. The obsession, it is clear, could be nothing but Texas. To add,
ultimately, one more star to the national flag, a note of pride, an act of sublime patriotism
without pausing before two considerations: one, the trampling of a neighboring country,
defenseless, that would remain territorially mutilated--what do such sentiments matter
to the nascent empire?--and the other, the fact of adding a slave state to the nation
with all its consequences.
     In April of the previous year, in 1844, Tyler had signed a treaty of annexation with
12 Texian representatives. Yes, it only lacked ratification by the North American
Congress. By no means could Polk, an odious democrat, be permitted to enjoy the fruits of
such a triumph only hours after having been in his White House office and without having
physically fought to attain that proposition. The days passed. Growing worry about
English intervention in Tejas will rarefy the environment. The damn British: they want
the whole world for themselves... The sand in the hourglass fell with suffocating
rapidity from one increment to another without being able to stop.
     Tyler, like it or not, in agreement or not, had to give up power at least by the
night of March 3rd of 1845, under penalty of confronting grave political and legal
consequences. What marvelous possibilities the Mexican system offered when its
presidents could remain in charge at will or return whenever they pleased ignoring
all constitutional limitations and also receiving the tumultuous applause of the
people! A post of such dignity and heavy responsibility that it is disputed among
themselves, principally the politicians and Mexican military, like children,
alleging their greater right to take a turn riding a pony.
     No, no way. Do not even think of remaining another day in power. George Washington
himself had declined to be re-elected. That was the temperament, the courage, the
determination, the working example of respect for the North American institutions and
laws. He would never try to eternalize himself in power in the vaunted Mexican style.
     Tyler might have fantasized during his last nights lying in the presidential bedroom
of the possibility of remaining in charge, ignoring the Constitution and all political
principles, yes of course, but they would never go beyond this, fantasies, simple
fantasies. In reality, were he  to refuse to turn over control the army officials would
subdue him by force and seclude him in a prison for an indeterminate number of years
which a judge would impose through a sentence, no matter who is concerned.
     What consequences do the coup supporting general-presidents in Mexico suffer? None!
Despite participating in armed uprisings, riots, coups d'etat and organizing all sorts
of acts of sedition, if they cover their chest with decorations and cover the walls of
their offices with political acknowledgments, parchments and multicolor diplomas, in
addition to saturating their pockets with money and conceding great expanses of territory
to guarantee their political immobility and ensure safe passage in the future. Moctezuma
wished to purchase Cortés with dazzling gifts and all he did was to stimulate the
latter's appetite even more. History repeats itself. We do not change.
     For his part, president John Tyler convened meetings, within and outside the White
House, of legislators from both parties, of journalists of diverse persuasions and from
different entities of the nation. The curtain is about to fall. On occasion he shares
lunch with them in the reception hall with the view of the snowy gardens extant in that
frozen winter at the beginning of 1845 or invites them to enjoy tea in his office at mid-
afternoon. The theme under discussion? Texas, of course. He insists on private
conversations with congresspeople and governors at cocktails, ceremonies, concerts, gala
dinners, political and cultural events, receptions in the various embassies assigned to
the United States when they celebrate their national festival day. The agreements with
the infiltrated secret agents would always be behind closed doors. James Polk, the
president-elect, helps Tyler in these lobbying roles. The latter promises the legislators
a series of advantages and promises which, he knows very well, he will never fulfill.
Promising is not fatal... It is better to ask for pardon, yes, but not to lose Tejas.
First things first. Since both, Tyler and Polk, desired the same, it was time to fight
jointly for the expansion of the country. Even when they were members of opposite
parties, acid political adversaries, on Whig and the latter a democrat, they tried to
join forces as allies to reach a common goal. Texas! Our political differences we can
settle later in another arena, in another scenario, in other circumstances. The
political enemies extend their hands. At that moment what is important is the
aggrandizement of the United States. Right, James? Yes, John...
     Lacking only three days for Polk to take possession, on February 27th of 1845, in a
rigidly solemn session filled with tension and decorated with hundreds of American
flags, before a gigantic crowd of spectators and the curious, John Tyler achieves
ratification by Congress regarding the annexation of Tejas with 27 votes versus 25 in
the midst of stupendous ovation and loud booing as if we were at a rodeo. Tejas stopped
being an independent Republic to become one more state of the American Union. The Whigs
had voted together with some democrats uniting to barely obtain the necessary majority.
The slave states won the voting versus the free states by 14 to 13, respectively. A
close, difficult decision. A decade and a half later it would have to be translated into
rivers of blood, ruins and destruction. On the 1st of March in 1845, Tyler signed the
joint resolution, issuing from both Chambers. That same night he sent the resolution to
Donelson, the United States representative in Tejas, for ratification of the treaty on
the part of that Republic. There was no time to lose. The president celebrated the end
of his administration with waving fists. He had reached his objective. The euphoria,
however, prevented him from seeing one obstacle...
     The political and diplomatic task of following up fell into Polk's hands: the
Congress and the government of the still Republic of Tejas were now, in turn, obliged to
ratify, with all the formalisms, the annexation already authorized by the United States.
He urged them. They only lacked a majority yes from the Congress and from the inhabitants
of Tejas. Yet which of these latter were going to oppose the annexation of their "country"
to a United States when one could clearly see its enormous military and economic
potential? Everything seemed to indicate that no one could oppose and nothing could
hinder the political fusion for which the North American people had voted when they
elected James Knox Polk to head the White House. Surprises the spice of life...
     On the 4th of March in 1845, Polk assumes possession as the tenth starting president
of the United States of North America. Santa Anna, meanwhile, remained deprived of his
liberty at the Castle in Perote. He traps cockroaches covering them with a plate until
killing them from hunger. In the following scene he tries to determine up to what point
the rats with which he lives are palatable. He despairs. He yells. The heat suffocates
him. The new leader in the White House appeals for the first time to the Monroe Doctrine.
In his inaugural speech and once the interference of the United Kingdom and of France in
continental American affairs is established, he warns both powers blandishing his index
finger: "If any European power tries to put or maintain a colony in any part of the
territory claimed or possessed by the United is in accordance with our
interests, our security and our national honor that they will be vigorously resisted.
Very soon I will ask this Congress for the extension of North American jurisdiction
over the entire area.
     In another paragraph he provoked exchanges of glances among the foreign diplomats
assigned to Washington. "The government of the United States is the most admirable and
prudent system of well-organized self-government among men, every conceived by the human
     Money, blood, destruction, and deaths, betrayals, treachery, bribery, and
blackmail? Ay, please: let us abandon sentimentalism! My only goal consists in being able
to give my compatriots the pleasure of contemplating a new North American map in which,
of course, Texas should already appear as a new State of the Union and to which we shall
soon have to add Oregón, California and Nuevo México.
     We should invest the best of our attention, our power and our talent, in securing
 our frontiers, our growth possibilities, our businesses and employment to stabilize
migration, our collection sources, our business opportunities with the Asians, our
primary resources, our areas of free work through slavery, our promises, our horizons,
our hopes...
     So no one should ever forget that a slave produces up to four times more than a
white person and furthermore, for whatever reason, the work of the blacks is free...
     The end justifies the means, no? Furthermore, my neighbors' memory of how they
filled their pockets with money is so fragile. It is so easy to puff the chest of my
compatriots showing them an invincible and uncontainable nation endowed with
enormous coastlines on the Pacific, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean Sea...
The means to get the new territories will be forgotten very soon and erased from
memory, in the same way that the tracks of the seagulls disappear when the sea washes
away the past with its waves of white foam...

The news of the approval of the annexation of Tejas to the United States arrives in the
capital of the Republic on the 21st of March of 1845 with a devastating violence that
flattens whatever it finds in its path, like what occurs when a ship sinks and the water
angrily enters destroying anything in its way with breathtaking fury.
     Mexico had left it very clear that the annexation of Tejas to the United States
would be the equivalent of a casus belli. The Mexican Chancellery and the different
accredited national ambassadors had let this be known in diplomatic notes, declarations
by public functionaries and legislators, publications in North American and national
newspapers. No one would be able to say they were surprised. The cause-effect response
was evident and awaited. War would correspond to the annexation. We Mexicans could not
apathetically and indifferently observe the shameless mutilation of our territory. The
invaders, thieves, pirates, filibusters, assassins, can expect from Mexico only a rope
around the neck, a distinguished place on the scaffold or a place of honor in the
center when the firing squad shoots, aiming at the usurpers' testicles so the
consequences of attacking their picturesque neighbors will never be forgotten. Fire!!!
     In March of that same year of 1845 Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, the minister
representing Mexico in the United States, demands his passport as an unequivocal signal
of protest and leaves the country in obedience to previously received instructions, not
without first leaving a very clear Mexican opinion regarding our neighbors at the side

     The North Americans are barbarous Apache-killers, murderers of whole peoples, slave
     holders, torturers, vendors of human beings, bedeviled devourers of dollars, with no
     other God than gold. The supposed adorers of right usually spread their goods, in
     general,  to those who cannot defend themselves. It is enough to ask the North
     American indians, the first populators of their territory, for their opinion...
          With the blessing of Divine Providence, they will take out your eyes for an
     ingot, or anyone's because, according to them, he determined that the yankees would
     have better fortune with what is foreign... They have no morality beyond their
     material appetites. To satisfy them is their sole objective.
          Mexico, according to their racial perspective, is inferior and degraded and,
     therefore we, the Mexicans, will be treated as slaves and sold as such the length
     and breadth of the nation. They will come to burn our cities, to sack our temples,
     to rape our women and daughters, to murder our sons, and immolate the country's
     defenders in our presence. They should know that with every dead Mexican they will
     encounter a thousand avengers. I swear it!

Upon his return to Mexico, he will organize the resistance beside president Herrera. He
calls for war to defend the national dignity. He requires sending troops north to
preserve Tejas as well as Nuevo México and California. They must protect our houses
and our religion. We appeal for the support of other nations against the hypocritical
aggression of this slave-owning power. At that moment, more than ever, in the United
States all the Mexican territories north of the Rio Bravo are already under discussion.
Perhaps we were not speaking only and exclusively of the Texian annexation, so well armed
for so many years, by the various North American governments? Why do Nuevo México
and California now join the feast? What does it mean? The plans to execute the biggest
robbery of the 19th century are in motion. The breaking of relations is imminent. War,
a word in the mouths of all, produces fear, passion, heroism, and illusion. The probable
explosion of the military conflict consumes enormous amounts of paper and ink in both
countries. The newspapers of both nations sell out on leaving the press. Polk was
prepared for everything. He had crouched like a tiger, in absolute silence, waiting for
the adequate moment to attack his prey.
     President Herrera and Luis Gonzaga Cuevas, the minister of Foreign Relations, do
not conceal their courage and frustration, above all because both have been insinuating
the possibility of diplomatic recognition of an independent Tejas. The two were mistaken
to think that England would adopt a more leading role, more defensive and threatening,
given its interests in Tejas and Oregón.
     Wilson Shannon, the North American ambassador in Mexico, also retrieves his
passport. Before the rupture of relations, he gives his version of the facts to his
government in Washington. The political temperature rises in level. A short time will be
lacking before reaching the boiling point. Patience appears to be lost in both of the
neighbors. Neighbors? Adversaries, proximate furious enemies after the outbreak of the
war. The communique of ambassador Shannon criticizes Mexico's patriotic attitude in
relation to its patrimonial territory:

     The insolvency of this government is intolerable and if it is tolerated in one case
     that will serve to foment its repetition. I think that we should demonstrate
     hardness with Mexico and make them clearly understand that they should retract
     their insults and do justice to all the complaints that we have against her. I am
     convinced that we shall not achieve any arrangement with Mexico in any of the
     difficulties which we have with her, until we hit them or make them believe we are
     about to hit... I think that we should present Mexico with an ultimatum...

At the end of March diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States are seen as
ended. The dialogue between the two nations officially concludes. The difficulties are
growing. Each of the parties will move its tokens in silence. The language is between
deaf mutes. Artillery positions are massively established. Powder is manufactured or
imported. Uniforms are designed. Polk discreetly investigates the Mexican military
resources, the army and the navy, in the spirit of measuring the enemy forces and
weighing the possibilities of success in an armed confrontation. Military espionage is a
reality. The United States performs, also, a geographic inventory of Mexico. The Mexicans
lack resources, and perhaps imagination, to do the same.
     The single word Tejas has come to profoundly reflect the political differences that
were surmounted in Mexico's independence. In the same way it encumbered politicians,
threatened prestige and eroded hopes, muddied reputations, and justified subversive
movements of one sort or another. Are you in favor of annexation? Ah, traitor, enemy
of the national patrimony inherited from our grandparents. If you do not feel the pain of
the mutilation, neither will you experience any sensation at the loss of a child, true...?
You died a long time ago and still have not noticed. Do you think that in selling
territories that never have yielded us a profit, we will tranquilize the appetites of
the North American wild beast, who we satisfy, so that later they do not attempt to
devour the Californias and Nuevo México...? Let us sell it, you say, to make money
to reconstruct the country, pay debts, inject resources into roads, ports and bridges,
educate ourselves, grow and evolve. Lastly: let us transfer the country before being
stripped of it, no...?
     A rifle, give me a rifle, let us do away with the yankees and country-sellers we
find in our way. Let us defend Tejas until shedding the last drop of blood...
     Now then: Are you against the annexation? Ah, then you want an armed confrontation
and for the yankees to massacre us with the further risk of losing the whole country!
You think that any temporizing would be a crime worthy of public execration because the
war is just, glorious and inevitable, right? Have you not noticed that we were born
broke, we are broke and we shall die broke and that the annexation would provide us money
to grow and buy arms and be able to defend ourselves in a perhaps immediate future?
Please understand: if we do not give them the territories, they will take them from us
by force...
     Some feverish diplomatic activity, open and covered, begins. There is no time to
lose. The secret agents, general and active commodores, Polk's official representative in
Tejas, Donelson, the ministers without portfolios, the observers camouflaged as
evangelical pastors, the spies on salary contracted by the White House, columnists and
newspersons, now lobby the Texian electorate, its Congress and their government in order
to obtain, quickly, ratification of the annexationist treaty, the one introduced by Tyler
during the last three days of his government. Sedition is induced. Yell, Wickliffe,
Green, Donelson, Sherman, Stockton, the military, civilians, the religious, and the
media, speak of an attack over the Rio Grande into México: panic is created. They
fulfill their secret political instructions. They ignite with verbs and with lies. They
manipulate the population's fear. Terror is a poor counselor. It is easy to profit from
the panic of the Texians: it is enough to repeat Remember the Alamo. Remember Goliad,
1836 and the desired changes in favor of the United States will operate magically.
The disguised personal envoys resorted to bribes, blackmail and promises of power in the
remainder of the north of the nation. Mexico is in chaos, they said, without money,
without order, with no army and no arms and, were that not enough, a defenseless
government, disunited citizens, a society handing over at their earliest economic
convenience the exhausted public treasury, the lost national credit, its future income
compromised through mortgages and foreign credit, and a grave domestic discomfort derived
from the eternal political instability... They had a point, no...?
     The English, in particular, oppose the annexation. With their traditional diplomacy
they sabotage the now Polkian project. They want an independent Tejas, an autonomous
Republic to negotiate with them, not the White  House. The magnificent cotton fields and
their commercial possibilities entirely capture their attention. Their interests are
obvious. They convince Herrera when it is already too late. How much time was wasted over
the last year! While politicians and generals disputed for power overthrowing Santa Anna
and imposing Herrera or Paredes, in an historical scenario of institutional disorder,
nobody noticed that in Washington they were writing the future of Mexico, since they
were looking for the most accurate spot to strike a devastating blow to the neck at the
proper moment. What senselessness! What irresponsibility!
     Finally Great Britain, through Elliot their representative in Tejas, argues for the
impossible to Jones, the president of the Republic of Tejas. He dazzles him with the
economic and political advantages of not annexing to the United States and remaining as
an independent Republic. Mexico is in agreement. Viva a free and sovereign Tejas. Thanks
for the invitation from the North American Congress, señor Polk, we are very
flattered by your interest and by the efforts of Tyler, your predecessor. We feel moved,
but the Texians have coastlines, plains, forests, rivers, ports, everything to attain
success without the "generous" help of anyone. Thank you, brothers, thank you, we shall
do business together anyway. The economic advantages of autonomy are indescribable,
Elliot insists to Jones, the Texian president: reject annexation in categorical terms. I
guarantee that you will never regret it...

The response from Jones shakes the ground under Polk's government for the first time.
Something unforeseen, unthinkable, unimaginable occurs: simply put, toward the end of
1845 the head of the Texian nation  argues that it is worthwhile to wait 90 days in order
to carefully study the Mexican offer... Let us wait. I do not have the White House's
hurry. We shall consider the convenience of an independent Texian Republic... Let us
reflect on it! The pressures from Washington are continuous and fearsome. Polk wants to
know whether Jones shares his point of view in the sense of California and Nuevo
México having always formed part of Tejas and through which, by annexing the latter,
we shall indeed reach the Pacific. Let us adjust our maps... Do not think there cannot be
cartographic errors...president Jones...? You should...
     "I am coming to the conclusion that our yankee countrymen are assailants. Could it
be? How could it even occur to them that the frontier line of Tejas is the coast of the
Pacific Ocean?"
     The publicity campaigns financed by Polk and the labor of his agents influence the
Texians in a determinative fashion. Buchanan, the secretary of State, promises to provide
military and economic support from the White House; the assistance of the United States
will magically strengthen the internal market of the new State upon annexation to the
Union; he cites over and over the disadvantages of remaining isolated in a world where
the big fish eat the small. Where would a solitary and orphan Republic of Texas be going?
Furthermore, the threats, open or veiled, could not fail. At any moment they might attack
Mexico, resounds from the Potomac. Who believes in the word of the Mexicans? Remember
the Alamo! They are savages. Look here, Santa Anna is a cannibal, he will skin them,
and following that, he will bone them and will devour them in bites without ourselves
being able to help them... So then, Texian friends, if you are incapable of understanding
what is good for you, if you reject our friendly invitations and the accords from our
Congress, the United States will have no alternative but to help you see reason with the
help of our cannons. An underage child should be led by the hand or by the ear...
     Polk moves his international chess pieces. Commodore Stockton had instruction to set
sail aboard the Princeton, a new and imposing warship towards the Mediterranean,
a trip of friendship and good will, in reality a journey designed with the goal of
impressing the European powers with the armed capacity of the United States navy. Take
note of what we relate so as to measure their force and their ambitions in relation to
America! The Princeton crew were already ready to go to sea together with other
ships of the fleet like the Saratoga, St. Mary's and the Porpoise, when suddenly, right
on the 22nd of April of 1845, the counter-order from Bancroft, the new government's
secretary of the Navy, arrives. Stockton's orders, between the lines, consist of
intimidating the Texians:

     You should direct yourself together with the squadron you command to the vicinity of
     Galveston, Texas, and stay there as close to the beach as circumstances will permit.
     You will choose one of your ships so that on arriving at the port of Galveston it
     displays the American flag... You yourself shall disembark to learn the attitude of
     the people of Texas and their relations with Mexico which you should report to this
     department. After staying in Galveston as long as your judgment permits, you will
     proceed to reunite with commodore Conner's squadron in Veracruz.

In that day a good number of North American warships were found anchored on the Texian
coasts and in Louisiana, principally in New Orleans. Elliot, the Englishman, leaves the
office of Texian president Jones by one door and by the other enters general Sidney
Sherman, the commander of the Texian militia, accompanied by commodore Stockton's
personal secretary. The pressure is constant and intense. They inform him there of the
strategic North American interest in taking Matamoros as "a precautionary measure..."
Matamoros? What does Matamoros have to do with it? Where is the truth hidden in all this?
     President Polk--who sends Sherman point blank to Jones--wishes that Texas would
adopt a more hostile attitude against Mexico, so that when Tejas is finally incorporated
into the Union it would bring  along with it a war against Mexico.
     Jones stands up, rests his fists on the table of his study and declares for history:
Thus, gentlemen--he replied, raising his brow before the commodore's secretary--what
president Polk wants is for Texas to manufacture a war for the United States against
Mexico, true?
     With this answerless question the meeting was considered over.
     In the style of Pilate, president Jones thinks he can arrive at a Solomonic decision
between so many influences, pressures and blackmail of both bands. On the 4th of June the
decision is placed in the hands of the Texian people of accepting the offer of peace and
independence formulated by Mexico or to proceed to annexation to the United States. A
National Texian Convention is convened to decide the fate of their nation. In addition he
knows that he will confront Polk, Sam Houston, Stockton, the army, the Congress, and the
press of the United States and, of course, a great Texian majority.
     The chief in the White House thunders like an old diplomat from the traditional
school: "Hear me well, in the event that the Texian Congress does not decree annexation,
the North American armed forces will go to the aid of the Texian people to proclaim
     Polk will not submit to the result of the voting in the Texian Congress much despite
it consisting of only one Mexican, José Antonio Navarro of San Antonio; 18 members
coming from Tennessee, eight from Virginia, seven from Georgia, six from Kentucky and
five from North Carolina. He will only observe the resolution of the legislative
chambers of the Republic of Texas if it is favorable and agrees with his interests;
otherwise he will violently reject it with genuine democratic conviction. Only that is
just which benefits myself...
     The convention finally convenes on the 4th of July of 1845. Tejas or Texas:
independent Republic or state in the American Union? The date alone, the day of the
commemoration of the independence of the United States from the English Crown, filled
Polk and his cabinet with enthusiasm and hope. The publicity campaign in favor of the
annexation and the massive lobbying work run by Sam Houston daily convinced Texian public
opinion. Every neighbor seemed to be a North American special agent. The control over
and position of the press would very soon produce the awaited results.
     The voting yielded the following data: 120 in favor and 18 against in the Chamber
of Deputies, with 27 versus 25 in that of the Senators, where the decision was much 
more bitter. Tejas was lost forever: it would never return to being Mexican. The treaty
voted by the North American Congress had been ratified by the Texians this day in history.
The old strategy laid out by president Jefferson consisting of invading the territories,
making them independent and annexing them, proved an impeccable mechanism.
     Polk, however, has no time for celebrations. He orders, through a decree, with great
pleasure, the changing of all the flags in the Union: he will add, "for the time being,"
one star. The mysterious meaning of words, no...? "For the time being..." uttered for
those of understanding... Enclosed in his offices he considers his following move. He
knows that Santa Anna, once judicially overthrown and processed, went into Cuban exile.
One enemy less...? He takes into account Mexico's eternal political destabilization and
imparts great speed to the execution of his expansionist plans. An intelligent person is
distinguished by knowing how to seek, find and use opportunities.
     Obsessive as he is, he devotes himself to consolidating the newly annexed state
militarily and economically. On the 11th of July he gives orders to the North American
navy to defend Texas against a non-existent remote Mexican aggression based on
retaliation. Beware of the treatment offered by our neighbors to the south toward those
who surrender and wave a white flag! They put a knife to their victims with more savagery
than the Comanches. It is clear that those are Aztec memories of when they removed the
heart from the maidens on the sacrifice stone and rivers of blood flooded the pyramids
where they celebrated the ceremonies.
     Polk gives order as if he hears a volley of shots. Washington is swarming.
     --Conner!--the commodore is brought to the White House on the 11th of July of 1845.
Only four months of the government has elapsed.
     --At your service, sir.
     --You will set sail with your squadron to guard the ports of Louisiana and Texas.
You should place your ships at the mouth of the Rio Bravo.
     --Zachary Taylor!--at 70 years of age, a soldier with almost 38 years of service in
the army, more than half his life, is brought in on the 30th of July. Since 1837, after
the battle of Okeechobee, he has been promoted to general with the training necessary
to defend the frontier lines of the North American southeast...
     --At your service, sir.
     --You will leave New Orleans en route to Corpus Christi with the most elect of the
North American army, or that is, you will advance to the west of the Nueces River, but
secretly. You will be in charge of four regiments of infantry of the eight we possess.
Furthermore you will have available all our existing dragoons and all our artillery.
Understand me: half of the North American armed forces. You can see the importance
that I give to the Mexican case.
     If Polk orders Taylor to abandon New Orleans and leave towards Corpus Christi, a
city of 100 inhabitants where you can only buy and sell mules, horses, saddles, bridles,
tobacco, clothing, and alcohol, it is because he knows that the Mexicans will not send
troops even to defend California or Nuevo México. The battles, in case of war, will
necessarily be in Tejas, on the Atlantic coast. Where will they extract the money,
the space and the men, the military strength to defend the north of Mexico if not,
perhaps, from Texas? Combat on the banks of San Francisco Bay would be unpredictable.
The Mexicans would die on the road... I resist saying that they would drown for lack of
an inflatable raft...
     Polk intentionally gives vague and confusing orders so as to always leave a
political exit open where in case of conflict he can blame his subordinates, in this
case, Taylor himself, whom he would punish with all the rigor of the law.
     Zachary Taylor thinks during the voyage: my access to the Presidency of the United
States depends upon my military prestige; for every dead Mexican, for every battle won,
for every people destroyed, for every yard of Mexican territory stolen or not, the
closer I will be to the White House in this marvelous nation of warriors, where the booty
of war has an extraordinary political specific gravity. The rope is broken where it is
weakest, he says to himself. He will not march even slowly while not having received
precise, concrete orders. He worries more about the hidden intentions contained in Polk's
orders than about Apache attacks or those from Mexicans. The subordinate always pays for
the execution of confused instructions, he will say to himself while he chews his
favorite Virginia tobacco.
     In the high military command they are clear to Polk with his steely gaze:
     --Sir, I should remind you that the border of Texas are marked by two rivers, one,
that in the northeast, the Sabina, according to the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 that
produced the frontier with Louisiana and the other, the Nueces, in the south, is that
which establishes the frontier line with Mexico, in particular with the states of
Tamaulipas and Coahuila.
     Whoever did not know Polk might find it difficult to realize that his impatience
was on the point of overflowing. He did not tolerate being given classes, least of all
in geography and less, much less, if they dealt with the border lines of the United
States with Mexico.
     --If we order Taylor, sir, to arrive in Corpus Christi, or that is, to advance to
the west of the Nueces River, we already will be violating the Mexican frontier: we will
have invaded a clearly foreign territory, mister president...
     --Understood--replied Polk, as if he did not know from memory that Texas bordered
with Louisiana and Mexico. Of course he understood the reach of his decisions. He had
read the damned Adams-Onís Treaty a thousand times, could draw the map of the
frontier of Tejas blind and, nevertheless, concluded with a laconic: --Proceed.
     --Do you not understand English?--he thundered as always when, especially fools,
would seek to give lessons to him, to Polk, the chief of the White House, to the
president of the United States. God damn it! Let Taylor go where I order him...!
     --Fremont! Bring John Fremont.
     --Choose 50 or 60 soldiers, arm them to perfection, then disguise them and leave
quickly for California on a voyage of reconnaissance and of geographic investigation. You
will not need any more men to conquer California.
     --I shall take a force of riflemen, sir...
     --Riflemen! Yes, of course yes and take over, legally or not, as many Californian
populations as you can in the name of the government of the United States. Do not share
these instructions with anyone, they are secret. If you betray me I will deny this
     --Yet we are not at war, sir...
     --As if we were. Have you understood me?
     --Send a good number of military and naval engineers to the north of the Rio Bravo
and to Veracruz: I need to have all the details of the terrain in order to guarantee
     --Larkin! Yes, yes, Larkin, have him go to Monterey, California, as a confidential
agent to the State Department. Have him renounce his assignment as consul of the United
States. That way he will be more useful to us. He has managed to make the "adoptive
Mexicans" turn out to be North Americans at heart. He has completed my instructions very
well since the first day of my government. I want also for our consuls, Dimond in
Veracruz, Black in Mexico City, Schatzel in Matamoros, and Chase in Tampico to inform
me and me personally, with a copy to Buchanan, of everything that happens. Thus we shall
have various sources to cross-check data and confirm the progress of our plans.
     Polk had sufficient time, during the summer of 1845, to consider the selection of
his representatives, agents, spies, or personal envoys, charged with fulfilling certain
very specific tasks. Some were of a military nature, others of espionage or journalism,
or of sedition against the Mexican authorities, or may have followed studies or research
to derive inventories and routes in the event of an armed intervention. He meets almost
daily with his closest generals and commodores or sends them letters or messages if they
were already not in Washington: Stockton, Sloat, Taylor, and Conner. For the Mexicans it
seemed a conspiracy for a future orchestrated attack. In the case of the North Americans
they were simply strategic plans. Why do the Mexicans have to put so much emotional
emphasis on foreign affairs? Everything seems suspicious to them: they are skeptics by
definition and nature.
     In this manner Polk arranges his ideas. I saw him pacing frenetically from one side
of his office to the other day and night. Who will go to Mazatlán, to protect the
California coasts, San Diego, Los  Ángeles, Monterey, and the beautiful San
Francisco Bay from rebel Mexicans? Sloat! Sloat symbolically takes over those ports
beginning in July of 1845... He takes them a year before war breaking out between
both countries, I say tightening my jaw. Sons of bitches...! The plan was perfectly
orchestrated. Who will be the men to take Chihuahua, Utah, Santa Fe and that conquer
Nuevo México without firing a single shot, like Yucatán, a rich tropical territory
already given, delivered, rendered before the majesty of our cause? We count on two
vital tools to achieve success: Divine Providence and the absence of Mexican
     Polk personally selects his work team. He often obliges them to memorize his
instructions so as not to leave written evidence. He rejects the admission of the
traditional functionaries. I am required to guarantee my own success. I do not
delegate anything: I only confide in three persons: me, myself and I...

Santa Anna, a lucky man, is helped by an amnesty decree after five months of isolation in
a foul jail. They pardon him in May of 1845. He is saved again, this time not from the
indians' fury who would have cooked him like a tamale, but also from the firing squad or
the noose, where without a doubt he would have arrived hooded and handcuffed from the
resentment and the courage of president Herrera. What a service it would have been for
Mexico if His Excellency had been wrapped in ripe banana leaves and subjected to the
level of baking required to cook a good tamale in the Oaxacan style! How much the destiny
of Mexico would have changed if an accurate firing squad had ended the life of the Savior
of the Nation and an experienced shooter had punctually administered the coup de grace
to the temple crowned with gold laurels of the renowned Meritorious one...!
     On the 3rd of May of 1845 Santa Anna boarded the Midway, an English ship,
headed for Cuba, accompanied of course by Dolores. There, in Havana, he will hatch the
never divulged chain of felonies which, for that reason, have been ignored by the
Mexicans of yesterday and today.
     One of the personages who accompanied the Mexican Caesar en route to exile is again
Alejandro Atocha, the same Spanish gentleman who had supported him through hell and high
water during his years as dictator from 1841 to 1845 and who was with him when Manuel
Domínguez, the highway robber, apprehended him in Xico, before his seclusion in the
Castle at Perote. With him he set sail from Mexican territory and crossed the Gulf of
Mexico and the Caribbean Sea until reaching his "final destination resigned to agonize,"
as he said, "in the pain of exile, far, very far from the homeland..." I have no other
alternative than to drink cold champagne to his exile...
    During the nights of warm spring travel, enjoying the perfumed Caribbean breeze,
supporting his elbows on the handrails of the prow, Santa Anna and Atocha have plenty
of time to exchange, as always, viewpoints in relation to Mexican politics. There,
conversing in profile with his gaze fixed on the horizon, silently contemplating how the
moon shimmers in the immensity of the sea, Atocha opens his tool kit and informs the ex-
president of the formulas that he has employed to register as a creditor of the Mexican
government in the Reclamations Agreement signed with the United States. Debts that the
Mexican government has contracted with North American nationals. He, Atocha, as he
finally confesses, also possesses North American citizenship and therefore has the right
to make a claim. So much so that he will sail from Cuba the next month, June of 1845,
towards Washington to meet with no one less than president Polk with the aim of claiming
the indemnification which he will doubtless charge when Mexico finally fulfills its
payment obligations.
     --Do you also live in the United State?
     --Yes, sir, I live in Nueva Orleans. My name will appear since 1834 in that city's
directory, as a real estate broker, at number 53 St. Louis street. My personal residence
was number 272 on Bourbon Street. However starting in 1838 I moved to number 241 on the
same street--his interlocutor insists, to reveal the whole truth and avoid the presence
of any suspicion.
     Santa Anna does not appear surprised that his friend Atocha may be a creditor of the
Mexican government or that he possesses American citizenship or that likewise he lives
in the United States: what powerfully attracts His Excellency's attention is the fact
that don Alejandro might have access to the chief in the White House to deal with a
certainly irrelevant matter.
     --And what did you do to obtain an appointment with Polk?--Santa Anna asks with
apparent apathy, inhaling the smoke of his pure Veracruzian.
     --In the United States democracy is exemplary. It is the authentic government of the
people. The citizens--he concludes observing the trail that the English ship produces in
its wake--have access to the head of the nation simply because the president owes his
office to them. We are before the figure of a true public servant.
     --I too received legislators, journalists, members of the opposition, representatives
of the top hierarchy of the Catholic Church, European and Mexican aristocrats, writers,
and diplomats--he added with an air of arrogance to demonstrate that he would not be
impressed by the yankee customs. --My governments always had open doors in terms of the
     Santa Anna was going to comment that when an audience was sought by thieves such as
Manuel Domínguez, true bad-smelling indians who when they left a venue, the odor of
rancid sweat of centuries persisted stubbornly in his office, in that case requiring his
subalterns to take charge of his affairs who gave due process to their petitions. I
might have wished that all my visitors might have completed the formalities and education
of the persons who tread in Polk's office! What kind of face would the chief of the White
House make if his agenda every day was filled with half-breeds, Zapotecans or little
     When the Mexican ex-executive began to show off his knowledge of the city of
Washington, the conversation soon swerved to avoid remembering when Sam Houston
captured him and sent him in chains, in his character of general-president of the
Republic, to the capital of the United States. What a disgrace that was...! He would
never re-tell how, being a prisoner and having such a political personality, he was
shipped before the presence of president Jackson in the White House. How healthy it
is to forget! No?
     --Do you think of returning to Mexico or will everything be forgotten and you pass
your last days in Cuba?--asked Atocha without hiding his Spanish accent.
     The sea appeared pacific. Navigation became a pleasure in those conditions. Only
occasionally did the banister have to be grabbed. The sea breeze humidified one's face,
restfully. The long inhalations of tropical air were as inevitable as they were
gratifying. The environment was conducive to engendering a good conversation.
     --I shall return to my beloved country before you think, dear friend--replied Santa
Anna slowly exhaling the smoke of his pure Veracruzian through the nose and the mouth.
Now then, if I may express myself without correction, I should better say I shall never
go back unless they call shouting for my return. Understand it Atocha: I am like opium,
the Mexicans do not know how to live without me. I am the hope, the only one who
protects them, understands them, defends them, and brings order. I am the maximum judge,
the maximum authority in case of domestic or international differences and conflicts.
They cannot comprehend their existence without me. And, no small thing--he concluded
haughtily, oddly moving his head as if the neck of his military jacket pinched--the
Mexicans have a very bad memory and, most of the time even having it, do not want to
remember anything... You will see, it is a problem of the times. They will come for me.
That you shall see for yourself. Then I will announce my conditions.
     Something had brought Santa Anna back to power so often. His Excellency knew his
people much better than the palm of his hand. This domination of society permitted him
to play with it and manipulate it at whim. He moved on to the events with surprising
     --Do you have some message for president Polk--Atocha asked without daring to reply
to His Excellency.
     Santa Anna maintained a long silence. He focused on the distance practically closing
his eyes as if he had discovered some object on the marine horizon.
     --Not for now--he said while he delicately knocked the cigar against the railing to
cause the white ash to fall. --Go now and interview with him: later we shall have more
time to plan a strategy in common. When will you come back, mister Atocha?
     --Whenever you please, Your Excellency...
     --You are very kind. I only want to know your plans.
     --I shall return to Cuba and to Mexico at the end of autumn. The North American
cold does not suit me very well.
     Santa Anna remains mute. He has plenty of time to mature his plans. He has those
very clear, only requiring more respite. Secret agreements with the president of the
United States require seriousness. There is no going backwards. He observes the presence
of plants and trunks floating in the sea, an unequivocal sign of the nearness of the
coast. He arranges his ideas. No better place than the sea to do so. The Midway
barely moves. He conceives plans, plots without announcing them. He chews them. It is
premature. In exile he will have much time to think. Any hurry will become unnecessary.
He distractedly contemplates his interlocutor in the half-light of the full moon night.
He rests his back against the wooden railing. He examines Atocha's face. He clearly
distinguishes the beard in the shape of a padlock. He resembles, he always thought, an
aristocrat, a plump bourgeois from the court of Louis XIV. His manners are fascinating.
On occasion, His Excellency well knows, he has imitated them.
     Alejandro Atocha seemed to be an elegant gentleman extracted from the depths of the
Spanish Golden Age. This man, certainly particular, obese, of medium stature,  who always
appeared with an embroidered handkerchief drying the sweat on his forehead, was
invariably distinguished in the elegant soirées at Chapultepec Castle, for the exquisite
treatment that he dispensed to the women when he greeted them by giving them a
pronounced compliment, not without first removing his wide black hat, of the three-
cornered style, complete with a great black feather that, held in the right hand,
performed a long trip to the heights, while the head of the incurable romantic bowed
before the regal figure of the lady in question.

While Santa Anna prepared to disembark on the waterfront of Havana, general Rangel
raised arms in Mexico to the cry, Federation and Santa Anna! Rangel knows the history
of the Savior of the Nation. He knows that he joined in Iturbide's overthrow and in
that of president Gómez Pedraza. He does not ignore that the latter aborted the
federal Constitution of 1824 with the cry of Centralism or die and that he caused,
causes and apparently will cause great damage to Mexico and, nevertheless, rises in
arms in favor of him proclaiming a principle, that of the Federal Republic, which
the dictator himself rejected. Whatever else the antecedents and history mean, the
fact is that the ex-president is not yet exiled and already they clamor for his
return. He has been reborn before dying...
     While the Meritorious of Veracruz adapts to the "penalties" of Cuban exile having
already taken due opportunity to transfer funds through Manning and Mackintosh
and seek a lady's residence with an view of the sea, near, very near to the beaches,
one which has, indeed yes, enormous windows from which he might contemplate the splendor
of the tropics and the ocean's majesty, in Mexico, the political deterioration overwhelmingly
continues over the second half of 1845. President Herrera, the lover of peace, had been
politically diminished for having tried to reach a dignified and intelligent agreement
in the face of the Texian annexation. The position of a good part of the national press
did not mince words: "Whoever negotiates the sale of Tejas will be branded as a corrupt
nation-seller and trafficker in the sacred."
     The devastating earthquake in the month of April of that same year had been taken as
an indicator of the presence of adversity during his government. Even nature is against
me. Events, invariably stubborn, would serve to confirm it. Two months later, in the
month of June, a coup d'etat would be frustrated orchestrated against Herrera himself
by Valentín Gómez Farías, along with Lafrauga, Olaguíbel and Canalizo, in the Cazador
Cafe along the Portal de Mercaderes. As always happened, the exemplary punishment for
one who had made an attempt against the national institutions consisted in being awarded
the post of senator of the Republic. In place of a site of honor against the wall, in
accord with the gravity of the sin committed, he is given a seat as popular representative.
We Mexicans do not resolve our differences relying on the law, but instead by resorting
to clandestine compromises. This time don Valentín had failed: soon we shall measure on
a second occasion, the following year, in the middle of 1846, his learning capacity
in relation to his own experience.
     That warning, so often repeated, that Mexico should declare war at the same moment
when the president of the United States would sign the act of admission of Tejas into the
American Union, had not been heeded. If the government headed by Herrera refuses to
defend national sovereignty, it should be overthrown. Our country, they insist, cannot
buy peace against the barbarians from the north at any price other than that of their
blood. The defeat and the dying on the banks of the Sabina River will be glorious, unlike
the monstrous and execrable peace signed in the palace in Mexico City.
     On the 8th of August there gather, this time, the forces of general Filisola in El
Peñasco. A new attempted coup d'etat. The second in only two months. The pundits
consider it to be the precursor of a future uprising by Mariano Paredes, the beater, the
beaten, the upriser, put down by Herrera himself, who this time recognizes the strength
of the movement against him. The ground shakes. The stampede of the horses can be heard.
A new armed uprising, this time decisive, appears. Resentments grow. The wounds have not
scarred over. Beware of resentments, they are treasonous and treacherous by nature. The
thirst for power and for vengeance overflow. The troops, sunken as always into hunger,
will be difficult to motivate. The salaries do not reach the pockets of the soldiers nor
the grub their equally empty stomachs. Filisola fails.
     In the case of Tejas, Herrera still dreams of a negotiated solution. While he
maneuvers diplomatically to agree on a price for Texas and seeks to resolve the military
conflict in a peaceful, reasonable and honorable fashion, he simultaneously tries to
raise 15 million pesos through loans destined to finance a probable armed confrontation,
otherwise not to be desired. He turns to the Catholic Church in search of support. We
Mexicans should unite against adversity without pausing to evaluate our religious,
political, social, or economic differences. Does not the single threat of war constitute
a much more valid reason to convene all the forces for a sole interest called Mexico? The
free press plays its part on the side of war. No one confiscates their type or their
presses or shuts down their installations or apprehends their operators. Citizen
guarantees still exist, freedom of expression, of movement, of association much despite
the political and civic contingencies.
     Finally, on the 14th of September in 1845, the Congress formally grants Herrera
investiture into the presidency of the Republic. On the 16th he solemnly assumes the
office. Mexico takes the necessary time to elect its presidents. Meanwhile the Isle of
Sacrificios, in Veracruz, is surrounded by yankee warships, violating any elementary norm
of international law. The new constitutional chief of the nation insists with notable
lucidity: Mexico will not commit an act of war that would give the United States the
right of conquest. How far could the United States push rights of conquest? Maybe all of
Mexico would be an insufficient payment for them in the name of indemnification.
     Polk will feel discovered. His plan is precisely that, yes, yes, that, that of declaring
as a last resort a war on Mexico so that, once that nation is clearly defeated,
defenseless and impoverished, he might exercise his right of conquest to the extreme of
applying it, now not speaking of Texas, already appropriated by sophisticated civilized
methods, but of the Californias, Nuevo México and Yucatán, in addition to other
northern territories.
     Herrera knows his adversaries. We shall not fall into the trap. We will not harm a
yankee sailor among those aboard their frigates in Veracruz because, with that reason,
that stupid excuse or puerile justification, they intend to take over everything ours.
If that is their intention which they exhibit, they should be honest and assault us in
the style of highway robbers with a pistol in hand in exchange for not taking our life.
Away with disguises: This is a robbery! Yes, yes, let them show who they are and of what
they are capable for the whole world and history to condemn. Is that the level of ethics
that they learn in their Calvinist temples? Is that their concept of morality? Is that
the respect they show their neighbors? Rob us! Assault us, as any bandit would do in
full public view: we, the Mexicans, will not make the first step nor facilitate the
excuse for extortion and theft. No, we will not do it, no, no...
     For many Mexicans the war should be a crusade against the North American infidels,
wicked invaders motivated by a single desire: to destroy the one and true religion, the
Catholic, the apostolic and Roman. If the United States were to defeat Mexico, the
Calvinists would impose their odious materialistic doctrine divorced from piety, charity
and goodness.
     The Spanish clergy counsels the Mexican: "If the Calvinist Church installs itself
in your country by the force of North American arms, said triumph would translate to
total Catholic ruin." Good-bye to the scarce tithes and even the other sweet income that
you collect! Say good-bye to your entire patrimony, that which you care for in the name
and representation of our Lord! Farewell to the indissoluble unity between the Church
and the State, for they will ask for their separation with all its consequences...!
Good-bye to the privilege of being the only obligatory religion, for the Calvinists
accept effective freedom of worship, a horror, our brothers, a barbarity, an attempt on
the divine...! Also you will lose the right to sell papal bulls, to accumulate good real
estate, to charge rents, to dispose of full or partial indulgences, to finance all sorts
of your projects through your chaplaincy courts, banks and disguised mortgages. You will
not be able to have goods of any kind or be able to educate the children in our schools
and universities to guarantee their loyalty in the future, nor will you receive alms
except those that you display and publish at the gates of their temples, having to
declare them... You will no longer receive lands through donation or sell properties or
houses nor will you be able to count on secret police or clandestine jails or armies at
your disposition. Those Calvinists, my sons, are asses: there was some reason they were
ejected, centuries ago, from England.
     Hear me well, brothers: if the Calvinists can contract to marry and have
descendants, it is clear that the wives and the children would inherit the ministers'
patrimony and, in that manner, we would participate in the impoverishment of our mother
Church. Do not consent to it. You cannot accept such monstrous liberality. One of the
reasons for the persistence of Catholic celibacy, throughout centuries, lies in the just
preservation of the ecclesiastical goods exclusively in the hands of the washed saints
of our Lord... Foreign mortals will never be able to benefit from or enjoy the Divine
estate. Care for it! Much blood has been shed to defend it. Remember that we only render
our accounts to God and the Vatican...
     Look, look what the Calvinists, damned devils, have dared to publish in the Daily
Union: "The absorption of Mexico by the United States is pressing and inevitable, the
religious realization of our glorious national mission, under the guidance of Divine
Providence, enabling us to civilize, Christianize and uplift from anarchy and degradation
a most ignorant, indolent, wicked, and disgraced people - the people of Mexico."
     To realize their redeeming proposals do not doubt that the Calvinists will have to
revert to politics, to diplomacy, to pressure, to blackmail, to bribes, to assassination,
to lies and skulduggery, to deceit, to intrigue, to conspiracy, and ultimately to war.
You should resist war because by losing it, and without a doubt you would lose, would
carry with it your material ruin with the consequent injuries to the Lord's goods...
     The missive concluded as follows: "Mexico should shortly invade the United States in
order to implant by blood and fire the holy Catholic, apostolic and Roman religion."
     President Herrera knows of the naval movements in the Gulf of Mexico, the military
movements taking place south of the Sabina river, the legal frontier with Tejas, just
like those conducted in secret throughout California and Nuevo México. He knew,
did not guess, the yankees' intentions. They were clear and evident. It was impossible to
forget the overthrow of Micheltorena, the governor of Alta California, in December of
1844. The open, lacerating aggressions, now not only the threats were there, on the
table, just that to meet them the elements were lacking.
     That night the president fell into a profound pessimism, felt alone, lost, upon
finishing reading an editorial published in the magazine Siglo XIX, one of the
most influential media, in which Guillermo Prieto, Mariano Otero, Francisco Zarco,
Ignacio Ramírez, and Lucas Alamán wrote, among many others. Its conclusions
captured a good part of the feelings of the society that he governed. Where can I go, he
said resignedly, with a nation that feels but does not think? The Mexican resolves her
differences with the heart or with the gut, but never with the head. The newspapers
The Catholic, The Constitutional Republican Monitor, The Mexican Patriot, and
The Mexican, any of them could have included in their pages the--for him
suicidal--content of the following text:

     There is neither public spirit nor sentiment of nationality among us. The absence
     of justice has led to demoralization, to the disappearance of patriotism and to
     apathy. The war will serve for us as social cohesion, an amalgam, the sacred banner
     of the war that finally will unite us. Enough of the hatreds, resentments and
     personal ambitions: all that matters is México. The confrontation with the
     United States will animate the downtrodden and almost extinguished national spirit.
     The war will finally bring fusion and concord as has occurred in other countries,
     who fraternally entwined forever before a powerful common enemy. The spoils and the 
     invasion will shake us from lethargy. The war will contain American expansionism,
     cement our internal peace, will unite us forever and facilitate the return of order
     and respect at the end of the contention. So perhaps the War of Independence was a
          We shall honor our dead. If we fought against Spain and France we can against
     the United States. We shall take away a good experience. Did we not lose against the
     Spaniards because we were divided between Tlaxcaltecans and Aztecs? Let us unite.
     Let the rich participate with their capital and the poor with their blood. We shall
     revive songs, and continuous martial poems. May the dispossessed return! Even the
     women, disguised as soldiers, the lame and infirm ought to go to the defense of the
     nation. It is the fertile, creative hour of patriotism. Let us come away from this
     crossroads with flying colors. Every example will be useful to us.
          We welcome arrogant and intransigent politicians, eager to measure our national
      courage through arms. We negate any peaceful accord. Let us give the yankees a

Polk, for his part, decides to exercise an option long contemplated in the solitude of
his office. He will move the bishop named Taylor. Very soon he will ask the latter to
move from Corpus Christi towards the very Rio Bravo itself. At his discretion, he should
camp on the Mexican territory, aggressively provoke his neighbors to the south, sometimes
impulsive, at others, anxiously slow in their responses. From this open invasion of the
Mexican territory, the president hopes an act of war will finally issue. "They have to
take the bait." At the same time he changes his instructions given to commodore Stockton
so that he might embark on board the Congress, headed to the Pacific, with the
objective of taking California and joining the combat at the right moment.
     "Polk's religion was politics and his Church was the Democratic Party." The new
president lived his high official responsibility 24 hours a day. He did not permit
himself distractions nor engage in any exercise except his walks at night and in the
morning. His time, according to what he constantly left in his personal diary, was
completely occupied by his official duties. The confinement to his office was constant
and incessant at any day of the long workday. It was precisely during one of those
moments of solitude when he decided to open another path, the diplomatic, that of the
verb and the right word in addition to the military, with Mexico. While he prepares a
grand scale invasion, the president seeks among his repertoire of close functionaries
the most apt, in order to send him to obtain through "good faith" the territories of
California and Nuevo México. He will choose this man with a tweezers. His mission
was as secret as it was delicate.
     It is August of 1845. Six months have elapsed since the beginning of the new
Democratic administration. Despite that Poinsett, the wicked ex-ambassador of the
United States in Mexico, had advised against it, Polk decides to send his plenipotentiary
minister to Mexico City, now with a firm offer to try to buy, still in a "civilized" way,
California and Nuevo México. Plenipotentiary or not, Mexico will not receive him
because there are no relations between both nations. Very well: in that case Taylor will
advance to the very baths of Moctezuma at the foot of Chapultepec Castle and will be the
future president, military governor of Mexico. "The Mexicans and only the Mexicans will
be solely responsible for us having felt obliged to rob them." We shall take on for
better or for worse that which is reserved for us, according to the dispensation of
Divine Providence...
     On one of those rainy afternoons in October of 1845 Polk receives John Slidell in
the White House to give his precise verbal instructions that the now minister could not
write down either. They speak, of course, of the relations with Mexico. Memorize them,
John, no one should write or leave tracks or traces of your secret activation. You
yourself will be closing the final exit door! Put your own version of the truth in a
personal diary for use by the mercenary historians...
     On that occasion they took tea and ginger snaps, the favorites of Sarah Childress,
the wife of the president, a woman committed and resigned to never exercising maternity,
given that her husband had remained sterile since youth due to an infirmity. She invested
a good part of her time in the kitchen and in the decoration of the official North
American residence. So much so, that very soon they moved into a hotel, while she
remodeled the presidential mansion. Her desire consisted in returning the White House as
much as possible to its original design before its destruction during the war against
England in 1812.
     Minister Slidell listened with great attention to the words of the chief of State
while he took a small sip of tea and dried the corners of his lips with a white napkin,
embroidered in Bruges, Belgium and excessively starched. The diplomat did not lose a
detail of the conversation. At one moment in the chat Polk specified:
     --You will offer president Herrera 30 million for the territories lying between the
Nueces and the Bravo, in addition to Nuevo Mexico and California. The idea is to reach to
the Pacific!--Polk ordered while he adjusted the jacket of his black suit. --Remember
that there is little difference between a Mexican and one of our indians: serious and
respectful diplomacy should be ruled out.
     Since the comparison between Mexicans and indians seemed irrelevant, Slidell was
about to correct the president when he referred to the space between the Nueces and the
Bravo... Are we not showing off, sir, by trying to buy from our neighbors to the south
an extension that we ourselves already recognize as our own? It is very awkward...!
Nevertheless, Slidell preferred to maintain silence. He could not contradict the one who
had "pardoned" him of voting illegally at different booths in various counties in favor
of Polk himself, when he should only have been allowed to vote in one of them. The
accusation by the electoral fraud commission would have had repercussions in his
political career, which Polk knew and was able to avoid. That was the profile of the man
who would represent the yankee interests in Mexico... He had the latter's loyalty
     Discretion, an elementary virtue in a diplomat, ignored a steely, acid and violent
glance from the president.
     --Is that clear, John?--asked the chief of the White House in the silence and
abstraction of his subordinate.
     Slidell now did not only consider the area between the Nueces and the Bravo, which
was an insignificance in the face of the revelation of Polk's true plans relative to the
acquisition of Nuevo México and California.
     --To the Pacific?--he asked in a high voice.
     It was evident that indemnification for Texas was useless because that ex-Republic
now formed part of the Union. Fools, how foolish the Mexicans had been to have lost that
extremely rich territory without having obtained millions of dollars in exchange, just
as had been the case with Napoleonic France and the Spain of Ferdinand VII. They did
charge. The Mexicans no, nothing. Down there. That gives me a clear idea of the level
and quality of my future interlocutors. Now we shall see if they lose California and
Nuevo Mexico similarly without charging a single dollar of what we offer them...
     --John--pleaded the president with exaggerated sobriety--I sense disagreement this
     --Of course not sir--Slidell immediately corrected. --I was just weighing my
possibilities of arriving at a rapid accord with Mexico.
     --That is what we are talking about, mister ambassador. I do not want a war. My wish
is to annex those territories to the American Union and instead of one, to pay those 30
million. Just that the Mexicans are incomprehensible and in place of remaining with the
money and reconstructing their country and its economy, apparently they are disposed to
go to war so as not to lose some territories that have been abandoned for centuries and
which they will never be able to populate or productively exploit. Why not arrive at a
commercial agreement convenient to both parties in regard to California and Nuevo Mexico?
Will they want to repeat Texas or will they prefer for us to defeat them through the
strength that God has decreed ours in order to productively develop it? Let us accept
it--he pensively concluded--it is a rare animal who is not moved by money and indeed,
they are capable of selling their soul to the devil in exchange for a bribe.
     Slidell resumed maintaining silence when Polk decreed that those territories
belonged to the United States. Would he remain like an idiot who thinks and does not
speak? Will diplomats do this? So as not to fall into an extreme and expose himself to
some remonstration before lifting anchor en route to Veracruz, the ambassador commented:
     --I greatly fear mister president, according to the news that I have--he bit a cookie--
if Mexico were to sell California and Nuevo Mexico, a goal for which I shall fight with
all my will and my talent, that money, in the national treasury, would be understood
as an opulent booty for politicians and high military and soon they would kill each
other like drunks who furiously dispute, between punches and blows, a pretty woman in
the doorway of a bordello.
     Polk began to smile before the jovial attitude of his subordinate but preferred to
continue with the conversation, making a grimace of acceptance.
     --I should mention--warned the head of State as he served tea from a delicate
silver pitcher--that a certain general Arista is threateningly approaching the Rio Bravo
with a force of three thousand men...
     --Of course he is going with the clear intention of attacking Zachary Taylor and
our boys!
     --I would not have the slightest doubt of that, sir...
     --Then hear me well--Polk warned, arching his eyebrows--if that general Arista were
to reach crossing the Rio Bravo and advance into Texas, that act would be understood by
my government as an armed intervention with all its consequences.
     Yet if they cross the Bravo they will still be in Mexican territory, and will be,
whether I myself go to buy it from them for better or for worse, Slidell thought in
scrupulous silence. How to declare war on a country for entering its own territory,
according to the treaties and international agreements? We will be condemned in the world
like some savages, he reflected without emitting any sound.
     --We shall have to remove them with cannon  balls from the Texian territory,
sir--argued Slidell in absolute hypocrisy. --So then, if the Mexican government does not
receive me for not having relations between both nations and if I do not even manage to
deliver my card, mister president, what should be the course to follow?--the diplomat
asked without removing the look from the president's face.
     --Mexico suspended payment negotiated in relation to reclamations made by our
compatriots. In fact they are already almost three years without paying. Such
suspension would be a good cause for declaring war. We will have more justifications,
many more than when the French declared the Pastry War--the president exclaimed, making
clear that he had studied all the possible alternatives. --We will not go into an armed
conflict against Mexico because they did not pay some bills to a North American pastry
maker. We are neither that absurd nor that cynical.
     There passed through Slidell's mind the fact that when Michigan, Arkansas and
Florida suspended payments on the bonds they had sold to European investors and,
nevertheless, Europe had not declared war on the United States, despite it involving more
than 200 million dollars, a quantity ridiculously superior to Mexico's indebtedness,
which did not surpass two million despite many aberrations and abuses by which the final
total had been inflated. Use of that argument would cause an effect similar to that of
spitting directly in the face of the president of the United States. Why did such
suicidal ideas assault him when they distinguished him with such a transcendental charge?
He sweat just thinking of such treason in his mind, an unpardonable indiscretion... How
     --The declaration of war for breach of contract--Slidell added clearing his throat
--would be a certainly undesirable extreme case--he said smugly. Perhaps you would like
to instruct me on the limit of the monetary offers I can make in exchange for lands, on
ceilings to which I can go, sir, to complete operations in the event that Herrera or
Cuevas receives me, or the puppet or boss who occupies the role when I arrive.
     --In effect--Polk responded immensely enjoying the conversation--by moving the
frontier to the Bravo River, along with half of Nuevo Mexico, the United States will
assume all the reclamations of North Americans against Mexico. We will liberate the
Mexicans from all debt. So then--the president rubbed his hands without removing his gaze
from the chimney fire--for moving the border, including all Nuevo Mexico, we will pay
them five million dollars--the head of the White House said without blinking. --With
regard to California, for doing so up to San Francisco Bay they would get 20 million and
if the borderline can be moved down to Monterey, we shall liquidate with up to 25
millions. There you have it, mister ambassador, complete your shopping list--Polk
concluded with an air of sympathy.

In November of 1845, president Herrera orders general Paredes, the eternal
insurrectionist, lover of power and skeptic towards the national institutions, such as
will be demonstrated below, to now leave in the direction of the Rio Bravo to confront
the North American invasion captained by Taylor. Herrera harbors all manner of doubts
with respect to the loyalty of his distinguished soldier. It is time for him to define
his political position. Are you or are you not with Mexico and her government? Decide!
The nation, my general, is on the verge of being invaded militarily by a foreign power,
so head up the armed forces at your disposal in that locality, join with Arista's
followers, vigorously draw the sword and emerge with the cry that the United States will
only defeat Mexico when the last of our compatriots is found dead in a pool of blood.
Understood? Live up to your military oath. We are not talking of attacking, you
understand, but of defending our territorial integrity and the life and possessions of
our compatriots. Scare the yankees until they retreat to behind the Sabina river. Long
live the heroes who gave us land and liberty. Long live, viva, viva...
     What was the response, the same answer as always, which this renowned military
produced? Instead of directing the batteries, the cavalry and the infantry towards the
north, he resumed pointing them now not at Santa Anna, who suffered the "horrors" of
Cuban exile a few months previously, no way, this time, with the country invaded, he
concentrated his brute force on the overthrow of president Herrera, recently confirmed
in his office.
     Did you not have exact instructions to leave towards the Rio Bravo? And the North
American invasion? And the nation? And our public and private patrimony and the lives of
the nationals?
     Be quiet! I am tired of little questions. Whether or not Taylor is in Matamoros
openly invading our territory, there will be time later to settle accounts with him.
"Meanwhile" I shall overthrow Herrera before he sells half the country to the United
     What does "meanwhile" mean, my general? Are you not worried they will also topple
you like so many others?
     No, that is not my worry, for me they will respect: if I say "meanwhile" it is
because upon my reaching the Presidency of the Republic I will bring a governor from
European royalty to rule Mexico's destinies. We are incapable of governing ourselves. We
do not know how to govern the public sector. We are disintegrating through incompetence.
We do not manage to find agreement either on the structure or the rules for governing
a nation. Let us accept it! We are marching toward a precipice... Furthermore, it is one
thing for me to be attacked and for the yankees to spoil my presidency and another, very
different, to try to oust me for a European emperor. In that event the problem would be
not only with Mexico but with a European power and, given the situation, with a powerful
alliance of European potentates. I would like the power, certainly, yet to hand it over
to a foreign monarch...
     What...what...? Did he perhaps say he would overthrow president Herrera yet not to
succeed him in the office, but instead import a European prince, to whom you, in turn,
will give the reins of the nation and that while the damned yankee assholes advance
through the north of Mexico...?
     In effect. First I will get myself named president of the Republic. Then we shall
see how a European will govern us. We alone will hopelessly drown ourselves. We are not
ready for democracy nor do we desire absolute tyranny and we already failed with
Iturbide's Empire, with Federalism and with Centralism. During the Viceroyalty,
administered with European hands, there was stability: let us seek it!
     Of course at that moment Paredes was not disposed to reveal his secret conversations
with Salvador Bermúdez de Castro, Spain's minister in Mexico since 1844, with whom
he had negotiated the arrival of a prince from that country to head an hereditary
constitutional monarchy. The rebel keeps quiet that, in a dispatch on October 31st
of 1845, the Spanish government had approved the proposal and had ordered the sending of
two warships to Cuba to support the insurrectionists... Forget, of course, that Spain
had also deposited two millions reals in Cuba for general expenses. With the coup
d'etat, Paredes prepared the access of a Spanish monarch to preside over the Mexican
government. Who knew of it? Only Lucas Alamán, the accomplice, and I, because we
could read the correspondence between Bermúdez de Castro and the Spanish Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. México would return to being the jewel in the Spanish Crown.
     To Josefa Cortés, his wife, Mariano Paredes Arrillaga justifies his intentions
to install a European monarch in Mexico. The full-text of the expression defines him:

     We, the Mexicans, are incapable of self-government, as none respect the others nor
     have confidence in our popular representatives neither in the press nor in any of the
     powers of the Republic nor less yet, much less, in the law. We have already seen and
     proved that after one overthrow comes another and another more and, at this rate, it
     is impossible to construct a nation where the missing fundamental ingredient is
     stability. Therefore the arrival becomes imperative of a Spanish prince, who,
     knowing our traditions and customs, will know how to impose order, the goal toward
     which we have failed since the years of the Independence and from which the
     foreigners have profited. A new coup d'etat, aimed at providing this country with
     a monarchy, will always be justified.

She admits publicly that "Mariano does not want to go to the Palace. From when we were in
Guadalajara I can say that his intention was to reserve his place in it for His Majesty,
the future king of the Mexican Republic."
     To the immense surprise of natives and foreigners, the domestic revolt inserts
itself into the context of an invaded Mexico, where priorities are found to be changed
and confused, to repeat one more time.
     On the 14th of December in 1845 the armed announcement to unseat president Herrera
is finally produced. Reasons? He tried fruitlessly to dismantle the army, the very base
of Santannist power, something greatly responsible for the national instability. He had
refused to march in time against Texas, to declare war on the United States, and lastly,
had betrayed popular confidence from the moment, it was said, when he was disposed to
sell northern Mexican territory in exchange for a shameful bribe.
     False, false, false! I saw it, I was present: there was never such a bribe, only an
impeccable argument in favor of peace. His sending of Paredes to the north was part of a
defensive politics, never offensive. President Herrera always opposed violence and lived
invariably subject to a rigorous code of ethics. I am witness to his honesty!
     On December 20th, general Herrera's government refuses to recognize Mr. Slidell
as plenipotentiary minister. He would not be received nor his missives answered nor
the presence of his earthly existence heeded. No is no! Go away! The fury of the
ambassador for the snub reaches alarming proportions. I am a minister of the United
States: how do these corrupt, starving, accursed dare not receive an international
authority of my standing? Where are the fanfares, the 21 gun salutes, the flag honors,
the formal review of the troops, and the military parade? I am the official representative
of the White House, is that not enough...?
     The minister, formerly courteous and warm, is transformed and his threats include
the use of force. He retires to Xalapa to await instructions. He dreams of the overthrow
of Herrera, in the Mexican style, a president every eight months, blessed chaos, for thus
I will be able to speak with another more acute, intelligent and complacent head of
State. His letters to Polk express his hatred, his extreme annoyance with the Mexicans to
the point of surfeit.
     When the coup plot spreads and Herrera see his cause lost, he silently and
discreetly resigns after having exercised power nine months as de facto president
and only three months as president de jure. But in the Mexico of political surprises,
these occur at the least expected moments. Paredes was already at the skirts of Mexico
City, almost ready to take power when general Valencia is installed as the new president
and the flags of sedition are once again draped over its original leader: Mariano Paredes
Arrillaga. Just like the previous year is the case seen of the superseder superseded
or the over-thrower overthrown? On that occasion Herrera himself had taken charge of
the movement, yes, yes, only that this time everything would be different.
     In effect, after a very brief negotiation, Valencia himself desists from his plans.
Paredes will be elected president by a junta of representatives of the Department on
January 4th of 1846. Ay, the tragic year of 1846, a dramatic and mutilating year, a year
of catastrophe, of demolition, of offenses, traumas, deaths, subjection to force,
treachery, incapacity, disunion, and treason! Might all the hands of all the clocks in
all the cathedrals on the planet stop! May the year 1846 not be born! May it not dawn,
and time not elapse! May life be detained at that 1846! May more gold coins not be minted
to finance the war! May all the foundries be blown up so they cannot forge more cannons!
May the tongues of the politicians be mutilated, may their ink be poured and the points
of their pens broken! Let no one communicate with anyone! Let the threats, the jealousies
and the blackmail be terminated! May it begin with cutting off Polk's head! May the
military strategists, all of them together, be decapitated in that 1846! May the hands of
the invading soldiers be amputated so that cannot hold muskets or bayonets in that
tragic 1846! May the heads of the diplomats all in tails and monocles be submerged in
pools of manure until their bodies attain the most absolute immobility! May the
legislators who vote for the war be executed against the wall! Ay! Ay! Ay...accursed,
thousand times accursed 1846! Few of us imagined what would happen in that wretched

Now I arrive, already, go with the accompanying Valencians with my shoes in hand walking
along the beach. The sand sometimes feels cool at that early hour of the morning. In the
distance I distinguish the presence of the Morro Castle of the three holy magi. I am in
Cuba. I stop. I never stop being astonished by the enchantment of La Giraldilla. I do
not know whether I see it or remember it. In the near, very near distance, only a few
steps away, I see the home of Santa Anna. Here I arbitrarily began my narration.
     I slowly approach from the direction that opens on the sea. It is the month of
January of 1846. I want to see how His Excellency lives outside of the country. His life
in exile is financed by the Mexicans with their taxes and no say with regard to the
destiny of the public purse. Will it be a society asleep? It does not respond before the
generalized larceny. It would seem that the looting is of a third party, and in no way
the very people of Mexico. The same occurs with a person whose hand is amputated and
who does not complain or express any pain whatsoever. I soon think that whoever does not
protest is sick or resigned. Beware! His Excellency knows the system of responses by the
governed, his governed, very well. He knows that the contributors will display a passing
unhappiness before the gigantic swindle and later would invent, in the name of anonymous
revenge, a joke to denigrate those who committed the sin of embezzlement. They will
celebrate the occurrence with guffaws. So much for revenge. So much for reprisals. After
a time and having dried off, they will even invite you to their house to dine, will honor
you with the best they have, such as belongs to every successful man worthy of admiration
even when being a thief. And what else... Afterwards, if they are careless, you can
invite one of their daughters or sisters to the opera. They will not oppose it as long as
they know they can share some of your glory or at least some part of the booty.
     I come even closer. I hear voices. We shall see.

               Second chapter
On the untold indigestible felony

                                          The Mexicans cannot be given
                                                    a greater punishment than that
                                                    of having to govern themselves.
                                                                   BATALLER, 1821

Santa Anna had almost eight months in exile. He had arrived in Havana in the middle of
1845, after having suffered not only the sorrow of the voyage into the infinite and
without the company of his first wife, ay Inesita, yet also his toppling from the
elevated post as president of the Republic, a position that he could only perform, as
leader, from June of that fateful 1844 until December of that same year and, no small
thing, the innumerable sufferings experienced in an official prison for a space of five
months. Happily married, although newly removed from the glamor of power, he had left
Mexico together with his retinue of "Veracruzian jarochas, the accompanying blacks,
the many ship's linesmen," the notes of the chuchumbé, the flute, at least three
marimbas, the guitars, the harps, the white high-heeled boots, indispensable for
strolling, the colorful scarves, the obligatory four-corner hat, the cages with his
favorite cocks, the barrels of mezcal and tequila, in short, "all that apparatus which
would awaken and surprise 19th century Havaneros."
     His complex personality, would it allow him to endure the adverse periods of life
in all their intensity, in this case the forced exile, or would it simply throw a thick
veil over the occurrences contrary to his desires, burying the bad moments beneath seven
layers of earth or of forgetfulness so as never again to recall them? What are the flutes
and the bongos for? Would Santa Anna have bad memories or would he have them
as splendidly developed as his admirable dominion over his countrymen? How he knew his
people...! How often did I hear him say: "I understand the fibers of this castrated nation.
I know how to shake and stimulate them. I have mastered all the combinations. I have the
keys in my power to awaken, if I so desire, their passions, ignite their resentments,
appease their vices, and console them in failure. There is no Mexican who does not eat
from my hand..."
     As I approach the residence of the ex-dictator, I notice its existence as a large
habitation opening onto the sea. Everything seems to indicate that we refer to a
reception hall, a library, perhaps his trophy gallery, national and foreign recognitions,
decorations, uniforms, and awards. This part of the house is found very close to the
beach. To get there it is necessary to cross over a coral reef. Risk fascinates His
Excellency. He rarely feels that morbid sensation of infantile fear such as is produced
by the terrible Caribbean storms when the furious waves crash with demented insistence
against the six picture windows that today, during a fresh and serene day, remain open
allowing the white linen curtains to wave freely, floating in the environment like flags
of peace and concord.
     No one is found in those moments in the hall. I enter with great stealth through
the central wooden double-door, open wide. The wind insists on carrying the curtains
with it. It frantically sucks them while others flap as if they resisted being absorbed.
They will not be defeated by the elements. They will defend even to the point of being
torn. The floor is made from red baked clay squares and wood walkways varnished with dark
brown resin. The ventilation is stupendous. I suddenly experience the curious sensation
of being in a museum. I remain standing for a while noticing detail after detail of the
decoration. Indeed, the contemporary history of Mexico is present, gather, in the way of
a synthesis, in that spacious estate. The light, at that hour of the morning, seems to
pull out the living and intense colors of the pieces displayed there to record the
exploits of the hero.
     On the left side there appear floating in space the fabrics of the flags that the
Meritorious hoisted throughout his military campaigns. It is impossible to remember them
all but I mention a real one, that which he himself carried out when he was a fanatical
and unconditional soldier in service to Spain, during the military mission headed by
Arredondo in 1813 against the Texian insurrectionists, those whom my general ordered to
go to arms as punishment for the North Americans and other vermin who would benefit from
the ills of Tejas, or of any other part of the sacred patrimony of Mexico. Besides, he
had to display his uniform as commander of the troop of Realistas Fieles of surrounding
Veracruz and the village of Boca del Rio and assistant to viceroy Apodaca.
     In the center of the hallway stands the historic work that displays the Army of the
Three Guarantees on the day of its entrance to Mexico City in September of 1821. Just
beneath that magnificent piece is his complete uniform as chief of the 11th Division of
Army of the Three Guarantees, given by Iturbide himself. Of course, in that era, Santa
Anna had changed his jacket; then he was not a realist, but an insurgent, that time a
declared enemy of the Spaniards, for which reason he had the right to parade behind
Guerrero and Iturbide in the Victory March through Plateros street. The champion of
liberty carried the tricolor banner, a mute representative of Iturbide's ephemeral Empire
lasting only nine months. How he had adored the Mexican emperor and how he had sworn to
defend him with life itself, until don Agustín spurned him and he had no choice but
to rise in arms against him and thus precipitate his thunderous collapse!
     In order, of course, is found the delightful fabric that represents the birth of the
federal Republic for which he had fought so much and offered to shed his last drop of
bodily blood, as if it did not matter, whether for the centralist Republic, that opposed
to Federalism and for which he had also promised to dedicate his life itself in exchange
for his political survival... As souvenirs he saved the intensely colored standards,
especially that used by Barradas in Tampico during the Spanish invasion in 1829. Right
there, in a special case were two uniforms, one that which saw his ascent to general, the
highest rank yet granted by president Guerrero and the other, no less cherished,
triumphantly worn for the first time in his capacity as general-president.
     With no less interest I notice the flags taken from the North American exiles--are
they Texians or Mexicans?--of the yankees themselves of The Alamo and Goliad, moments
before being massacred, shot or hung in their capacity as prisoners of war in 1836, even
with a flag of surrender, to the thundering of cannons with the French troops during the
bombardment of Veracruz of 1838. How colorful!
     Walking upon some Persian carpets, apparently very antique, I come upon a collection
of crucified Christs, some carved from precious tropical woods, others in black and
white marble, other smaller ones in marble, in jade, in lapis lazuli, true marvels
produced by insuperable smiths and which were gifts from the top hierarchy of the
Catholic Church, as much in Mexico as in Rome itself. Below, in cases locked with keys
are found, marked on semi-rolled parchments, the military plans for the battles in which
he took part, in addition to texts of the proclamations and manifestos to the nation
published by Santa Anna to share his armed uprisings.
     In one corner can be seen, attached to the wall, sabres of all sizes and fancy
swords forged of refulgent steel, with their respective fire-engraved dedications and
decorated with the most diverse precious stones. To one side, upon a long table, one can
observe different holsters lined with red or black velvet containing English and French
dueling pistols, Spanish, Mexican riding saddles, with their saddlehorns embossed with
gold and silver and English handles, pens and silver inkwells, memories of his prolonged
political career, chairs upholstered with high green backs displaying the national
shield bordered with gold threads in the upper right-hand corner. The German muskets
capture attention, in addition to some small statues of the full body symbolically
manufactured with forged steel obtained from the and melting cannons taken from the North
American soldiers, forget colonists, who defended the Alamo in San Antonio de Béxar.
     We curious can observe his titles as Highness, Benefactor of the Nation, Mexico's
Meritorious, among many other additional souvenirs. Impossible to miss the portraits of
his roosters painted in watercolors and in oil. Replicas in gold and silver of his most
valiant cage birds, above all those of The Low-Life, The Commander, The Tyrant and
Don't Forget... It is worth remembering that when this last was killed in combat and
one of his Cuban employees, a black blacker than coal, had no better idea than to ask
permission to make a good soup with the cadaver, a marvelous stew you will not find in
all Cuba, son, to which the Mexican Caesar responded irately that it would be given
a Christian sepulcher in the patio of honor of the cocks fallen in battle. The soup we
shall make with your grandmother, accursed black...
     On the main wall is displayed a monumental picture painted by a Mexican artist who
had studied in Italy, with the theme of an honorable mass celebration, the Te Deum
performed in the metropolitan cathedral before returning to give a Christian burial to
his leg lost in combat. To one side a medium-sized watercolor can be appreciated, in
which the future Napoleon of the West appears entering the cathedral on July 21st of
1822, taking the arm of madam Nicolasa, no less than Iturbide's 65 year-old sister, the
very same day as the latter's coronation as emperor of Mexico. How annoyed it made the
indisputable leader of the nation's independence to contemplate his sister, much older
than he, accompanied by a rascal like Santa Anna! It seems that this opportunist can find
no other way to get close to me... How can we forget that our hero was only 29 years old!
     The medals and decorations are particularly well cared for thanks to the dedication
of Dolores. She carefully arranged them so that the colors on the panels do not clash and
the works of engraving, enamels and emblems are distinguished to perfection, resisting
the attacks of humidity and time.
     Finally, among diplomas, portraits, busts, statues, paintings of roosters and of
battles, namings, golden spurs, cocks dried and in silver, one notices letters from
president Jackson and from other North American senators, sent to the Meritorious after
his long captivity in the United States due to his apprehension by Houston's troops in
     As a final demonstration of his patriotic pride, I discover ten different prostheses
for the left leg. Each one of them has a perfectly shined shoe for every occasion. Thus,
I can touch a wooden hoof with an elegant stocking to be used only at parties, another
when he deals with rigorous etiquette, such as diplomatic receptions; one for dancing
the Siquisirí, that for military galas, that of the countryside, that associated with
cock fights, that of the stockbreeder, farmer, that for riding horseback even including
a spur, that of the urban dweller, and even a slipper, for resting when in the house.
     Suddenly, while I contemplate this curious collection of wooden prostheses--I had
never seen so many or so varied in my life--I hear Cuban music coming from a garden
adjacent to the "Hall of Glory," where I find myself located. Undoubtedly they are notes
charged with a contagious enthusiasm, arpeggios saturated with life and levity,
optimistic accords, happy calls to enjoy the best of existence. Santa Anna is seen on
foot, behind the bongos, dressed as always in white, striking the drums beside which, to
all appearances, there seems to be his teacher, a man black as coal, hirsute with short
hair, almost totally gray-haired, tall, senile, yet moved by a juvenile happiness which
made him seem eternal.
     The small group interprets Cuban and Veracruzian songs in the manner of a musical
duel. The bop forms part of the Cuban character. One of the musicians dances an expert
gallop, a Rigadoon with the pieces of the foursome. In one of his inviting initiatives
the master approaches, contorting himself, a lovely mulatta dressed in a full skirt down
to her knees, designed with yellow colors, howling greens, black background and white
blouse, sleeveless with bare shoulders. Low-cut, fresh and gracious, with long black
loose hair, the young dancer is a tropical goddess. She accepts the challenge and begins
to move her arms, her hips, the wrists and fingers as if she were shaking a thousand
maracas. In the next act, all her body seemed to have been possessed by Satan while she
interprets the Limping Devil, and then the dance of the prison cell, the down around,
yea, yea, the cachumba, the little crab and the drumbeat. The assistants surround
the pair applauding and repeating the steps that everyone knows by memory since their
remote infancy. Tomás Vuelta y Flores, Clemente Peichler, Claudio Brindis, and
Ulpiano Estrada, the famous authors of the dance music, might have been confused by this
improvised group of native dancers. The Cuban fiesta, like this one celebrated by His
Excellency, surprises the tourists on every corner.
     On that occasion, the Guiding Angel of the Mexican Republic is smiling
particularly much. Neither white hair nor wrinkles are noticed. He continues to be as
svelte as ever. His youthful cheer is contagious. He moves his hands rhythmically and
quickly without losing sight of his instructor, Mr. Son, who, returning to behind the
bongos, displays his bandaged hands while he strikes the drums without ever being able to
control the movement of his feet, head and neck. For what reason is the head of the
Mexican State so happy since he is found in insufferable anonymity, in exile, far from
his people, from his norm, from his ranches, from the cock arenas, from the army, from
politics, and from the mulattas? Far from the mulattas? Well that, never! Upon arriving
in Havana he had personally taken charge of contracting with a well-fed group of women,
those most resembling the Veracruzians, young, very young, also from a warm land, "to
take care of the domestic chores..."
     All of a sudden the ex general-president detaches from the musical group and,
taking the arm of an elegantly dressed stranger, he approaches limping, very slowly,
speaking in his ear, in the direction of the adjoining hallway where I was to be found.
They laugh and celebrate. After crossing a short aisle, they reach a wide covered
terrace, where both take a seat on some pigskin chairs oriented in the direction of a
great splendidly cared for garden, completed in the back with a spectacular fountain.
What would be my surprise on identifying the invitee with whom Santa Anna exchanged, so
it seemed, important perspectives...! It turned out to be Alejandro Atocha, his Spanish-
Mexican-North American friend and collaborator from the years 1841 and 1845. Atocha, yes,
yes, Atocha, the same who accompanied him when Manuel Domínguez, the highway robber,
had taken him prisoner near Xico and was disposed to cook His Excellency like a Oaxacan
tamale wrapped in leaves of yellow plantains.
     Don Alejandro narrates to Santa Anna the details of his interview with Polk during
the summer of the previous year. In effect, both had met in June of 1845 in the White
House without the president of the United States offering great hope for his charging a
personal indemnification from the Mexican government and, regarding which, he claimed
the existence of various rights. Just as he had promised, Atocha would visit Cuba again
at the beginning of that same January of 1846, for what he might be offered by the
Supreme Protector of the Nation...
     Handsome, dressed in a guayabera and white pants, barefoot, he approached
with a pair of drinks served in glasses from which some mint leaves stuck out. The ex-
president made a brief signal with his hand, a key so that the boy should hide himself
and not think of returning. The discussion that both men would sustain should escape
every register, memory, annal, or diary and, above all, would necessarily have to be
carried out in the most scrupulous secrecy. To find a version of the talk, a "tendentious
and irresponsible" transcription, could historically compromise His Most Serene Highness,
the Nation's Meritorious of Heroic Grade.
     The breeze from the sea could not be more warm and perfumed. The flowers comprised a
mosaic of colors, a haven of peace in the midst of the tropical jungle. The monotonous
lapping of the sea, although distant, produced serenity between the interlocutors as if
the natural scene itself suggested the inappropriateness of transcendent themes in such
an atmosphere. The blue sky, the murmur of the jungle, the temperature, the aromas, the
wild sounds, the marine and jungle odors, the peace and quiet invited a somnolent
indolence. The elevated flight, slow and remote, of a flock of vultures seemed to be a
clear reflection of the rhythms in which the inhabitants of the Caribbean island moved.
Only that in that January of 1846, if there was no space or possible opportunity for
something, it was because of idleness, indifference or the delicious apathy wetted with
tropical beverages. The wind brought an old and distant smell of dust and of ancient
     --How did you find Polk after almost six months in the White House?--Santa Anna
asked taking a brief swig of his mojito.
     --Look here my general--replied Atocha biting the tip of his cigar and spitting the
piece of tobacco to one side. --What surprised me in particular were his eyes like steel,
hidden in some grey sockets that impede the projection of the slightest expression. He is
a man of medium height, slender, obviously of fair, very fair complexion, with a broad
forehead, almost permanently pallid, with his face a bit withered from talking little
and listening a lot except when the theme of conversation is Mexico, more concretely the
northern border of Mexico. In such cases his true personality emerges...
     --Is he a silent person?--the dictator asked.
     --On occasion he seems a distracted functionary when irrelevant topics are
addressed, only that if for example I mention you in a tangential manner, that is, in
fact pronouncing the name Santa Anna, then he hardens, strokes his hair, his gaze shines
and he pays attention as if one spoke of something like life itself for him.
     --Did you tell him that you knew me?
     --Do you think I would miss such an opportunity?
     --What did he want to know about me?
     --Your plans in relation to Mexico: concretely, whether you intended to return or
not to occupy power after this unhappy exile.
     --That depends on him--Santa Anna interrupted the Spaniard so as to get to the
heart of the subject.
     --On him, sir...?
     --Yes, don Alejandro, hear me well. Santa Anna leaned forward his head such that no
one else could hear him. Then he rested his elbows on his knees and held his face with
the open palms of his hands. Once he had verified that no one was overhearing him and
with his desire that Atocha move his head closer fulfilled, he continued: --During all
this time in Havana, which soon will be nine months, I have had the opportunity to
reflect regarding different alternative solutions to the problems that so much afflict
my country.
     Atocha preferred to remain silent while he lit his cigar with a small candle placed
upon a cutting table beside a red clay ashtray. The whisper of wind caused the flame to
     --Look here--Santa Anna added without moving: --the United States has wanted our
northern territories since the beginning of this century. When I was received in
Washington by president Jackson, back in 1836, I became aware how our neighbor's avarice
led them to appropriate Tejas utilizing whatever tricks, hindrances and fabrications
that occurred to them. And in that era they began talk of California and Nuevo
México. Let us say they flirted with the idea of an annexation similar to the
     Atocha, leaning forward so as not to miss a detail of the conversation, slowly
inhaled the smoke of his cigar holding it between the index finger and thumb of his left
     --Polk wants to go down in history as the yankee president who doubled the
territorial surface of his nation. No one should forget this position to adequately
understand the problem, no?--Santa Anna presented his ideas like someone constructing
a small puzzle and seeking each of the pieces spread on a tablecloth. --Just that Tyler
and Polk knew that England or France or both together could take a bad turn, in his
judgment, and convert Tejas and California into European colonies and thus force the
march of events to ensure, at least, the annexation, now achieved, of Tejas. Now
California and Nuevo México remain to discuss with the English, only that with them,
with their own cousins, they will also have to settle their differences with regard to
the future of Oregón. It will not be easy for them to arrive at an agreement.
     --And Mexico?--Atocha asked, hiding his curiosity and without losing sight of the
possibility of a profitable deal.
     --California and Nuevo México, dear friend, could also come to be the property
of the United States, just that Polk is moving his pieces very badly...
     --How so...?
     --I never understood--responded the "Liberator of the Mexicans"--the reasons why
Polk temporarily lifted the blockade of the Port of Veracruz last fall nor did I
understand why Tyler remains in Corpus Christi instead of advancing to the Rio Bravo.
The Mexicans, hear me well and believe me that I know them, will never sign a treaty to
cede California and Nuevo México territory if it is not by the use of military force
that permits the will of the yankees to be imposed. In another fashion they will not do
it neither with diplomacy nor with prices raised legally or illegally. As it is, they
simply will not do it, Atocha.
     Santa Anna continued as if speaking ex cathedra.
     --Herrera did not receive Slidell and Paredes will not do so either and all for one
reason: the Mexican president, in fact or by right, who receives Slidell would heap upon
themselves such a charge of suspicions of bribery that it would prevent them from
governing one day more. It would suffice for the plenipotentiary ambassador to place one
foot in the National Palace for the chief of the Nation in turn to be deposed immediately
on the charge of corruption and selling out. Learn it by memory: a Mexican will suspect
until the end what another Mexican does. Those divisions, those gaps are what the North
Americans should take advantage of--just like he had done with insuperable skill, he was
going to add, but preferred to omit that last part from his locution.
     --Fine--noted Atocha sitting up and listening closely, very close to Santa Anna's
mouth, while being surprised by such detailed information that the ex-president had with
regard to the yankee military movements, almost as if he continued to live in Mexico City
and was surrounded by informants. --Yes Polk erred by sending Slidell--he judged with his
voice barely audible--and furthermore erred again by lifting the naval blockade of
Veracruz and ordering Taylor to remain in Corpus Christi. What should be the correct
posture to adopt? If you, mister president, were right now in front of Polk, how would
you advise him so that the United States would end up with Nuevo México and
     The Father of Anáhuac finished his drink in a single swallow. He had to wet
his throat. He came so close to Atocha's head that he could smell the refreshing aroma of
lavender which distinguished his Spanish guest. How neat his interlocutor was! How much
effort he must invest in arranging his person!
     --Polk should hermetically blockade Veracruz such that no one can pass--the
Meritorious answered now without delay--and so take over customs, the taxes on foreign
commerce, the only source of the foreign money on which México depends in order to
be able to pay its foreign debt and to import arms acquired from other powers.
     --Sir--Atocha was going to interrupt him...
     --Veracruz, don Alejandro, is the throat of my country: it breathes through her and
thanks to her we live and survive. Whoever squeezes Mexico's neck bone will suffocate us
with surprising facility. It is our most fragile and vulnerable part--he added without
paying attention to the interruption from his guest. --At the same time the North American
navy seizes that vital point, Polk should order, immediately, that Tyler descend from
Corpus Christi to the mouth of the Rio Bravo, facing Matamoros, in a clear intimidation
maneuver, a genuine exhibit of force on openly Mexican territory.
     Atocha could not hide his embarrassment. Now it remained clear why one Mexican
should not confide in the other. But the Spaniard was minding his business. It was not
his to make judgments or ethical evaluations. His objective was money and he would never
lose sight of its role in such historic games.
     --I should tell Polk just that, relieve him of his errors, Your Excellency--concluded
Atocha leaning back for the first time in the wicker chair. He hid his feelings as well
as he could.
     --Would you be disposed to do that for me?--Santa Anna asked half-closing his eyes
and without allowing a single muscle of his face to move.
     --Of course, mister president, I left the door open with Polk to deal with other
subjects. In fact, he is expecting me on a new matter in Washington next February 13th
after lunch.
     Santa Anna jumped from the chair as if a black fat-tailed scorpion, from which so
many fatalities result in his country, had bitten him. Measure and serenity had completely
disappeared from the conversation. Now he appeared impetuous, exalted, such as the
Meritorious of Tampico had actually been. The ideas and ambitions came to him in droves.
     --If you are going to see him next month--he added with a fixed gaze, already
standing up and adjusting the prosthesis--tell him for my part, not without first
extending my respects and good wishes, that I am in agreement with the advancement of a
new border treaty in which Mexico would cede to the United States the so-called "natural
Lands" for 30 million.
     Now neither discretion nor the carefulness of previous modesty mattered to him, for
Santa Anna had been transformed into a human flame.
     --Repeat to him, until Polk too learns it by memory, that México is in need of
a military threat, to revert to war itself if it were necessary, to violence, to use of
cannons to soften up the Senate, the press, the society and, in general, my compatriots,
with regard to the advantages of the transfer. They will not understand otherwise. We
need very well sharpened yankee bayonets, placed on México's neck or buried in its
flesh, to make them see reason. Is that clear?
     "30 million?" thought Atocha to himself, feeling an excessive salivation at the
mouth. He did not stop being surprised at the facility with which Santa Anna had made
his plans clear and concise. Business and love require the selection of a very attractive
language to be crowned with success. To invite a woman to go to bed required a strategy
of supremely careful and prudent approach so as to engage susceptibilities. Santa Anna,
in his worry and desperation, had chosen the best shortcuts to arrive as soon as
possible at the theme, at the conclusions. Why the circumlocutions? 30 million in
exchange for California and Nuevo México! Why the detours? It is set. Period and
full stop. Now we shall see how...
     --I will do it, Your Excellency--Atocha was going to add to suggest the percentage
that he would deserve in his role as manager, when Santa Anna continued with his
     --I know how to dissect a Mexican, the political parties, the society, the lodges,
the journalists, and the Congress in order to facilitate dismantling the least opposition
to the sale or transfer of California and Nuevo México, just that I will not give such
keys to you today--exclaimed the Protector of the Nation, facing away, contemplating how
some palm trees waved in the wind and filling his lungs with the soft Caribbean breeze.
--All I shall need to sign the respective treaties is that, with the blockade of Veracruz
newly operating under the agreed terms, I alone be permitted to pass so as to set foot
again upon the soil of México and from there be able to again conquer the Presidency
of the Republic. Polk must facilitate my transit, and I myself will take care of the
     --According to what procedure should the 30 million be paid, sir?
     --Inform Polk that the Mexican treasury is bankrupt and we require arms and men to
prepare for the war.
     --Yes, war mister Atocha, or do  you think I would emerge alive if I sign a treaty
of transfer of territories to the United States, just like that...? I saved my skin
miraculously after signing the Treaty of Velasco when I delivered Tejas to the yankees,
not to the Texians... I will not risk my skin again. I know what can happen to me by
repeating the error: if Polk wants California and Nuevo México, we shall have to
manufacture a war so that in the peace treaties, by way of right of conquest, the United
States retains the extensions it desires. Mexico will receive compensation paid in cash
which will be of use to all of us, you too, friend Atocha, you too... Thus and only thus,
demonstrating to my people that they deal with a true necessity, proving that we had no
other alternative and that all our options were closed--he concludes without turning to
see the Spaniard--and my nation will be able to accept a new border treaty different
from that signed in 1819.
     We have here the great difference between a man capable of confronting the most
frightening challenges and another who shrinks in size before the slightest adversity,
said Atocha. Both maintained a brief silence, time of which Santa Anna took advantage to
imagine how he would make use of the 30 million dollars deposited in the Mexican
treasury, if indeed they were to arrive into the coffers during his new management as
president of the Republic.
     First it will consist in seeing it actually arrive, he said pensively while he
crossed his arms and sought Juancillo, the waiter, to order more mojitos and a
Havana with a flick of the fingers. There would be time to sack the public treasury
through efficient formulas designed with the specific goal of gradually removing the
resources with the hand without showing it on the face.
     --Do you think that Polk can declare war because México has defaulted on the
indemnification payments to the North American citizens?
     --To revert to that pretext would exhibit the United States as a nation of
assailants, even more so if to charge the debt they obtain California and Nuevo
México, whose value is infinitely more than the sum of the reclamations. They would
be seen as thieves before the world and before their own people.
     Before Santa Anna could explain any more, Atocha had already shot off the
barn burner:
     --If Slidell is not received by Paredes, will that be sufficient to detonate the
beginning of hostilities?--he asked to exhaust, for himself, the real possibilities of
     --No amigo Atocha, no, since when has not receiving an ambassador who is not even
accredited nor has presented his credentials as a minister of his nation, been sufficient
reason for invading another nation? Would not Polk before his own Congress, before the
North American electorate and before the international community, remain a vulgar robber
for having proposed a declaration of war on such a weak basis?
     The "Visible Instrument of God" took a few limping steps before his interlocutor. He
extended his hand. Atocha understood that the historic meeting had come to an end.
Standing up, Santa Anna accompanied him fraternally to the door. He had his left arm
over the shoulders of the Spaniard.
     --When will you have your news?--asked the ex-dictator, eager to have answers from
Polk to his solicitations. He well knew that he was opening an interminable waiting game
to obtain a reply from the White House.
     --My meeting with Polk, as I already mentioned, is the 13th day of the coming
month--responded Atocha while he switched his cigar to the left hand which already held
his hat, to be able to grasp Santa Anna's right hand. --That same day I shall send you
the summary and later I will write you the details of the interview, Your Excellency.
     --Believe me that I await with interest that correspondence with your name as the
sender, don Alejandro--he asserted to exercise more pressure. By way of reminder he yet
     --When you see the president, tell him to "take energetic measures so as to achieve
the treaty and I will support it." We Mexicans are sons of low life, and more friend
Atocha, we are like prostitutes, only functioning well when we have the client on top--he
added with rude humor to crown the interview with a joke...
     When the Grand Admiral and Marshall of the Armies prepared to retire from the
enormous carved wood door and contemplated in the distance how Alejandro Atocha's
carriage receded with secret accords that would change Mexico's history, a black youth,
owner of some snowy dentures, barefoot and cheerful like others, placed a sealed envelope
in Santa Anna's hands. It contained the correspondence that regularly arrived from Mexico.
The Benefactor of the Nation knew to a notable level of detail the march of events in
Mexico. He was opportunely informed of the movements, of the tendencies and orientations,
as well as the names and intentions of every one of the protagonists in the political
life of the nation.
     Into his hands had arrived, on that occasion, a journalistic item written by a
certain Martinillo, a "sour and bitter" columnist who during his diverse public
responsibilities had attacked him without truce or pause as if he knew his intimate life.
How he had assaulted him with his flaming pen above all when Santa Anna violated the
federal Constitution of 1824 and approved a Centralist Republic in 1835, political
suicide and a pretext which the Texians exploited to split from Mexico! Martinillo
seemed to be a ghost who inhabited the rooms next door and who even dominated his
reflections when he shaved in the morning at the National Palace or El Lencero. The
persecution was implacable:

     We Mexicans should commit to doing away with Santa Anna as soon as he sets foot on
     national territory, if he tries to do so again. The Congress should pass a decree
     similar to that promulgated in the case of Iturbide, that whoever knows the
     whereabouts of the damned lame traitor 15 Nails shall have legal authorization to
     shoot him immediately without any further judgment. Any Mexican should be allowed
     to deprive him of life at any time and place. In case of not managing to assemble a
     firing squad, it will be valid to hang him from the nearest tree and lacking a rope
     or tree, the happy executioner who deals with him will have the right to strangle
     him with their own hands and not having hands, get rid of the bandit, son of the
     great bitch, with kicks...

Still standing, Santa Anna finished the reading of that column. Ungrateful bastards! I am
the Father of the Nation, their natural leader: they do not deserve me... That miserable
Martinillo one day they will find nailed with a bayonet against the wall of his newspaper
with his little idiot smile and everything...
     Truly furious, he shredded the clip to avoid anyone else's reading it. While he ripped
the paper and murmured any number of swear words, he thought of how to do away with his
adversaries. The slaps. Calumnies, the lies of those libertines, he repeated once more
while he kept some of the pieces in his pants pockets and the others he threw indifferently
on the floor before returning to the terrace. No one would be able to re-assemble the puzzle.
     --Dolores!--he calls without knowing whether his pompous voice responded to the
discomfort injected by the newspaper item, or because he really wanted to be accompanied
by his woman down to the farmyard where the roosters are prepared for the night's fight.
They have improvised a stockade. Let us see whether in his desperation at having been
left without money to bet he dares to again throw into the arena, where the animals
fight, the Cross of Honor decoration from Isabel the Catholic... How much will you give
me for it?
     --Dolores...! Damn it!

Meanwhile, in Mexico City, in that cold winter at the beginning of 1846, Mariano Paredes
Arrillaga appears as the new de facto chief of the Mexican State. He arrives to
power on the 4th of January of the same year. His ascent implies the culmination of the
centralist decade. The new president wants to impose maximum respect for religion,
exploit the innate docility of the people, guarantee morality in the State, promote
patriotism and knowledge, insist upon submission, obedience to and respect for authority.
Only those who have paid important amounts of taxes will be allowed to be elected as
legislators or simply vote in the next councils. The fiscal slackers lack electoral
rights: they cannot vote or be voted upon. They must comply with all civic obligations
to be able to access the boxes in one way or another. Congress only has room for the
wealthy, the illustrious, and the remainder, the human slag, the illiterate and the
ignorant, who do not even know how to scratch the ballot with the name of the person
they desire to elect, those, furthermore, so easily manipulable, should be kept out, like
the deaf-dumb-mutes, of any political contest. You do not know how to read or write nor
have any work? You cannot vote!
     Only the priests, the military, the estate and landowners, the prosperous
businesspersons, the pro-clerical sectors, and the monarchists, they and only they, only
they can be elected to occupy a seat in the Congress. They will perform the miracles.
The domestic servants, the peasants, the vagabonds among yet other citizens, might have a
popular voice, yet in no event will they carry weight at the ballot boxes.
     How does a subject elect their governors if one does not know how to read or write,
is dedicated to consuming pulque and tequila and is, at bottom, a social parasite? Only
they will vote, it was repeated until exhaustion, who are current in the payment of their
contributions. Nothing more. We shall not arm those starving from hunger who live in the
shadows with the vote... As my dear friend Lucas Alamán put it so well: "The great masses
should not vote because they neither know nor understand for whom they do so".
That is political wisdom: to prevent those from participating in elections who ignore
what you are doing. Why permit an insane person or a minor or an idler or a moron or a
beggar or, simply, a "nobody," to light the fuse of a bomb and play with it? Beware of
an idiotic people because they can be sweet-talked by any clever political scoundrel...
Lucas, ay, Lucas, wise to be done with Federalism, wise to reform the electoral system,
wise to control the press, the local Congresses and to strengthen the pillar of a
civilized society: the Catholic Church.
     Almost every day Paredes receives Lucas Alamán and the Spanish minister
Bermúdez de Castro. The three accept the convention that Congress can choose the
most convenient form of government for Mexico...the monarchy, of course. Only those can
vote on the Constitution who possess demonstrable economic resources, those who think,
those who have something to lose, those who create sources of wealth. The lepers, by
definition, will be excluded. Alamán speaks of selecting as legislators only candidates
obsequious to the monarchical cause to guarantee success and prepare national public
opinion through the press publishing columns financed with Spanish resources
deposited in Cuba. The newspaper El Tiempo puts in its pages, in an article titled
"Our profession of faith" that, in their opinion, the best form of government for
Mexico was the hereditary constitutional monarchy, which would rest on two fundamental
pillars: first, the Church and second, the Army. "We have already gone from a
representative Republic to military dictatorship and centralized government with
lamentable results. There is no room to doubt, the best alternative for México rests
with a government headed by a European prince. Only in that manner will we recover the
prosperity of Colonial days and be able to oppose the aggressions characterizing North
American expansionism."
     The London Times agrees that the re-conquest of Mexico will be simple and
that the arrival of a Spanish prince would encounter great popularity in Mexico.
Martinillo, for his part, opposes a government based on the Army and the Church, the two
worst enemies of stability and progress in Mexico. Because of them and solely because of
them we are mired in the muddy bottom of a hole from which it will be difficult for us
to emerge. A monarchical conspiracy could only occur to some retrogrades like Paredes
Arrillaga and Lucas Alamán... Is it time to invite a Spanish king to govern us or to
defend ourselves from a yankee invasion? Where should we place all our attention? The
Mexican politicians, Martinillo valiantly asserts, let the chips fall, think with their
heads in their asses: you will forgive them... "When a certain don Enrique, the supposed
king of México, sets foot in Veracruz, I myself will remove his eyes with my thumbs,
will hang him live from the port's main flagpole and later drag his remains through the
waters surrounding the Isle of Sacrifices so that the sharks give a final account to
that Iberian cretin."
     The confusion crests in the political media. The moderates, who had supported
Herrera in search of arguments to reconcile differences with the United States, could
observe how the possibilities for a civilized arrangement vanished. What does Spain have
to do with all this, most especially queen Isabella II, ah, what a lovely name for a
sovereign, the nominal governor of that kingdom, who only could display 15 years of age,
15 years old, and furthermore, her country had not finished recuperating from the
Carlist wars and whose government is found exhausted and debilitated? Spain? And don
Enrique, at 22 years of age, the queen's brother-in-law, the candidate to become the king
of the Mexicans? Who was don Enrique to control a country inhabited by Mexicans lost in
a labyrinthine chaos and threatened, no less, by a United States desirous of swallowing
half of the country with only one bite? Paredes Arrillaga had the timely response
that has never stopped being heard: "We need the presence of an energetic man who will
put us in order..." The purists, for their part, could side with Paredes but never
with the idea of installing a Spanish monarchy. Solutions? Let Santa Anna come who,
although despicable, would not coincide with the arrival of a fair-haired prince, idiot
or not. A commission to go to Cuba! Please, find what remains of the hoof of "14 Nails,"
we should repair his honor. Let us reconstruct the cenotaph...!
     Paredes is confident that while Great Britain and the United States do not settle
their differences regarding Oregon, there could not be war against Mexico. Polk, it is
said in silence, will not open two fronts. He cannot be that stupid. He will not commit
the same error as Napoleon.
     The negotiations between radicals and Santannists becomes public. The Mexican Caesar
lets it be known, from Cuba, through two pronouncements, that he would seize an alliance
with the liberals, this time to defend the Republic, the federal, because his democratic
principles are the dominant ones. He would return if Paredes is overthrown, would
guarantee the right of the people to decide the most convenient form of government and,
having achieved his proposals with regard to political and social well-being, would
return to his ranch, to private life, once they nation was newly rescued... "Be assured
that with me you will not be devoured by the fire of anarchy nor oppressed by the
scepter of despotism."

Meanwhile there arrives in Washington a dispatch from Mexico signed by John Slidell, that
the plenipotentiary ambassador will not be received by any Mexican government. The
suspicions are confirmed. Poinsett was right: the Mexicans mix land with honor. Business
is confused with emotions. Feelings govern before reason. The civilized attempts to buy
Nuevo México and California fail. The money was ready. The half-approved authorizations
from the North American Congress. Slidell had hammered out an economic proposal to
negotiate but he will not be able to submit it to any high level functionary. They will
play the bet up to the hilt. He will remain in Xalapa without being able to officially
present the offer from the chief of the White House. He swallows it. All his life he will
hear the door slamming in his face. He is surprised to discover that the poor Mexican
also has dignity. Can it be possible? Perhaps they do not need to snatch at any object
they are offered? Is that not Christian charity, alms, so recommended and the adoption
of humility? How can they reject the money, which they most desire and need very much
to subsist? Who understands these subhumans?
     James Polk, at the same time that he envied Jefferson and Adams for having been able
to buy Louisiana from France and a part of Florida from Spain, respectively, becomes
infuriated upon hearing of the open rejection of his diplomatic initiative. Suicidal
fools, irresponsible obfuscation. Now there is only one pathway. Alternatives and
options have ended. Words have been exhausted. The arguments lack the weight equal to
the effective threats. If the Mexicans do not understand with dollars I will make them
see reason with bullets... Are they not corrupt? Would they not sell out for a fistful
of bills? How can these infamous minors, ignorant of their best interests, be understood?
     When Slidell fails and Polk is slapped with a white glove full of steel, the president
decides to urgently convene his cabinet: Taylor should go down from the banks of the
Nueces River until arriving at the mouth of the Rio Bravo, in openly Mexican territory,
in front of Matamoros, to more aggressively present the trap and intensify the
     The head of the White House will argue in his defense or ground his actions on the
fact that Texas was already a state in the Union and its borders originally coincided
with that Rio Bravo.
     Domestic opposition grows to Taylor's movement. The National Intelligencer accuses:
"Polk will remain in a totally indefensible position if he sends American troops
beyond the Nueces River. To move to the Rio Bravo would be offensive war and not
necessarily linked to the defense of Texas." The Rio Bravo never was the frontier of
Texas. Check Mexican law. The historic border between Tejas and Tamaulipas can be found
     Other dailies, equally influential as the National Observer, publish a column
with the editorial line proper to a newspaper of liberal persuasion:

     Texas has to be annexed with the same boundaries and measurements. The exact size of
     the territorial extension that it enjoyed when it formed part of Mexico. Not an acre
     more. The border between Texas and Tamaulipas, in terms of the laws and political
     geography of Mexico, is comprised, to the south, by the Nueces River, in no case by
     the Bravo, such that if the North American army crosses the Nueces River, the United
     States will be violating Mexican sovereignty and, ultimately, we shall become not
     defenders of our legitimate patrimony, but instead freebooters, pirates, invaders,
     enemies of legality, whom we have always criticized with all the force of our truth
     and our reason.

Mister president, is to militarily invade our neighbor what you call defensive war? It is
evident that you seek an armed conflict with Mexico. Is it true that after crossing the
Nueces River and reaching the Bravo, you will blame our neighbors for having attacked us
when the North American army illegally penetrated their territory? To those of us on the
National Observer staff, it is evident who is the invader...
     The Enquirer publishes a surprising, visionary and very revealing letter,
written in 1812, 34 years previously, by no less than the ambassador himself of the
Spanish Empire in Washington and addressed to the viceroy of New Spain in those years.
Life permitted me to read and copy the following missive filed and held in the library
of Enrique Rivas, an illustrious Mexican student of the events: "The United States
intends to establish its southern border starting from a line to the west of the mouth of
the Rio Bravo, including Tejas, Nuevo México, Chihuahua, Sonora, and the Californias,
along with parts of other provinces. This project might seem imaginary to many
rational persons, but believe me, it certainly exists."
     Polk pretends not to read or hear. His defense is to say that the only valid
treaties are those subscribed by Santa Anna in 1836 when he was defeated at San Jacinto.
He refuses to recognize that his personal plans form part of a very old North American
     False, answer some senators of his own Democratic party: we all know that Santa
Anna, even when president of Mexico, was imprisoned and, in such conditions, any lawyer
of the bar could explain that the Treaties of Velasco are null and void. It is the same
as when you sign an agreement against your will because threatened by a pistol pointed at
your head. In those conditions Santa Anna signed, mister president and thus, the pact is
nullified. Of course that does not make the Mexican dictator less of a coward or less
pusillanimous. Were the Treaties of Velasco ratified by the Mexican Congress? No,
     James Polk insists. He will not hear arguments when they allege that the
American troops are not to protect Texas, but to guarantee a collision with Mexico.
     I have told Taylor to go down to the Rio Bravo!
     One afternoon in January of 1846 he receives Buchanan, his secretary of State, to
present his final conclusions to him. Some one should know the true intentions of the
president of the United States. The subaltern finds Polk contemplating an oil portrait of
Andrew Jackson, a splendid chiaroscuro in the style of the Dutch school, painted during
his last year of governing as president of the United States.
     --How much the liberal politicians of our generation owe to this virtuous man!--Polk
judged with a certain expression of nostalgia without turning to greet Buchanan, who left
his papers on the presidential desk and approached to admire the work of art.
     --You do not know the pain caused in me by his demise. He was my political father. I
shall never forget the debt I owe him: I owe to him only the Presidency of the United
States... He and only he, James, in fact rescued me from anonymity and committed me to
fight for Texas from the White House. We wrote several speeches together during my
campaign. We traveled through certain states together, even when he was already very
sick. Together we made plans and arrived at the Presidency together after convincing the
Democratic Party of the advantages of my candidacy and the North American electorate of
the validity of my promises. I can tell you that if he resisted dying until the middle of
last year, it is because he wanted to see me become his successor and help my struggle
for what he had been unable to conquer... It hurts, James, it hurts like the loss of a
father--concluded Polk without removing his gaze from the picture and remaining with his
hands clasped behind his back.
     --I have experienced the same, mister president--responded Buchanan soberly. --I
have lost men and women, people who really formed me. I shall never have sufficient time
to thank them in my prayers for what they did for me. What I would give to again embrace
them and repeat to them until exhaustion: thank you, thank you, thank you, but they are
gone, I lack them and they will not return. All that matters is to honor their memory,
sir. That is the only consolation.
     --That is so, James: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and Andrew
Jackson, above all the last, bequeathed me a mission, a responsibility which, believe me,
I will know how to fulfill. I will not betray them. My work is the expansion of the
United States, the opening of new territories and markets until reaching the Pacific
beside Oregon and California. Having achieved this and only having achieved this, I
would rest in peace.
     Buchanan felt a fascination in treating these themes so lengthily discussed in the
intimacy of the president. To convert the words and the promises into palpable deeds,
into objective realities, animated him to continue with his labors without the possibility
of deception and disenchantment swaying him from his goals or the appearance of pretexts
chilling his joy. The politicians never lacked pretexts, just that Polk, it was very
clear, had them all. His determination was exemplary even at the cost of his own health.
     The secretary of State was surprised when, for the first time since his nomination,
the president did not receive him with a "What's new," anxious as always to get to the
matter without loss of time and without small talk previous to the central discussion
that could irritate him so much. On that occasion Polk, apparently, wanted to talk,
explain himself and perhaps vent some of his well-known hermeticism. One had to take
advantage of the opportunity to hear it.
     Both sat face to face on respective upholstered chairs, very close to the chimney,
over which a portrait of George Washington was found, tinted with golden hues, also
painted in oil the year of his ascent to the Presidency in 1789.
     --Since Adam and Jesus Christ and, now, God has repeatedly manifested that the
works of mankind and their labor are the only routes to their salvation--Polk expounded
without hiding his Presbyterian origins. --With what point or reason is he going to save
a drunk, a vagabond or a thief?
     Buchanan listened in silence. He waited to understand the meaning of the
conversation a little more.
     --We, the Americans, the Anglo-Saxons, comprise a superior race destined to bring
good government, commercial prosperity and good Christianity to the nations of the world.
Unproductive subjects do not fit in our spirit of industry. Our duty is to rescue those
who have fallen into perdition or become lost to lead them to the world of prosperity,
even, sometimes, by force.
     Suddenly the door opened and a black, obese woman appeared uniformed in ample dark
gray, reaching to the ankle, with a cap and perfectly starched white apron. With a
luminous smile she ceremoniously offered the well-known tea.
     --Two cups--Polk replied curtly while asking his subordinate whether he had another
     --Surely you will agree with me--he continued fixing his gaze on the spats of his
shoes perfectly shined with polish--that we, the Americans, are God's chosen and proof of
that is our victory over great England, the ideological triumph of our war of Independence
that has spread throughout the world like a dust storm and our growth which, in such a
short time, has surprised the entire planet. Certainly we had the right to make the
territories of the southeast ours, just like we now have to appropriate those of the
southwest. What were the indians or the Spanish or the Mexicans going to do with such
riches? As odious as slavery appears to many, let us see, tell me, let us see, Buchanan,
what were the blacks going to do alone, without our leadership? And the Mexicans, the
Spaniards and the Asians? It is enough to see the conditions in which they find
themselves, in good part simply because they are not white.
     --The Spanish are not white?
     --Of course not--Polk elegantly exclaimed as if he were ready to fight a duel on the
banks of the Potomac to defend his honor--they have the Arab blood of eight centuries,
are half Moors and thus of mixed race, backward, which joins with another sterile blood,
like the Mexican, to make for diabolical crossbreeding.
     --I could not be more in agreement with you, sir--Buchanan interrupted without
noticing that Polk discreetly raised his eyebrows. It was clear that he did not want to
be interrupted because it destroyed the order of his well thought out exposition and
would prevent it from arriving on time in the form of the desired conclusion.
     --In the United States--Buchanan continued euphorically, without being able to pause
to read the response in the eyes of the president, who continued with a downcast gaze--
from the beginning we fought for representative government, for a common law applicable
without exceptions to the entire community, and insist on the validity of the popular
jury system, on the compulsory obligation to pay taxes, and subordination of the army and
the Church to civilian authority. How courageously we defended the right to profess
whatever religion one desires! We achieved national unity and today, thanks to that lovely
circumstance, we enjoy deep institutional strength.
     Polk lifted his head to convey, with the simple gesture of immobility in his face,
a mute message to his secretary. He kept silent a few moments without uttering any
words. Would he thus take note that professorial political lectures in any case belong
in the university of John Harvard?
     --Our vanguard institutions sound very good, now impose them upon a country of
savages. A cannibal will always be a cannibal and eat with his hands. The fork and the
cup hinder him. When you look away he will put his head in the pot and, after drinking,
will dry his face and mouth with his forearm.
     Buchanan felt outbid. What saved them was Miss Jemima who brought the tea served
according to the precise instructions of Mrs. Polk, who missed no detail in the
arrangement of the domestic service. The tray, completely made of silver, could have been
taken from a fairy tale.
     Without great commentary, Polk continued his reflections. He would not allow being
distracted from his subject or from the destination of his conversation:
     --Beginning in 1830 we Americans decided that, in addition to wealth and success, we
 desired a peaceful conscience. Therefore, we resolved that when our interests might
collide with those of others, that obstacle placed in our way was the fault and
responsibility of the others for not having our same capacity. Thus, James--he noted
insisting upon amicably calling Buchanan by his name--we clash so much with the
Mexicans, because we do not share the same intellectual level and have to explain the
obvious, the evident, that which requires no proof, to them. Why, well because they are
a mixed race and therefore, inferior.
     Buchanan took advantage of any opportunity to display his knowledge before his boss
and in turn add proofs of the manifest incapacity of hybrid races, along with damning of
all crossbreeding:
     --Let us not forget that in 1776 the book Common Sense by Thomas Paine
ideologically supported our independence. Why the miracle? Because, as opposed to Mexico,
with 90 percent illiteracy, we managed to form a nation thanks to our knowing how to
read and write... That simple ability united us, mister president, and permitted us to
communicate between ourselves so as to trace and later execute a common project. This
fact is so true--he added now excitedly--that in 1783 they sold 60 thousand copies of a
grammar book by Noah Webster. Do you think that up to now you could sell 60 thousand
grammar books in Mexico? How can one unite a nation of ignorants and also indolents who
do not read the Bible to save themselves?
     Polk leaned backwards. He crossed his hands at the back of his neck. He stared
fixedly at the ceiling. He blinked and then seemed to keep his eyes closed. Perhaps he
had run out of patience.
     --But there is more, much more, mister president--the fanaticism appeared in the
lips as well as in the words and on Buchanan's face--In 1800 Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse of
Philadelphia introduced the vaccine to prevent smallpox; in 1807 Eli Terry and Seth
Thomas of Connecticut began the manufactures of clocks with interchangeable parts; in
1808 the Phoenix was launched, the first steamship designed by John Stevens, another
North American. Art? In 1810 the Philharmonic Society of Boston was formed, the first
symphonic orchestra with regular productions; in 1817 we invent the first paper-making
machine manufactured by Thomas Gilpin; in 1822 Graham obtained the first patent on
some false teeth; in 1830, Peter Cooper built the first steam locomotive; in...
     Mister secretary--Polk interrupted him when he noticed that the list could be as
extensive as the fascination and pride which Buchanan felt for his nationality--may I
speak? I fully know your admiration for the North American accomplishments, yet what
concerns us today is a very delicate matter that I want to discuss with you. Do you
understand me...?
     The secretary of State noticed that the peroration had been fastidious and, given
the attitude of his superior, he preferred to abstain from intervening in what followed.
Better, much better, to let his chief talk, let him express himself even if he interrupts.
Thus he would know him much better.
     Polk was uncontainable. He continued talking with a furrowed and alarmingly pallid
forehead. He spoke very slowly pausing to stress each one of his words:
     --The Mexicans will benefit if a superior race, such as ours, takes over their
northern lands. You will see how Texas will change, an American Texas, in only a few more
years. In the useless hands of the Spanish centuries and centuries went by in abandonment
and misery. California and New Mexico, annexed to our Union, will bloom like sunflowers
in a time shorter than you or I can imagine and all of it to the benefit of humanity.
     Polk took a sip from his cup of tea squinting his eyes as if preparing to suffer a
burn. The water boiled. He would not concede a truce even to drink. Soon he began to
hurriedly expound his concepts. Then he decreed, without blanching, the synthesis of his
political and economic thought:
     --To assume the lands of an inferior people is not a criminal act, but instead the
way to glorify God. For example, the war for Tejas of 1836 was a racial collision,
a revolt against the tyranny in which they held the Anglo-Saxons. How were we going to
submit to that race of indolents only to bury ourselves in a retreat from that which
they neither care about nor lament? They are resigned, James, they understand as
existence, generational resignation. Note very carefully--he called for attention in
imperative terms--that the life of a million Cherokee, Sioux or Cheyenne indians or
Mexicans does not re-pay or repair the deaths of every one of the North Americans
beheaded by Santa Anna at The Alamo or executed during the Goliad massacre.
     Miss Jemima re-entered, this time with a message from Mrs. Polk, asking whether Mr.
Buchanan would remain for dinner.
     --No--responded Polk without waiting for a reply. With the tasks I would give him he
would not rest for a century. Please excuse him...
     Buchanan exhibited a sardonic, certainly laconic, smile. He simply assented with
his head.
     --If we insisted upon the annexation of Texas it was because the Mexicans are semi-
barbarian, due to a mixed race. We had to forcefully separate Texas, which in the future
might serve as a receptacle for thousands of blacks. Eventually they will go to Central
and South America and in this manner we shall remain without people of color. We shall
see how to resolve the cost of the workforce in the southern states.
     Buchanan preferred to pass as impertinent but not as ignorant nor as a mute
spectator, above all on subjects that moved him or even personally incited him.
     --I concur with you, sir--he offered without concern for the president's
grimaces--that the Mexican race consists of apathetic imbeciles. We would do well to
abandon the idea that nations like this will regenerate simply by copying our
institutions. And do you know why?--he asked as if to make time to scrutinize the face
of his interlocutor. --Because the majority of such nations do not even have the capacity
to copy us. Because of that, sir, there exist races condemned to be inferior and others
to disappear in absolute terms. What use was it for the Mexicans to copy the principles
of our Constitution in 1824? They were only good for dividing them among themselves...
     Polk had named him secretary of State for something. To occupy an office of so much
responsibility they needed to share all their ideas. Intellectual and political affinity
was a requirement. He tolerated the interruptions because the content of the affirmations
never ceased to surprise him.
     He continued confirming Buchanan's concepts with various nods of the head. In his
tone of voice the urgency could be perceived of reaching the end of his discussion.
     --Since the era of the Texian revolution we attack the Mexicans for being a
degenerate, backward race, for being mixed with the indians and for being incapable of
controlling and bettering their territories and their economy.
     --Do you think that the Mexicans are so lacking in intelligence as to desire a war
against the United States?--Buchanan asked advancing to the probably conclusions of his
     --Before I thought--Polk answered in all sobriety--that we would be able to annex
all of Mexico if we regenerated the Mexicans with sending an Anglo-Saxon elite and
dispersing them throughout the whole country.
     --Now I am convinced of the contrary, and that is why I had you come to my
office--Polk connected his ideas. He spoke pausing while he insisted that only through
the war would he obtain his propositions. Suddenly he became quiet and pronounced:
--To annex the whole country is political suicide. Walker is wrong on this point. We
shall remain with Mexico's unpopulated territories, if necessary by means of force. The
other, total absorption, is equivalent to putting lead on the wings of the North American
bald eagle and that, James, the generations that succeed us in the future will never
forgive. What would we do with millions of indians incapable of even learning to
pronounce their name? Can I explain? We shall take what is unpopulated and take it by
force to claim it for the Lord. He can only want betterment and universal prosperity,
with no one better than ourselves to head that movement towards well-being...
     When Buchanan was going to intervene with assurances to confirm the president's
viewpoints, the latter hurried to the conclusion he had wanted to reach since the
beginning of the meeting:
     --I made my best effort with Mexico through diplomatic channels and failed. Yes,
failed. Later I sent Slidell to meet with Herrera and later with Paredes with a juicy
offer to buy the territories paying them 30 million. I failed again. Whoever has money is
saved, right, James? They do not want to save themselves! They do not want anyone in
their feathers--he said arching his eyebrows as if he had discontinued any effort to
understand the Mexicans
     --We celebrated the fall of Santa Anna and even toasted the arrival of Herrera, yet
we never suspected that that Paredes would turn out much worse for us--pleaded Polk with
a curious expression of resignation.
     --Afterwards, and at the same time that I offered to pay them well, I threatened
them and furthermore, in their style, promised them money delivered underneath the
negotiation table. I failed. I have failed every time. I do not understand them nor
will understand them. Only one option remains to me: war, yes, war, James...
     --We should not feel bad, mister president--Buchanan added in a conciliatory tone:
history is on our side. We succeeded in conquering the Ohio valley with bullets,
expelling the indians. Those lands comprise a storehouse. We should not inconvenience
ourselves seeking the common good, cobbling an alliance to progress and evolve. A child
often does not understand why they are scolded and punished. Upon growing up they are
grateful for it. If war is the only option, let us exercise it; our neighbors also, with
time, will also thank us for it. Who could present a reproach for having improved their
quality of life, and that of their children? War? Then, to war!
     --Alright then, James--Polk slapped the arms of the chair with both hands. He was
fed up. --That which I could not obtain at the negotiating table, I shall achieve by
means of violence. Let the cannons speak! Let us exchange verbiage for bullets. Now let
us not think of the best argument to convince, but instead of the best strategy for
killing. Let us test the reach and explosive power of our bombs. We will discard our
diplomats' talents and revert to the capacity, to the imagination and dexterity of our
generals and other military. Where does the right of the conqueror end? We will bring
the Mexicans to their knees. I shall punish their insolence and their stupid pride until
they beg for mercy. I will teach them to travel the path of humility. By rejecting my
offers they oblige me to incur the costs of war. Will not even talk! Well they will have
to repay the damage caused. The amount of indemnification charged for the expenses of
war shall be the desired land, the promised land--he concluded striking his fist
against the extended palm of his right hand.
     --Tayyylorrr!--the president suddenly shouted. --He must go down beyond the Rio
Bravo, must go down to the halls of Montezuma at the foot of that Copeté castle
or however those infernal names are pronounced. Do so until the last drum in North
America is calling for immediate war. We shall create a nation and approach nearer the
very face of God when we take over those until now wasted territories... "I only need
a state of war to have a legal basis permitting me to militarily invade California and
Nuevo Mexico, James, and by God, let the reason to attack this time not be the complaints
of a yankee baker like in the War of the Pastries..." We shall find a great pretext!
     They lengthily debated the possibilities of success, above all the time and money to
be invested in conquering it. The speed of attaining triumph was decisive. They dealt
with the most effective way of giving the Whig opposition a haircut. They spoke of the
achievements and of the advances made and confirmed their cancellation of any other
possibility. The decision did not imply surprise for either of the two. One just had to
press a button. On the North American flag there was room for many more stars. The fate
of México was sealed.
     When Buchanan left the office he chose to comment with the door handle in his hand:
     --The war against Mexico will cost us very little. "We shall establish a precedent
of respect with other nations so they learn that with us one does not play. We have force
and we know how to use it: so that Europe understands. The message is also for them."
     Polk answered with a smile: good point, secretary Buchanan. To work!
     --Let us not forget that England could again declare war on us as in 1812, sir.
     --We will not cross that bridge before reaching the river. With them I can be
understood. We speak the same language. We are cousins. We know how to hurt each
     --The Mexicans would be delighted if there were an armed conflict between ourselves
and the English...
     George Washington would rise out of his grave to prod you and me if he were to hear
of such a case--he replied without lifting his eyes while he reviewed other papers,
consular dispatches from Mexico or from Great Britain.
     As soon as Buchanan disappeared, Miss Jemima, for her part, recovered the silver
platter with the leftovers of tea. She noticed then that almost all the setting remained
intact, just how she had taken it to the small table located between the two armchairs.
They had barely tried it. Did they not like the jasmine tea...?
     On being left alone the president reviews in detail his February agenda. Indeed he
was busy. The 13th of that same month he had a new appointment with Alejandro Atocha.
Should he broach once again the subject of claims? He thought of canceling the audience.
He refrained. Something in him insisted on the benefit of carrying it through. His mind
did not contain the exposition that would unfold. Impossible to control all the events.
Variables should be taken into account as part of the game of life...

Xalapa, a formerly Totonac region, located 2600 feet above sea level, had come to have,
now for some years as a colonial city, its own personality, for being the obligatory step
between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City.
     The mountainous terrain, the shaded cliffs and fertile plains, the thick woods of
proud trees that adorn the hills and valleys, "the pathways that surround us shaded by
fruit trees, like the banana, the custard-apples, interspersed with hundreds of plants
and shrubs and flowers of every color and fragrance, the mockingbird, the nightingale and
the goldfinch sing, and poisonous animals do not cause a violent end," are idyllic spots,
where one is at a loss to distinguish whether fear or admiration or both together are
the dominant sentiments. The fierceness of the tropics  creates impenetrable curtains of
weeds during the hours leading to the dawn. It is possible to hear the growth of the
exuberant vegetation, where not only insects live and reproduce, but also scorpions,
reptilian bugs, snakes of every size and color, arachnids, above all tarantulas,
multicolor birds, bobcats, American tigers, roaring beasts, as well as rodents, small,
black, gelatinous, and outpourings of the most diverse breeds.
     In addition to those creatures of nature there also proliferate bandits, shoplifters,
highway robbers, human beings who, after committing a crime and stripping their victims
of their assets, and in some cases of their honor, disappear with shouts of scorn and
mockery, imitating the savage sounds of the parrots, the toucans or the silver parakeets,
until losing themselves in the impregnable and labyrinthine chiaroscuro of the jungle.
     Xalapa, the village that would see the birth of Antonio López de Santa Anna y
Pérez Lebrón in the year 1794, represented an obligatory step on the road to Mexico
City and guaranteed excellent health conditions compared to those prevailing in Veracruz.
In this arrangement the merchandise that arrived in the port was moved as soon as
possible to that nearby enclave, a viable distribution center, where the merchants
from all parts of the country came to execute profitable deals. Also, the Veracruzians
preferred to live part of the year in Xalapa, to be far from the epidemics and
suffocating port heat. In the summer, Xalapa would be invaded by beautiful women, who
captured the complete attention of Santa Anna, along with many hundreds of other admirers
of feminine beauty. The traffic of people and merchandise from the port to Xalapa was,
similarly, particularly intense during the summer when life was insupportable,
overwhelming and dangerous  in Veracruz, in the same fashion that the route to Puebla and
Mexico City was very traveled for those and other reasons.
     Year after year the Xalapan fairs produced an authentic mercantile and popular
effervescence. There one could find the most diverse products, since they were free from
Veracruzian customs. The traffickers, sailors, mule drivers, interior merchants,
foreigners, attracted by the smell of profit and by the abundance of the money that
circulated, could be seen leading their flocks through streets, plazas and squares. They
filled stores, bars and inns to overflowing, where the haggling could be heard before
closing some deal, the announcements of the criers and the ringing bells of the harnessed
mules, loaded with boxes. There was a notable movement of persons come to buy materials
of hardware, haberdashery, lingerie, iron for blacksmiths, saws, farm tools, hand augers,
chisels, planing blades, files, chippers, picks, scrapers, forged and cast iron hammers,
without forgetting bags of cacao from Soconusco, boxes of chocolate, vanilla, sticks of
dye, silver containers for decoration or coins, much copper, among hundreds more articles
that adorned the environment consisting of steep, narrow roadways illuminated with wax
candles or oil or kerosene fixtures.
     If half the moneyed and influential world followed the well-traveled route of
Veracruz-Xalapa-Puebla-Mexico City, why could not Manuel Domínguez, yes, yes, the
specialist in cooking human tamales, be able to assist passers-by, travelers, merchants,
diplomats, foreigners in general, journalists, public functionaries, legislators, and
citizens of the world with an excellent service of stripping them of their goods, assault
and brazen robbery, cunning theft with or without violence, which is to say without
euphemisms and without pausing to determine whether one dealt with North Americans,
Asians or individuals of whatever other nationality? Indeed he lacked racial prejudices.
Gold is universal. It has no name or surname or feelings or country.
     --Here, at these elevations of Xalapa, among so many mountain peaks, the plantain
does not reach maturity--the good Mexican would say in the form of a confession--and
therefore we have to screw ourselves working--he added resignedly after having polished
his language a little--and what better employment than assaulting so many little white
travelers passing by here? Ah, how they crap and cry on their knees so quickly when one
sharpens the point of the blade passing it back and forth before their fat jowls...!
Swearing to God that we will slice their neck. Not even women pee in their underwear
like them...
     --The loot, jackass!--he dramatizes as if clenching a fist--and they give you,
dead with fear, the old routine about what they want you for... You give you what you
bring, what you brought and will bring their whole thieving life long. Let them fit
the onion knife a little beneath the ear, while they whisper there what it is they want,
and you will hear the little men offer them even what they do not want and never
asked for nor could obtain at any price... In addition to everything, prime assholes...
     Manuel operated the length of the Veracruz-Mexico City route, an area that he
controlled together with another 300 bandits who, in perfect organization and
coordination, would not permit any stagecoach, landau, chaise, brougham, cabriole, coach
or any wagon, to cross their "customs" without paying the "taxes" due...
     Ah, how he liked to remember, together with his tribe, jocular anecdotes of assaults
and lofty personalities from different offices, professions and nationalities, who
traveled enjoying the scenery, at times, aboard a cabriole.
     Thus they assaulted Charles Elliot, the English ambassador to the Republic of Texas,
when in the year 1845 and, pressed by circumstances, he had had to travel to Mexico City
to try to convince, as opportunity arose, president Herrera with regard to the advantages
of dealing with an independent and sovereign Tejas, instead of a Texas annexed to the
United States.
     When Domínguez made Elliot descend from his vehicle, the latter gave him a
series of reasons why he should be permitted to continue on his way. He had no time to
lose. Jones, the president of Texas, urgently awaited him with the response from the
Mexican government.
     --You must release me now, my gentlemen. I come to fight for the interests of
México, seek the best for your nation: I am of the purest good faith, sir, please
believe me. Rob me on another occasion, not today!
     In his defense he alleged to be a protector of the nation when he felt a hand
pinching his buttocks. His jump could not have been more genuine nor the scare less
     --Qui ser estou, siñores? Are you rapists or thieves?
     --No, little guero--responded a man a small stature known as the Whip, because his
anger snaps long after the offense is given, said his gang companions--we are poor but
decent, if I touched or pinched your ass it was by mistake...
     --Error what error, sir...? You meant to grab my buttocks...
     The laughter of the gang could not have been louder. The horselaughs echoed through
the jungle and angered the Whip, who could not see his companions mocked.
     --I understood what you were saying, fancy pants--insinuated the Bico, stricken with
laughter. Someone had given him that nickname for having suffered a spill as a boy that
had scarred half his neck and almost his entire chest. The two different skin colors led
his friends to call him since early youth the Bicolor, the Bico...
     --He just insulted Manuelín--replied the Whip, appealing for Domínguez's
favor. In  the group nearby were found, naturally, Joel, Sebas, Nachito, and Jelipe, who
attentively and soberly observed. --I swear that I was just doing my duty, little chief.
Let me clear my honor by bullets with this damn fartsmeller, Manuel, please, Manuel,
what would it cost you?
     --I do not need to duel you, are you loco?
     --Here in México, perfumed bastard, when one man offends another, it is only
solved with pistols, ojetito... So get screwed...!
     --What means ojetito...?
     --Do not bother to explain it--replied the Whip while Elliot paled and the skin of
his face acquired a transparent cast, of one already at the deathly gate. --Let us see,
you Bico, bring me the pistols, let him choose: I will give him that advantage before I
chingar this little guy.
     While all this occurred and from the carriage the heads of the others emerged
interested in the events, Joel went behind ambassador Elliot with the idea of helping him
remove his elegant coat.
     The English diplomat's mouth was dry, pasty, his hands trembling. The sweat that
would emanate from his body would be ice, thus leaving no track or any spot on his ample
white shirt with ruffles and white cuffs closed with gold cuff links, some antique coins
with the profile of Tomás Moro.
     Elliot alleged the importance of his mission, its enormous transcendence for Mexico,
the State security on no longer having a border with the United States deriving from an
independent Republic.
     --If I 'morir' all is lost; furthermore, no one has any reason to beat me, least
of all this 'siñor' I do not know... We have not even been introduced...
     In the midst of the allegations the Whip placed himself in front of the Englishman,
ordering Sebas, the godfather of the ceremony, to display the weapons placed, one in
front of the other, in a black case lined inside with very bright red velvet. The pistols
were a "personal souvenir" from the ambassador of Spain in Mexico when he arrived in
Veracruz intending to arrange the ascent of a peninsular emperor to rule Mexican
     Elliot's legs faltered. At any moment he might faint, losing consciousness. Who
asked me to be a diplomat and come to this nation of savages to die in a duel with a
nobody? What a way to give up my life, he said amidst scrupulous silence.
     --Listen here, jackass, all this is very good for insulting, but at the time of the
shots you will eat it all, right? Choose arms, jackass, and learn to die like a good
little man--the Whip intoned now without poncho or hat, exhibiting abundant black hair,
15 days of beard, gaps in his teeth with missing elements due to disputes or lack of
hygiene, tire sandals dirty with life, mustache stained with mead and complexion baked
by the tropical sun.
     The Englishman still begged in atrocious Spanish, having at once forgotten all that
he had learned, to be allowed to write to his wife, take leave of her and of his
children, send his final reflections to his mother, to his siblings and his friends.
     Manuel Domínguez interrupted him saying that if he let him write to all those
people the duel would never happen and that the honor of the Whip, my life and heart
brother, would never be cleansed. What a mania the Saxons have, invariably given to
writing up everything that happened to them! The same, exactly the same, had occurred
when they assaulted Wilson Shannon, nothing less than the United States ambassador in
Mexico. That personage had been stripped bare down to the clothes he wore that morning,
when he went to the National Palace to present his credential letters and they had also
surrounded him on his return, at the beginning of the previous year, when México
broke diplomatic relations with the White House and when this Shannon, an opportunist
bully, needed his passport to leave the country. How they had laughed when the North
American minister had asserted in his defense, to avoid being assaulted, that Canalizo's
government and that of Santa Anna had extended them assurances that no bandit would come
near their brougham sedan to rob them!
     Vaya con Dious, mister ambassador and they robbed me down to my socks those worst
sons of the great bitch that you can imagine...!
     --Siñor, would you please control the Whip?--Elliot managed to say as if now raising
his final prayer. --You seem to be the chief.
     --I do not take commands from anyone, mister: choose your pistol or we hang you
like a pansy from where it really hurts. How do you prefer to die, hanging like a coward
from the first stick we find or like a complete little man clenching your pistol? Just
remember that the Whip can shoot the shoes off a horse at full gallop and escape...
     Elliot tried to place himself back to back with the Whip like one condemned to die.
     --How many steps do we take?
     --Steps, what steps damn it--the Whip thundered. --We are not in England here,
mister. In my country we shoot to hell face to face.
     --Step back little man, get three steps from me and thus, when we are ten feet
apart, face to face, you shoot first, that is a privilege which I give you and that you
do not deserve. Verdad, Manuel?
     --What the heck, dispatch him because we have to work. The stagecoach is coming at
four this afternoon full of little gringos with many dollars... Bang him and let us go...
     --I shoot first?
     --Yes, little mister, yes...
     --And when do I shoot...?--he asked for the last time when he had almost gone
the established three meters. He saw the Whip's face as close as if both noses were
making contact.
     --Now! Shoot now, jackass!--the Whip exclaimed baring his chest, inflating it so the
Englishman could not miss his shot.
     --Elliot kept trembling with greater intensity. Impossible to hold the pistol with
his arm extended. He aimed while he recalled that he had chosen diplomatic service and
not the military precisely because of his absolute rejection of violence, which he
detested, hated, which made him nauseous. I am of the pen, not of the pistol. Of the
study, not the battlefield. Of words, not of bullets. Of perfumed salons, not pestilent
     --Shoot now or I will--the Whip required pointing at the Englishman's head, at his
forehead more pallid and white than a shroud.
     The Englishman squeezed the trigger, the pistol exploded with such virulence that
the Whip was thrown several yards backwards. He remained immobile. Mute. Without
breathing. The shot had been exact and lethal. At least the Englishman had not missed.
How could he since he had almost shot at point blank range? He then lowered the pistol
leaving it at the height of his knees. He resumed breathing while the companions of his
rival hurried to discover the wounds to the body. Or the cadaver...?
     What would not be everyone's surprise when the Whip began to move and stand up
without showing any sign of blood on his shirt? Of course, clearly, knowledgeable of
this type of duel he had jumped before the Englishman was to press the trigger. He knew
how to read very well the nervousness projected by the tense gaze of the principals. He
leapt backwards so as to evade the line of the mortal projectile that would have gone on
to bury itself a few yards beyond.
     As the Whip cleaned the tracks of powder and lead from his face, shirt and pants and
gathered his hair, throwing it backwards, tying it with a blue ribbon so as to see his
adversary with a clear vision, he slowly approached the place in question, pointing at
the diplomat's face, who remained unmoving. To Elliot it seemed incorrect to move and he
accepted his fate without taking his eyes off the gun. He instinctively let fall the 
empty pistol without stopping looking at the weapon that would take his life. Would he at
least hear the detonation?
     The Whip stopped breathing so as not to miss. With the thumb of his right hand he
skilfully pulled the hammer while his index finger remained lightly touching the trigger.
He aimed with precision between the eyebrows of his aggressor. A silence like this was
never heard even in the cemeteries.
     The echo of the shot instantly traversed valleys, pastures and cliffs. The
detonation rumbled until losing itself well beyond the Perote volcano. Everyone turned
immediately to see Elliot. The latter remained undaunted, inert, immobile. Standing. He
looked up at the heavens. Would the afterlife be like this? Am I still vivitou...?
     Suddenly the Whip released a horselaugh as unexpected as sonorous that broke with
all protocol. The English lord had soiled himself and had not noticed it. His grey pants
exhibited a gigantic stain reaching down almost to the height of the knees, where his
white stockings were held up with invisible garters. The laughter of the band could be
heard in the vicinity of Xalapa.
     Manuel Domínguez mounted his horse without ceasing to laugh, an example
immediately followed by all the others. The Englishman preserved his life, not like his
purse or his cassock or his timepiece with its gold chain or his luggage. Upon
arriving at his destination in the capital of the Republic, he would tell Charles
Bankhead, ambassador of the United Kingdom in Mexico, what had occurred so that
he would send a severe note of protest to the government of president Paredes.
     --Never insult a Mexican in his own land nor dare to threaten them because we have
short fuses, little guero, we explode immediately: believe me that the next time
we shall not carry pistols with blank bullets...--Manuel Domínguez concluded as he
became lost in the haze at a half-gallop, emitting some strange guttural noises as if
one were dealing with a macaw that had escaped mocking its captors...

In another place, in the capital of the Mexican Republic, the general-president Paredes
fought with all the forces at his command to ingeniously avoid the traditional bankruptcy
that lay like a malign shadow over the national finances of independent Mexico. The
political dislocations, the overthrows, the riots, the coups d'etat, added up to an
absence of operative capacity in the successive governments, inefficient organization of
the economy, the social petrification that impeded the community's participation in the
affairs of State, the wars and invasions, the backward church of counter-reform lacking a
vanguard spiritual model to propel the creation of riches and well-being among all the
strata of the nation and, as if it were simple, the problems derived from the absence of
navigable rivers, from the absence of roads, from a wild geography, from the
concentration of populations in elevated valleys far from the sea, and the commercial
disorganization of the country given the rupture between the centers of production and
those of consumption. Who might have a Mississippi to cross the country from one side to
the other and move thousands of persons and livestock so as to develop regions promoting
evolution and progress! And imagine that the Veracruz-Mexico City railway will not be
inaugurated until 1873, after the demise of Juarez, now under the Presidency of
Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada!
     The authoritarianism, the  bossism and the chiefdoms kept ravishing the political
life of the nation. Corruption, one of the most deep-rooted institutions dating back to
the years of Viceroyalty, when a monolithic and monopolistic State, extreme defender of
a regime of privileges, proposed the sale of titles, duties, positions, concessions,
authorizations, and canonizations of all sorts in exchange for money, piercing from side
to side, with enormous vulgar needles, the recipient where the national hope resided,
causing the most elementary notion of rule of a state of law to disappear. Mexico was
governed in accordance with a motto and later a litany known as "Everyone for
themself..." What union? What solidarity? What joint effort leading to the mastery of a
theme? What community, what country, what nation? One dealt with individual efforts,
isolated, disconnected from a common objective. Where was the glue to unite society with
each and every one of its parts? It was an enormous puzzle that perhaps no one would be
able to solve.
     If the kings of Spain, the viceroys, the bishops, aristocrats, in addition to the
most distinguished business and military persons, were not subject to the law during
three hundred years of colonial government, why would the presidents of an independent
México be going to submit to the rule of law? Was it not a case of a political
tradition that had already acquired its naturalization papers among us all? The powers of
some and others were equally absolute within the monarchy as under the Federalist
Constitution or the Centralist one. The law must be rigorously applied to the poor, to
the defenseless and, of course, to the brutes. The Creole and Church elite continued to
invariably oppose institutional reforms. The clergy, untouchable, enjoyed an educational
monopoly, which is to say, controlled the future of the nation under their cassocks, and
dominated the financial world coming to have higher budgets and income than the
independent government itself and monopolizing 50 percent of the cultivable lands that
were abandoned to the unproductive fate of their dead hands and, as if that were not
enough, continued financing revolts with damaging economic, political and social
consequences for the nation.
     Martinillo put it well in the final paragraph of a column titled, "The Reason for
Mexican Backwardness." His questioning was pointed and devastating:

     How many presidential overthrows did the protestant Church in the United States
     sponsor in the 19th century? Neither Washington nor Jefferson nor Adams nor Jackson
     ever feared being overthrown by any religious current. How much taxes did the North
     American protestant Church collect, how many mortgages did it possess, how many
     verdicts of all sorts did it control, how many large estates did it wield, how many
     wars financed, how many banks founded, and how many goods embargoed and lost; how
     many armies did it command hiding the Sacred Cross, how many secret prisons did it
     operate, how many congregations did it torture, mutilate or burn on the damned
     inquisitorial pyre and, tell me, how many armed uprisings did the presbyterian
     Church sponsor in order to defend its material interests instead of dedicating
     itself to spreading the Gospel? Miserable basement Catholics, agents of ambition and
     backwardness, they should roast in hell...

Paredes, for his part, struggled daily to control the press. The attacks from various
political columns caused him to totter from one side to the other. The detonations of
the French marksmen demonstrated to him the extent of his fragility. He is condemned to
his face: "President Paredes had instructions to militarily assist Arista in the north of
the country and he preferred to use the Mexican army to overthrow the government in
place, instead of fighting for the supreme interests of the nation." "Paredes a traitor,
doubly a traitor, since he proposed the arrival of a European emperor to conduct the
national interests and refuses to defend the Mexican territory..." "Are we perhaps taken
for morons?"
     The chief of the nation threatens reporters, columnists and journalists, in general,
by sending them to San Juan de Ulúa or the firing squad, in case of recidivism. Facing
economic insolvency, he suspends payment on government accounts, drastically cuts the
salaries of the bureaucracy and the army and, indeed, even solicits the Church for a
loan of a million pesos. "There can be no game if the Church holds all the dice, the
cards, the skin and the money," Martinillo would say in an epigram for one of his
articles. "We shall never peacefully and civilly rejoin that society; we shall have to
prevail by force and, sooner or later, much blood will flow."
     The break continues being total. Only it is perversely complicated by the
possibility of the explosion of a war against the United States. How is a confrontation
of such dimensions to be financed with three pesos in the nation's account and,
furthermore, with the justified lack of civic confidence in relation to the fate of the
taxes collected? Very few economically supported the cost of a military outbreak hidden,
now chronically, beneath the weight of skepticism regarding the future of the money, the
national savings; I refuse to enrich one more brass. They are not only professionally
useless, a social and political scar, destabilizing agents, enemies of the public peace
instead of being its protectors and defenders but, as we see, comprise an authentic
parade of bandits...
     If Paredes had overthrown Herrera for not having defended the Mexican interests in
Tejas, now, once installed in power, desirous, personally, of reaching an accord with the
White House, it would become impossible for him to avoid an armed confrontation. Had he
not arrived in power by means of a coup d'etat justified by the necessity of adopting a
belligerent politics against the North Americans? Well then, he would never be able to
sustain himself in office without overseeing a declaration of war, a situation that he,
personally, rejected, yet which at the same time the people, Congress and the press
required to justify his presence in the post.
     The discomfort from the growing gossip regarding the arrival of a European prince
to the great "throne of México" gradually poisons the political atmosphere. Gómez
Pedraza, Lafragua, Otero, Luis de la Rosa, Domingo Ibarra, and Juan Bautista Ceballos
join in a campaign to achieve Paredes' overthrow. The first announcement is awaited at
any moment. A political blow in the nest of the impostor. The de facto president
has barely three months in office. He should retreat. He is honorable, but dumb. The
Congress legitimates another coup d'etat upon confirming his appointment. Through some
fraudulent elections he is confirmed in the position of de jure president of
Mexico and Bravo as vice-president, yes, but the political decomposition continues.
     Finally, on the 16th of April of 1846, general Álvarez rises in arms. He
rejects the ratification of Paredes as head of the Mexican State. He attacks the
legislative decision and warns that he will resist by means of the use of force and that
the new general-president should continue in the National Palace. "Paredes must be
expelled with bayonets and, oh, surprise, the surprises that life give you, it will
always surprise you, and require that in place of the deposed leader, his place will be
occupied by one no more or less than Antonio López de Santa Anna for the ninth time
in 13 years. He would be "ripped" from his "sorrowful" Cuban exile...
     Yes, once again the name of "15 Nails," the Napoleon of the West, the Protector of
the Nation, the Invincible Liberator, Guiding Angel of the Mexican Republic, appears in
the secret conversations, in the covens where national politics are woven and warped.
This time he again links himself, like what occurred in the year 1833, with the furiously
anti-clerical and anti-military figure of Valentín Gómez Farías with whom, for some
time and since Havana, he had been sneakily and discreetly exchanging correspondence.
     Gómez Farías re-united with Santa Anna after the terrible episodes experienced
in 1833, when the Mexican Caesar occupied the Presidency of the Republic for the first
time and Mr. Valentín the Vice-presidency? How was it possible that history would
permit us to contemplate another alliance between the two now entering that catastrophic
year of 1846? Had not they ended their governance as mortal irreconcilable enemies?
     On April 1st of that year of 1833, Santa Anna had arrived to the Presidency for the
first time with the Excellency demands. Your Excellency, of course, nothing more! A man
of scarce ideas and abundant words, an extraordinary manipulator, the best of all time,
articulate and persuasive, capable of co-existing politically with an ultra-conservative
in the measure of Lucas Alamán or with an extreme liberal of the caliber of Valentín
Gómez Farías, and he begins his system of absences in the extreme as chief of the
Mexican State, of not presenting himself in those times even for his swearing in, "because
occupied in country necessities." The solemn act he delegates, like the very chiefdom of
State for which he had been elected, to his vice-president, don Valentín himself, who
losing no time promotes truly radical reformist laws, which could have forever changed
the young face of México. He could not ignore that his days were numbered. He had to
direct the Mexican ship at full steam ahead to the ports of progress and of liberty.
     --Don Valentín--His Excellency notes to his vice-president--Let us make
México a free country, returning its rights and its tools for conquering its future.
No one enjoys privileges in my government, not the clergy itself... Do not stop for
anyone. I well know your thinking, which is why I offered you the Vice-presidency... It
falls to us to lay the foundation upon which the nation that our children deserve will be
constructed. We shall create wealth and distribute it. The next generations will thank us
for our labor as the authentic architects of México--proclaimed Santa Anna in his
farewell discourse on the way to his ranch... --You have my entire confidence and my
unconditional support to carve the true face of México starting from this brute rock
we have been given today. I confide blindly in you, forward, friend and brother
Gómez Farías...! I, for my part, am going to pursue mulattas and bet the cocks
at Manga de Clavo until your chores of government become complicated and I have to
replace another interim president so as to live in peace...
     The vice-president, the politician most opposed to Santa Anna in almost every
comparable aspect, a humble man, honorable, without material pretensions, visionary and
respected intellectual, a doctor and lover of peace, devoted to the ideal of a nation
free from the multivariate power of the Church, of the military and of the landholding
aristocracy, the Mexican Robespierre, conscious of having dangerous dictatorial powers,
he uses them wisely to oppose the tithe, the clergy's most important source of income,
canceling the forced collections and abolishing the ecclesiastical charter. Since the
Church does not participate in achieving either spiritual or material progress in
Mexico, he prohibits it from delivering political speeches, secularizes the missions and
convents, closes the University of Mexico, he limits the historic confessional and
instead, founds the Department of Public Education. It is full liberalism, it is the
year 1833, that of the birth of modern Mexico which will grow without having a giant
leech around its neck that would have sucked the young blood from this nation until it
became an aged dwarf. He reduces, furthermore, the size of the army, deprives the high
officials of the privilege of being judged by special martial tribunals and establishes
the superiority of the civil power over military force. He launches a process against
those responsible for the assassination of Vicente Guerrero. He requires solution of the
crime. He expels the bishops and archbishops opposed to his politics. Their goods should
be the property of society. It is a party of hope, of authentic liberty, the celebration
of Mexico's true independence without fetters or conditions sucking out life and hope.
The clergy, now reduced and without claws, to the sacristy! The military, without
privileges, to the barracks! The civilians to their business without further limitations
than those established by law! However, only some of the proposals in relation to the
wealth of the Church managed to be turned into law. The macabre, deafening shout, of
"Religion and Exemptions" hindered the advance of his government.
     In one of the writings of the famed doctor, one which landed in my hands before
being destroyed in the clerical fires, these lines for the story were also found:

                         THE EMPIRE OF THE ALMS
     The greater are the legacies and donations given to the Church the more ample and
     generous is the available pardon. Are we not becoming a nation of cynics through
     the sale of indulgences? How is it possible for sins to be pardoned in exchange for
     money? That is negotiating with the supposed word of the Lord! It is profiting from
     the fear of the beyond which grips the devotees! There are the legacies of up to 20
     or 30 thousand pesos or the trusts granted so that the chaplains will be obliged to
     say mass in perpetuity, simply to save the soul of the moneyed defunct. The more
     masses to the dead over a hundred or a thousand years, the more possibilities for
     salvation for the deceased of perhaps a century ago? Let us be serious.
          The institution most negated and ignored by historians and journalists and,
     simultaneously, the most influential in the nation, that which administers the
     wealth in each diocese, is, undoubtedly, even when once on a small scale, the
     Judgment of Testaments and Chaplaincies and Pious Works, invariably installed in
     the luxurious Episcopal palaces. The resources of the judged--which
     judged?--referring to financiers, to authentic secret banks, are sacred, untouchable
     and inalienable! The Catholic Church maintains that no earthly authority, however
     powerful it may be, has jurisdiction to confiscate the ecclesiastical wealth.
     And they still dare to proclaim: Whosoever seizes ecclesiastical goods or fails in
     their payment obligations stemming from a credit extended by the Church itself or
     who resists delivering the sacred tithe for that sole reason will be excommunicated
     and persecuted in life and afterlife until their body is burned, and then their
     soul, in the most remote gallery of hell. What kind of Church is this that
     accumulates material riches in the name belonging to God and kills, persecutes,
     mutilates, and burns those do not pay when Jesus made a virtue of poverty and
     transformed the world with only a tunic and some sandals?
          In every priest there is a traitor, a hypocrite who exploits the sentiment of
     charity and of fear to control money or estates in the name of the Divinity. They
     are thieves and assailants a thousand times worse than Manuel Domínguez because
     he, at least, admits being a bandit without reverting to strategies or disguises
     called cassocks, in which they enrich themselves with pious gazes while they torture
     in clandestine prisons or who disregard their economic obligations.
          How can we permit agriculture, industry and commerce, the national economy, to
     depend on the pious sources? Should not the name itself, "pious sources" alert us?
     We have to create institutions of private or public credit like the Bank of
     Avío, banks the property of government or of individuals, to sanely propel the
     nation's growth without living subject to the financial monopoly secularly exercised
     by that voracious and rotten clergy that has made an empire from alms, of which,
     furthermore, no one can give an account.

Don Valentín concluded:

     The Apostolic and Roman Catholic Church lacks patriotism and faces the following
     crossroads: to serve Rome, to which all loyalty is professed or México, the
     nation that saw the birth of the priests, bishops and archbishops and to which
     supposedly thanks are due for the burden of blood and of land. Are you with Rome or
     with México? What would become of us if the "Mexican" church were to sell its
     goods and remove its funds when we know that it controls 76 percent of the
     productive capital of the country, or that is 150 million pesos, according to
     doctor Mora, in addition to 50 percent of national real estate, according to
     the criteria of Lucas Alamán, a figure that rises to two billion pesos? We
     already know how the Mexican countryside was hurt when the Church stopped making
     agricultural loans during the years of the independence!
          To extirpate this malignant tumor called the Mexican Catholic Church from the
     Mexican organism could produce an uncontrollable hemorrhage that ends the life of
     our country.
          If we lose the battles against the clergy we lose México.

     Afterwards? After those so personal and genuinely patriotic efforts to liberate
Mexico from the pernicious Catholic clergy, the superstitious Mexican people, mystical,
fearful, indolent and, let us say, contemplative, submit to looting, exploitation and
abuse from the cardinals and the cassock-robed, in knowledge that with their alms they
nourished a monster which, in the second act, would consume their entrails.
     It is curious how, through voluntary or forced donations, legacies, inheritances, as
well as other revenues such as the renting of embargoed and auctioned goods to
congregations, the clergy accumulated giant quantities of money that it later selectively
re-cycled in the economy to enrich itself even more, exercising a financial monopoly
against the population. Nevertheless, the latter was allowed as if we dealt with a
foreign patrimony, a distant reality belonging to another country, without taking into
account that the concentration of spiritual, political and monetary power united in a
single institution sooner or later will lead to the asphyxiation and paralysis of the
nation with all its disastrous consequences.
     Then I learned that to Mexicans what matters is only what happens from the vestibule
of their house inwards. Their relations with the exterior world, the experience of their
own nation, the very fate of the public patrimony, they live as mere observers who attend
a spectacle. The generals and the politicians can dispose at will of the collected taxes,
in the same fashion that the priests use the alms at their whim to gouge the parishioner-
client victim without their protests having any greater reach than the tablecloth where
they consume dark coffee and smoke puros from San Andrés between verbal duels of
information and predictions. If there is an armed intervention in any part of the
national territory, this should not cause great alarm, except if the aggression crosses
the shadow of their residence, that is, the vestibule door, and if one has to support
the presence of foreign soldiers in the hallway itself of their house... Even so, they
will receive all manner of attention and the most diverse gifts will be dispensed to the
invaders, in the same way the Moctezuma mistakenly sent ostentatious presents to the
Spanish conquerers so as to get them to leave his land.
     Gómez Farías tries to transform a society designed to fulfill the caprice of a single
man; he wants to avoid that the government continue acting in accordance with the states
of mood of the general-president, and in turn wishes to liberate a nation paralyzed by
the interests of the privileged classes and substitute it with a new order based upon
equality before the law where freedom of expression prevails and an authentically
representative government defends individual guarantees over the corporate.
     How to end privilege and exemptions without spilling blood? How to extirpate the
leech with neither pain nor hemorrhage? Impossible to achieve it. If you fight against
the laws expropriating the clergy you will be saved... To move against the clergy's
property is to move against God: you will be condemned as a heretic... Make a nation by
killing a liberal, enemy of God and of Mexico; Divinity will absolve you.
     It was just like in that 1834 and before "the atrocities" committed by "the sinister
and diabolical" Gómez Farías, when he requested Santa Anna's help. The latter
was sent personal envoys and letters for him to intervene and control the radicals. In
June, the Meritorious of Tampico returns from his ranch as Savior of the Nation. With
his right forearm he cleans the lipstick from the lips of some mulatta. From April of
1833 until April of 1834 the radicals had been consolidating power at the national and
state level; they enjoyed the advantages of a great majority in the federal Congress and
in the local legislatures. Their followers democratically controlled many municipal
governments. Their program of reforms was being speedily enacted. The whole country would
benefit from the wealth generated, by no means from only one institution, retrograde besides.
Their propaganda appeared in the majority of the nation's newspapers. The opponents of
liberalism were disbanding. The urgent need of executing a change was imposed, as
required by the true independence gained since 1821. "México cannot continue living
disguised in a republican and federal costume, with political and economic structures
identical to those prevailing during the Colony years and those of the Viceroyalty."
     It was the great hope for Mexico, the glorious opportunity for take-off and flight
towards other shores and limits, but in less than a month the liberal edifice collapsed
in that 1834. It sank scandalously in the midst of a terrible dust-up: the clergy and
the militia, headed by a now not liberal, but fanatically conservative, Santa Anna,
decapitated the reformist promise with a single slice, the same one meant to scatter the
seeds of progress and well-being the length and width of the nation's territory. The
economic and political interests of a privileged minority returned to erode all signs of
hope. Priests and soldiers put their hands to the only tool whose attempted use had been
successfully demonstrated in a country that was characterized by the absence of an
efficient and non-discriminatory judicial order: violence. Despite the politics of
Gómez Farías oriented towards education, toward practicing agrarian reform,
distributing the wealth and abolishing the tithe, the radicals, having demonstrated the
advantages of their proposals, could not count on popular support. The people knew to
excess the advantages of the change. They wanted it. They urgently needed it. It suited
them in every respect. It was undeniable that welfare would follow from the proposed
measures, some of them already launched like the repeal of the tithe and, nevertheless,
the community waited for others to decide for it and remained attentive and observant,
absolutely immobile, betting in regard to the course that events would take dictated by
the hammer-blows unfolding. Since my future is foreign to me, let us bet on it. Take out
the deck. You will see that I am right. Let the cards speak.
     Upon Santa Anna's return to the National Palace, of course he expelled Gómez
Farías from the throne, the office and even the palace itself. In the street,
perverse priest-hater! You never understood, God's bad son, that the priests only want
our welfare and are humble, noble and just representatives of God here on the Earth! Out!
Out for meddling with the military...!
     --Mr. president...
     --Out, I told you...!
     --Mr. president,--Gómez Farías angrily insists. --We had come to liberate our nation
taking the means of production from the Church to redistribute them among the people
such that the majority might benefit... They have us strangled...! You and I agree in
abolishing the exemptions of the military and the priesthood...!
     The dictator answered the haughty protest of his vice-president with three very
clear and eloquent movements before occupying the presidential study: one, he put both
index fingers in his ears; for the next act, number two, he removed them to cross his
mouth, pressing his lips, suggesting to don Valentín, without saying a word, that he
should maintain silence and three, he lifted his arms and pointing to the door with
their extremities, he let them fall satiated on the presidential armchair again covering
his ears with the collar of his coat bordered in threads of gold.
     Every time that Gómez Farías tried to exchange communication with the dictator
--a title adopted by His Excellency in those times, as Simón Bolívar had done in
Venezuela years before--he simply signaled towards the door with both index fingers,
without saying any word and contemplating the paneling of his office in the palace
with narrowed eyes as if he were on the verge of losing patience.
     --We had a political agreement, sir--don Valentín asserts on foot without
hiding his frustration.
     Santa Anna inclined his head, perhaps intending to read a notice, which he usually
hated, while he covered his head and ears with his hands and puckered his forehead. How
noise irritated him!
     --Son of a bitch--don Valentín roared, taking advantage of the situation to
not be heard.
     López de Santa Anna resumed pointing to the door. In another minute he would
call a troop of soldiers so as to remove this imbecile "father of progress," by kicks or
they might throw him over a balcony to the street or the palace's patio of honor.
     The doctor Gómez Farías abandoned the presidential office amidst murmurs that
His Excellency had not wanted to hear, but on the other hand they would have been
     The clergy, the army, the aristocracy, and the moneyed and influential classes,
that is to say, all the privileged, determined to protect their personal interests,
would exchange the federalist system for a centralist one. They would annul the
Constitution of 1824 at a high cost for the nation. They would twist México's
destiny to their convenience, fitting it to their very particular needs. Santa Anna
would close the Congress. "Your services are no longer required for the country," he
would tell them while he orders the army to close the doors of the legislative precinct.
He will impose military guards. Out with the liberals! Away with the radicals! To hell
with democracy! A new Chamber of representatives is "elected" behind closed doors with
20 percent of the legislators extracted from the sacristies, plus an indeterminate number
of legislators not ordained by the Church, but totally pro-clerical. The priests had
survived a first great assault on their immense wealth, in the same way that the military
had managed to protect their privileges by placing among the deputies a dozen officials,
including four generals, while in the Senate at least five soldiers of the highest rank
could be identified.
     The liberal reforms were declared unconstitutional. Access to political power would
be restricted only to persons of recognized economic position, to the literate and the
salaried with important demonstrable resources. Only those would vote who had something
to lose or something to say... Excluded would be the unemployed, vagabonds and
domestic servants, that damned so well-disguised Mexican slavery. While we contend with
children we will never have a free or ideologically sane country. And the people? The
people will participate in these historic changes equally fearful as one who attends
cock fights in a venue filled with drunks...
     To the cry of "Religion and Fueros," a chorus organized and directed by Lucas
Alamán, Valentín Gómez Farías was expelled from his position. Terminated. Booed.
Stepped on and accused of a thousand calumnies. His hatred has no limits. He swears
revenge against the dictator in those years around 1834, yes, only that in 1846, the
damnable year which occupies us, it is the same Mr. Valentín who weaves all imaginable
maneuvers to re-ally himself with His Excellency and repatriate him from the "Cuban
nightmare" so far as to encumber him again with the very same Presidency of the
Republic. How does political convenience operate? Sometimes it seems incomprehensible
for the majority of mortals. Everyone knew the front and the back of the Mexican Caesar,
knew his attainments and his protean and lightweight convictions and, nevertheless, they
call him, they do it again: no one would be able to claim surprise at his actions...
In Cuba, Santa Anna, at the height of spring of that 1846, already prepared trunks,
carriages, cocks, rooster pens, bongos, and mulattas toundertake at any moment the
return trip to México, to the nation which devotedly required him.

During those first months of 1846 in Mexico they talk and they plot and they want and
they do and they promote the overthrow of Paredes, another coup d'etat during a full
national and international crisis, and the names of Santa Anna and Gómez Farías
to respectively preside over the titularity of Executive Power are insistently repeated;
in the United States, a Polk tired of the reiterated Mexican refusals to receive Slidell
and at least allow him to propose the purchase of the northern territories, begins his
morning of Friday the 13th of February of 1846 reviewing his agenda for the day and
finds, for the second time, the name of general Alejandro Atocha, cited for ten in the
     James Polk imagined an encounter similar to in 1845. Atocha, perhaps, would insist
on his right to charge indemnification for damages suffered by North American citizens
at the hand of the Mexican government. An insufferable routine for the president.
Nevertheless, he will receive him one more time because this person of Spanish origin had
transmitted to him, during their first meeting, valuable information about the march of
events in Mexico. The chief of the White House did not imagine, could not do so or even
suppose, the burning matter that Santa Anna's envoy carried in his hands from the
conversation he had sustained with "15 Nails" in Cuba, scarcely a month previously.
     Atocha had arrived in New Orleans the 10th of January of 1846, coming from Havana
aboard the vessel Alabama, having stayed at the St. Louis Hotel where he
registered as A. Y. Atocha of New York. The "Y" was left in by a typographical error.
Five weeks later he would be in Washington, D. C. precisely that Friday in February when
an abundant snow fell on the capital of the United States. Whether or not he liked cold,
the interview with Polk was imperative to communicate to him the conversation held with
His Excellency, the ex-president of México. Atocha should return with maximum speed
to Cuba, not without previously informing Santa Anna, through the mail, the results of
his "diplomatic" efforts as ambassador without portfolio on an ultra-secret mission.
     Polk received Atocha punctually at the designated hour. Punctuality, he said, is a
courtesy proper in presidents. The chief of the White House displayed a pallid and tense
face, that of a man who had not been able to satisfy sleep for quite some time, that of
an obsessive functionary who tries to control down to the last detail and who worries,
despairs, when something escapes from his sphere of domination. I saw him lose his
composure when the sealed and secret correspondence sent by Taylor from Corpus Christi,
or that of commodore Jones from the Gulf of Mexico or that of Fremont or Stockton from
California or that of the consuls Dimond, in Veracruz, or Black, in Mexico City, did not
arrive in his hands with the desired swiftness. Do those loafers think my government sent
them in order to spend several days of rest abroad or in the country or the sea, while I
perish for lack of news? Do those slackers not know that we are in a pre-war state
against Mexico?
     Yes, yes, he became desperate when a member of the cabinet, a commodore, an admiral,
a general, a diplomat, or simply a secret agent did not knock on the door of his office
at the precise hour of his appointment, or poor Mrs. Jemima if she delayed serving the
tea beyond when the hands of the president Jefferson's grandfather clock jubilantly
announced five in the afternoon. Events, he would say, should happen when I order them
and not at the time when my subordinates decide to have them.
     Polk reviewed even the particulars of the affairs and he personally gave each one
of them the suitable attention up to its final execution. No one should think nor
interrupt, only comply to the letter with that that he had instructed. Inform me step by
step of the march of our plans. The president carried a secret register of his acts in
which he regularly wrote, with some exceptions, of what occurred during the long day of
work. Memory is always insufficient. To avoid interpretations that could discredit his
work, he wrote a diary of which I managed to make a copy with its inscriptions during
the four years of his government. I have it, yes, I jealously guard it among my most
valued texts.
     If he was going to again receive Atocha after their first interview in June of 1845,
it was because from the beginning he had been provided with valuable information
concerning political events in Mexico. "The man's opinions seem to me very well founded
and I believe they respond to the Mexican reality," Polk left as a comment in his diary.
In this second reunion he would find a way to avoid the issue of the compensations so as
to enter fully into the Mexican theme, one of the few which captured his attention and
deprived him of sleep without respite. The president never could imagine nor suppose that
the meeting he would soon have would radically change his position with regard to Mexico
and radically alter the course of events. What did the excellent indemnifications matter,
after all, except as pretexts to pressure Mexico?
     Atocha entered the presidential office at the appointed hour shaking the last flakes
of snow from his coat. A tall navy guard, armed, uniformed in blue and white tones,
removed the moist garment the moment he purported to set it on one of the armchairs.
He spoke of the cold, of the blizzard, of how his sideburns froze from the icy wind
currents and how he savored clam chowder soup, especially when burying his face in
the soup, the steam would allow him to again move his face muscles. Polk assented
without saying a word, until impatient, he interrupted his interlocutor, questioning him
directly regarding his viewpoint in relation to the incomprehensible complexities of the
     Santa Anna's envoy understood that at any moment the sailor could return with
the overcoat doubled over his arm insinuating that the interview had ended at that
precise instant. There was no time to lose. He then put the musket to his shoulder, aimed
at the president's face and pulled the trigger, delivering the entire message with a
single shot. He told Polk, who tried to dissimulate his emotions and stupor as best he
could, that Santa Anna, yes, yes, general Santa Anna, the Mexican ex-president, himself,
yes, have no doubt, the wise knower down to his gut of his citizenry, now exiled against
his will in Havana, wished to make known by his conduct to the chief in the White House,
in the most confidential and secret manner possible, that the Napoleon of the West
himself, well known to president Jackson and to Polk himself when Santa Anna was taken
prisoner to Washington, was in favor of the drafting of a new border treaty with the
United States. To adjust the borders between the two countries, the ex-president proposed
that the Rio Grande and not the Nueces should be the new Texian line, with the Colorado
River that on the west, until reaching the sea through the bay of San Francisco, that
which was the northern border of Mexico, a nation that would cede all those enormous
territories in exchange for 30 million dollars.
     James Polk thought he was not living in reality. He maintained silence and composure
while he remained seated and leaning back, resting on his dark brown leather chair with
his arms crossed. He suddenly felt that he could not continue seated. Restlessness
devoured him. He stood up and placing himself behind his armchair supported his elbows
on the back of that furniture elegantly upholstered in yellow tones.
     --Santa Anna told me in person, Mr. president--Atocha continued watching Polk's
every movement--that you would never be capable of seating the Mexicans at a negotiations
table without the presence of a formidable military force and that in this meeting I
should communicate his surprise at your having removed the naval blockade of Veracruz in
the fall of last year and also for having kept Taylor in Corpus Christi instead of
stationing him on the Rio Grande.
     He who transmitted such commentaries signaling the weak or equivocal parts in the
military and naval strategy was not Mexico's worst enemy, no, not at all, he who
performed the transmission through a special envoy was no less than the man who had been
president of that nation on at least eight occasions, as Buchanan had told him days ago.
With whom was he dealing...? After everything, the counsel and suggestions could not have
been more correct.
     The president abstained from commenting to Atocha that Taylor had actually received
instructions the previous month to move his troops towards that river, stemming from the
reiterated refusals of president Paredes to receive Slidell. The former could not confess
that to his bold visitor, without thereby admitting surprise at such detailed information
from Santa Anna in relation to the location of the North American troops. Much, much more
disturbing, he awakened to the fact that "Mr." Antonio himself was making suggestions to
cause his own country to be defeated. How was it possible for a national to provide the
keys to split his country without receiving anything in return?  How much hatred
accumulated in one person! Nothing...? Who said nothing in exchange? And the 30 million
dollars? Those would enter the nation's treasury. Santa Anna would not charge them in
person... Ay, how much candor among the little Presbyterian parsons...! Santa Anna will
come in to plunder the national coffers and will once again embezzle the Mexican treasure
without any opposition or consequence. He will remove down to the last peso in his      
sophisticated carriages. If so many other general-presidents had already done so so many
times, why not again try the defrauding routine? That was one of the advantages of
living in a society asleep, somnolent, indolent, traveling at the rhythm and in the
direction of the wind like a leaf without destiny or history or meaning. Inexplicable
to an Anglo-Saxon respectful of the power of the law? They are fools, they miss the best
part of life...
     Yet there was more, much more, Mr. president, Atocha wanted to continue before a
president Polk who paralyzed, had forgotten to regularly swallow saliva, to blink and
even to breathe, when the guard in effect interrupted the office with that overcoat now
completely dry and returned to its original form after a coal iron had been used.
     He had already imagined it, damn it ten thousand times, Atocha said... And me
talking about clam chowder soup...
     Polk then gave two slaps on the arms of his chair, stood up and loudly clapped one
palm against the other yielding a solitary applause, from which Atocha had not the least
doubt remaining that the interview ended. He had much more to say to Mr.
president. In fact he had barely begun to reveal his message, to explain the reasons for
his long journey from Havana. Would Santa Anna's strategy fall into a bottomless barrel?
What reasons would the ex-dictator give? He would remain like a mental midget, above all,
if he lost sight that to be the carrier of a message of such historic proportions
constituted, with no doubt whatsoever, a great privilege of which only an idiot would
disapprove, even more so if there was the possibility of gaining additional thousands,
if not hundreds and even millions of dollars. To leave thus, with nothing further, with
a frosty "good morning" on the tense lips? Do not even speak of it!
     Atocha kept talking and relating as if he were continuing alone with the president,
hoping to avail up to the last minute, while the guard and Polk helped him one with the
coat and the other with the hat. When the head of the White House noticed that his
peculiar interlocutor's anxiety was leading him to commit indiscretions against the
enormous white-skinned marine and, furthermore, the conversation could yield various
derivatives worthy of profit, he decided to interrupt him and placing his hand on the
forearm of the Spanish-North American-Mexican general, told him simply:
     --I will await you here on the 16th of this month at eight o'clock in the
morning--and the time of the audience had been exhausted. An aristocrat from the Czar's
court awaited him.
     --Next Monday, Mr. president?--Atocha asked so as not to leave the least doubt of
the next date. He well knew that he would spend a long, very long week end enclosed in a
hotel. He could not withstand the cold of the street or the icy winds that bristled the
last pore of the skin, yet to have a new opportunity to conclude the presentation of the
issue that had brought him from the Caribbean, very soon warmed him again.
     --Next Monday--concluded Polk with a very specific expression on his face. Was it
skepticism or mistrust...?
     Atocha left the White House with an awkward sensation. The colossal snow had
increased in intensity. Very soon the capital of the United States could be buried in
the snow and paralyzed by the ice. If in our Ibero-american countries there were such
extreme temperatures we obviously would have a different level of development. Who is
going to promote living in the outdoors with one of those colds that freezes the spirit?
To shield oneself from the horrors of the climate it was usual to require a house and to
have a house one must work intensely instead of taking a siesta beneath the shade of a
palm tree and after doing so, raising one's arm to tear a banana from a bunch growing at
the native's exact height... There is no doubt that the climate and religion determine
economic action in those countries. The poor are condemned, the rich are saved. A
marvelous economic dynamic. Lovely snow that stimulates productivity... Ay, the tropics,
the tropics...!
     While Atocha walked crestfallen along Pennsylvania Avenue in search of his carriage
holding his jaw to his chest to escape the blizzard strongly attacking his hat, Polk's
visage returned to his mind. Had he not convinced him or been believed? That inscrutable
expression on the president's face would monopolize his attention for three days. How to
interpret it? Was it of surprise, of disapproval, discomfort, or lack of confidence?
Something bad, no doubt something bad: screw it! It took him a second to feel that
something had not turned out as he wanted. These damned personal perceptions could waste
him and submerge him in doubt and anguish. The week end had barely begun. It was 10:30
on that past morning of the 13th of February of 1846. He would have to wait three more
interminable days before arriving at next Monday. A whole eternity.
     --Take me to Simpson's--he ordered the coachman. --It is time to have some
champagne pancakes and some eggs Benedict with Canadian ham.
     With a yes, sir and a loud whip crack on the horse's flanks, they headed to
one of the most select clubs in Washington. Life's aspect changes on a full stomach.
Never make decisions when hungry or sleepy or sick or in a hurry, not to mention drunk,
because you run great risk of error, his paternal uncle, Puli Atocha would have
counseled him, a wise man, erudite, familiar with human weaknesses, who in a thousand
lifetimes could not be repaid for the good he had done. Is it true that there are
persons who were only born to help and be loved?
     If Polk could not imagine the news to digest that morning that would import new
elements of analysis for facing a war now inevitable for him, everything reducing to a
mere question of time, Atocha could not imagine either that on his leaving the White
House the president would convene an urgent cabinet meeting no less than the following
morning, even on a Saturday, also at the earliest hour, to analyze Santa Anna's proposal
in timing and form, if it really was from Santa Anna... He would require the counsel of
his inner team of collaborators to arrive at a final decision in its regard and, in his
case, to make a counter-offer.
     The chief of the White House made his approach, entering, being seated without
waiting for anyone. Remember that these meetings are like the opera: when they start
they close the door and no one can now enter the audiences room. Polk seemed to greet
that morning in a stupendous good humor despite the adversities with England and the
Oregon territory and the possibilities of going to war as much with the United Kingdom
as with his neighbors to the south. To reach an understanding with his cousins was
feasible, but with the Mexicans represented an utter odyssey. It became impossible
not only to negotiate, but to seat them at the table to parley. Not even that? No,
nothing. How different we are! Can you imagine a Washington or a Jefferson or a
Madison trying to return to power five, six or nine times and, furthermore, by way
of arms and not by the ballot box, eh...?
     Polk gave details of his meeting with Atocha, just as he had recorded it the
previous night in his diary. I saw the faces of the president's secretaries of
government paralyzed with stupor when he informed them that Santa Anna was disposed
to sign a new border treaty with one line to the San Francisco bay on the Pacific and
another on the Rio Grande. That furthermore his compatriots would never sit down to
negotiate the sale of their territory, which meant that he had to move Taylor to the Rio
Bravo, right in front of Matamoros, and reinforce the North American platoon already
anchored in Veracruz to besiege the port, blockade it, asphyxiate it, and thus terrify
the Mexicans. Otherwise, at least until they feel the hardness of the North American
steel on the neck, they will not release even a square yard of their so rich and
appetizing territories. The attachment of the Mexicans to the land was almost Biblical,
so to speak, and for that reason one should not discourse with them utilizing civilized
words or offers of money, without reverting to bullets, to violence. All the Slidells
that the United States might send will fail when their knuckles touch the port. Do not
send diplomats, send soldiers... The call had to be made with a thousand bayonets,
crashing the doors where the fools congregate, aiming at the chest of those stubbornly
incapable of understanding the scope of progress...
     The first to reply was Walker, the secretary of the Treasury, who argued:
     --And all that generosity from Santa Anna is gratuitous, Mr. president?
     --No Walker--Polk answered smiling. --Santa Anna requests 30 million dollars to
cover Mexico's debts, maintain an army in operating condition and improve, no doubt, the
economy of their country.
     --Ah, now we are talking!--said Walker smiling in turn. --I can imagine where they
are going to park those resources--he continued with an expression saturated with
suspicion: --in the hands of the big generals and of the priests to absolve them for
their thefts in exchange for money--the treasurer concluded, turning discreetly to the
     The president argued that the destiny of the American funds was absolutely
irrelevant to him since the Mexican government will sell and the Congress of this nation
ratify the operation in writing with all the solemnities. What does it matter to me
whether the Mexicans dispute over it like rabid dogs, dead with hunger, that they fight
for a great piece of meat between grunts and bites? What to me... What to ourselves,
gentlemen, what...
     Walker returned to intervene with his well-known thesis presented as All of
     --The best for us and for Mexico is to absorb the entire country for once for good
for all and for always. Our neighbors will never advance by themselves. They need the
strong figure of a king, of a viceroy, of a powerful government such as ours to order
and direct them... Let us annex all of Mexico, yes...!
     No one wished to dwell upon Walker's obsessive theme, or at least it was not the
moment. After a brief silence, pausing so that Mrs. Jemima, impeccably dressed in
black, yet remembering her white cap and apron, perfectly starched, could place in the
center of the table a tray of doughnuts covered with melted chocolate and place cups of
tea or coffee at the sides of each one present, he continued the session in the
presidential antechamber.
     Bancroft, the secretary of the Navy, indicated that perhaps the American Congress
would encounter problems with ratifying a treaty which annexes Nuevo Mexico and
California, above all if they were slave states: let us not lose sight that if we delayed
almost ten years to annex Texas to the Union it was because the inclusion of the Texian
senators would upset the political balance in the Chamber given that their vote would be
necessarily pro-slavery. I would like to know with what character those two new states
would join the Union.
     Polk intercepted the question to prevent the slavery polemics from taking over the
meeting when they would not finally arrive at any conclusion in the terms that he wanted.
     --California and Nuevo Mexico might not be slave-owning and if they were we would
divide those territories into three or four states such that the aforementioned
equilibrium would not suffer further threats. That would not be a problem, George, let
us assume, for now, a position in regard to Atocha--concluded Polk like a duck hunter
awaiting the sudden appearance of a new specimin lifting off in knowledge that he had
very little time to aim and shoot.
     James Buchanan suggested that a special ambassador be named to go and speak
personally with Santa Anna in Cuba. They would go with the sole purpose of confirming the
validity of Atocha's assertions. We do not know if it is a scam, a trick or something of
that nature:
     --Observe it is brought in the hands of that subject, don Atocha, with the
extremely courteous manner whom I met last year. People so affected in their behavior
produce a terrific mistrust in me, gentlemen. Furthermore--he ended cleaning his
spectacles with a white handkerchief--if it comes from Mexico we put everything under a
magnifying glass. Our neighbors compensate for their weaknesses with trickery, just like
women, lacking physical strength, have to develop other skills to attain their
objectives... Beware of the Mexicans! Let us not forget they are dark-skinned, almost
like our blacks, just that those latter already accepted their submission and inferiority
and resigned themselves...
     Polk acknowledged receiving the comments. They seemed prudent and reasonable to him.
Among other reasons there, precisely there, lay the importance of the cabinet, in the
opportunity to debate ideas, to encounter different opinions, to know the most common
viewpoints until issuing the final decision that the president would only take in the
most absolute solitude. A new opinion is a new possibility, as opposed to the Mexicans
who depend on the states of will of a single man. On that occasion the president
proposed, recognizing the proposal of his secretary of State, that a good candidate to go
to Cuba might be governor C. P. Van Ness himself, the former ambassador of the United
States to Spain.
     Given that deep objections were presented against Buchanan's suggestion and having
other no less urgent matters to approach, they deferred agreement until the next meeting
of the cabinet, even more when Polk announced that the coming Monday he would have a new
interview with Mr. Atocha and that from there they might derive new alternatives for
action. For now, they agreed to send a representative of the White House to verify
Atocha's offer and to discuss, once the foregoing had been achieved, the terms of an
agreement with the Mexican ex-president. Ness was set aside. Who might be a suitable
ambassador from the White House?
     The next day, Sunday, during the lunch hour, Polk had a chicken casserole with
boiled corn and mashed potatoes accompanied by a glass of milk. For dessert he was
served, in his study, some stewed apples. For pumpkin, his favorite, he would have to
wait to enjoy until the next harvest in October and November of that same year. By
then would the war with Mexico have ended? That night Miss Jemima changed the candles
several times before the president would retire for at least a few hours to sleep. He
read and re-read dispatches even from the most irrelevant servants of his administration.
If I am the one responsible for everything, I have to be informed about everything...
     Monday the 16th of February arrived before it was expected. Atocha had had the
opportunity to send a secret letter through the mail excessively stamped to ensure it
would arrive punctually in Cuba. The recipient was, logically, Antonio López de
Santa Anna. It announced the prospect of another missive after his meeting with Polk
that same day.
     In the next Polk-Atocha interview, the latter broached the theme without any delay.
This time security would not surprise him in the middle of his conversation. Without
further preambles, upon sitting and after noting that Polk's face displayed more fatigue
at the start of the week than at its conclusion, as he remembered the previous Friday,
and once the de rigeur good morning was completed, he greeted the president from
generals Paredes and Almonte--do you remember him, the ambassador of Mexico here in
Washington, at the beginning of your administration--and of course the also general-
president Santa Anna, in agreement to sell half of their country, but that the Mexicans,
the people, would refuse to perform the operation: understand, for them it is like
selling their whole family, however with 30 million dollars the most serious problems
that plague the nation since her independence would end.
     --Why, sir, do the Mexicans want those gigantic extensions if they never have
obtained any benefit from them?--asked Atocha to demonstrate that he, more than anyone,
was convinced of the advantages of the transaction. --If we were to say that for them it
would be like releasing Louisiana with all the territorial and hydrological and
mercantile advantages that the United States has known how to extract in those dominions,
I would defend the right even with stones to retain those territories, yet as abandoned
as they are, scarcely populated with 20,000 persons between California and Nuevo Mexico
and without any possibility of obtaining any advantage from them because Mexico is broke
from stem to stern, having not the least possibility of populating them or of
exploiting them or of defending them, it is better, much better, that they should let
go of them, above all if they are going to receive a good price in exchange.
     --And to convince the Mexicans of the benefits of the offer...--the president began
to explain.
     --To convince the Mexicans of the benefits of the offer--Atocha repeated--they have
to understand that only a treaty of surrender and sale will save them from a frightful
war in which they will have much to lose and nothing to gain. You must threaten them,
sir--he judged making a fist and standing up with his face flushed from his valor--and
just as I made clear last Friday, as soon as possible you should move Taylor to the Rio
Grande and reinforce Veracruz sending a senior flotilla to the port. The Mexicans only
comprehend when they feel the muzzle of the pistol on the center of their forehead.
     --And what guarantee do we have that with the movement of our forces the Mexicans
will yield...?--Polk asked while Atocha returned to seat himself on the brilliantly
upholstered sofa.
     --The only way to assure success, Mr. president, requires the fulfillment of two
inescapable conditions--the Spaniard replied in his broken English, looking fixedly into
Polk's face and exhibiting a grounded confidence in his argumentation--one, consisting
in that once the blockade of the port of Veracruz is executed and ingress or exit of any
ship, merchandise or person is prevented, one single exception be made...
     --What...?--inquired Polk, mistrusting exceptions to the rule, even more
supposing that behind every word and offer from Atocha a trap could be hidden, woven
by a subject as dangerous as Santa Anna. He would never forget the latter's lack of
principles at San Jacinto...
     --This plan--Atocha added lowering his voice as if someone, in addition to Polk,
could hear them--will only have possibilities of emerging victorious if you order, at
the right moment, as I already suggested from our first meeting, that the net be opened
in such a way that Antonio López de Santa Anna can disembark in Veracruz, arriving
from Cuba, to head this movement. Thus, if hostilities have to arise, we assure you that
as soon as my general takes charge of the Mexican army, it will lose all the battles as
payment in the cause on which we are committed with you.
     Polk got up this time and went to the window to see the snow-covered garden with
his familiar custom of crossing his hands behind his back.
     --This means that we move our troops to the Rio Bravo, blockade the Mexican ports
as a demonstration of force, an exercise in intimidation and, as the case requires, we
shall make a little war of agreement, previously negotiated, in which you promise to lose
the battles that might arise--he exclaimed without turning to view his interlocutor.
     --Correct, sir...
     --How is it possible that someone can sell their country that way, Polk said to
himself. Only the unnaturalized can commit such an outrage. If one is born there, lives,
raises their children, prospers, eats, sleeps, laughs, and dies there, if they owe
everything to that land, how is it possible to contract its delivery to foreigners who
will change all the modes of living and transform them into something alien, divorced
from their customs and principles? How can one person be capable of selling their own
nation? Would he also sell his mother or his sisters or betray his father and his
children in exchange for a fistful of pennies? The Mexicans must be hollow inside or is
it only that satrap who incarnates the majority of them? Finally--he concluded his
reasonings--California and Nuevo Mexico interest me and not the moral scruples of those
     --What is the other condition?--he asked while he returned to his place to write
down a sudden idea.
     --One is, as I told you, to modify a blockade of Veracruz.
     --Accepted, and the other?--replied Polk impatiently, perceiving Atocha's
difficulties with fully entering into the other theme.
     --The other, sir... the other...
     Atocha decided to make his offer conscious that maybe he would not have another
opportunity to do so.
     --The other consists, sir, in that the military require as an advance, as a proof of
bona fide, at least 500,000 dollars to sign the treaty, resources which, of
course, will be discounted from the 30 million dollars agreed on Friday, Mr.
president--he said, taking a glass of water to hide his emotions and his feelings.
     --They are not agreed, señor Atocha--Polk soberly refuted him--they are
proposals, requests, suggestions, if you like, yet by no means are they agreed by me nor
negotiated with my Congress, on which I depend for the funds. Let us be serious,
     --Pardon me sir, in this case the 30 million suggested is, as you say, in exchange
for ceding the northern territories of Mexico.
     Polk mistrusts Atocha. He contemplates him in silence as if one of the features of
his face were to at once confirm his suspicions. His Excellency's representative is a
man of short stature, with a protruding belly, thin mustache, a very tenuous line,
perfectly shaved, which runs above his lips. He exhibits a greasy face, sweats
abundantly, even more in moments of great tension when he is taxed. He then removes his
white handkerchief bordered with light blue thread on the edges. The item emits an
intense odor of lavender. He dries the drops that furrow his face. On meeting him, he
stretches out an equally obese hand, equivalent to offering a decomposing fish exposed to
the sun for a long time.
     --For what reason should I believe in all of you? How do I know that it does not
involve a trap? In what conditions and when am I going to know the hidden truth of this
proposal?--Polk starkly revealed his doubts after reading his notes. It was evident that
he would not even lend Saks, his dog, his eternal companion, to Atocha in order to walk
him through the gardens of the presidential mansion.
     Atocha intercepted the question like a salesman desirous of sharing all the
advantages and the very low price of his merchandise to quickly close the deal. He became
very insistent, as if his client were about to flee the locale. He sought the manner of
closing the pass and obliging him to decide now. Tomorrow would be another day.
     --You can ask Brantz Mayer, of Baltimore, for my references. He was secretary of
the United States embassy in Mexico from 1841 to 1843. Mayer wrote many books about
Mexico. He knows me. He knows about me. He will endorse me. He will recommend me. I am
incapable of telling lies and even less would I dare to come to the White House on the
part of His Excellency, don Antonio López de Santa Anna, to invent stratagems and
plans which he could disavow with total facility. Would it not seem very bold on my part
to come to this office being an impostor or a phony?--he argued anxiously. --You, sir,
have various forms of verifying my statements--he exclaimed with satisfaction, knowing
that his truth was indestructible.
     The chief of the White House was very careful not to reveal his plans regarding
Van Ness. In no way did he want to prepare Santa Anna. He preferred a game of surprise
in order to control reality.
     --If you permit me one last suggestion, sir--said Atocha, needing to know Polk's
position in relation to Santa Anna's proposal. --I would suggest that Slidell abandon
Xalapa and board one of the many North American warships anchored in Veracruz. From
there he should continue pressing the offers to purchase the territories and for the
indemnifications in favor of the nationals of this country.
     For all his reply Polk furrowed his brow. The good manners, the talent, Atocha's
personal presentation impressed the president, yes, but he could not stop seeing him
sideways imprisoned by a great uncertainty.
     --My general Santa Anna maintains that from Xalapa Slidell will achieve nothing,
absolutely nothing. Your ambassador should negotiate while seated on one of the cannons
of your ships, such that everyone in the port sees and feels the threat of the shells.
     The president smiled. He accepted the idea. It was a good way to leverage his
     Atocha waited until the last moment to repeat the most important part of Santa
Anna's message:
     --His Excellency asks--he said, standing up and adjusting his suit coat--that you
take energetic measures to achieve the treaty and that he will support you with
everything which he has available. Mr. president--he stated extending his warm and humid
hand--you know that the word of "don Antonio" is worth more than the whole extent of
California and Nuevo Mexico together covered with polished emeralds.
     --I know, I know, Mr. Atocha--Polk smiled again, conducting his interlocutor by the
arm towards the door.
     --Some message for him?--questioned Alejandro Atocha certainly impatient for the
response that would await the Meritorious in Havana.
     --When there is something, very soon you will have news from me. I have all your
information. Do not worry, these are not matters in which one should hurry. We should
subject your proposal to a lengthy process of maturation--answered Polk, putting his hand
in a pocket to remove a handkerchief. Perhaps he would sneeze, no of course not, he just
reverted to an old trick so as not to grasp the Spaniard's right hand. By no means, he
said while he closed the door and called his appointment secretary!
     --Tomorrow is the 17th, right...?--Polk asked, confused. The meetings overflowed one
upon the others, such that it became impossible to remember the faces of all the persons
with whom he had met.
     --Very well, then convene the cabinet for an urgent meeting tomorrow, the 17th, at
ten in the morning. Everyone must attend!
     On the next day the secretaries of the government of James Polk found a changed
president. Resolved. Executive. Aggressive. Yes, yes, but strange, unusual, something
was happening. He told them about the second interview with Atocha. He was disposed to
take immediate, energetic measures against Mexico. The relations between both nations
were bogged down. Events had to be forced. Slidell should require, at the start, a
peremptory response from the Mexican government: a yes or no would be received. He did
not have time for contemplation. His energy was overflowing. For some reason he was
taking accelerated steps. If Paredes finally heard Slidell and thereby recognized his
investiture, even when formal relations did not exist between the two nations, then our
ambassador should require Mexico, first of all, to pay the debts deriving from the claims
of our citizens. Before any criticism regarding this approach, Slidell should leave
Xalapa and board one of our warships to exercise greater pressure from there. The
Mexicans should be careful if Slidell's fate is to age aboard one of our ships, because
then I will request a majority resolution from Congress with the gravest consequences for
     Little by little the true reasons emerged for Polk's worry. It could be summarized
in a single word: desperation. From the meeting with Atocha he concluded that he lacked
alternatives other than war, for otherwise no pressure or forced negotiation would
deliver the desired results. Yes, of course, but what to do to detonate the conflict?
With the signing of the peace treaty, having Mexico on its knees, at his feet, spent, he
finally would take power in California and Nuevo Mexico. The indemnification for the
costs of war would be the desired land, as suggested by Divine Providence... Agreed, yet,
how to achieve confrontation maintaining dignity and adopting the role of victim before
the scrutinizing eyes of the world? I incarnate the law, represent it. The powers should
conduct themselves well ethically and morally, and cover appearances: I need to be the
aggrieved or, at least, appear to be... I need a state of war to have a legal basis that
permits me to invade California militarily. If I am a thief I should go down in history
as the assaulted, the sacrificed, the humiliated, the offended. Let the diplomats come,
they are the specialists...!
     Declare war for lack of payment of some claims to our citizens? seemed to be the
discreet murmur among the cabinet members. That decision would fall into a vacuum. It
would be difficult for Congress to approve it. It lacked solidity. The presidency could
be affected and devalued among deputies and senators fearfully playing their game. Polk's
sudden nervousness responded to lack of personal convictions in his own schemes. He
himself did not believe in them. They only reflected desperation. They would be displayed
before the press and the people. Buchanan was the first to oppose them. Miserable
Mexicans who do not receive my ambassador, the personal representative of the president
of the United States!
     He resolved to give Paredes a little more time to receive Slidell. Meanwhile, he
would transmit through Congress the payment of a bribe of a million dollars to be
delivered to the Mexican president in exchange for forcing the signing of a treaty of
surrender of the territories, a new border agreement that would include up to the bay of
San Francisco.
     It would fail, it would fail; Paredes would neither accept the bribe nor receive
Slidell, who lately was accommodated in a cabin next to the captain's and resolved to
wait, as he had done in Xalapa until he knew the names of all the wildflowers in the
region. A pretext! A pretext, Polk shouted discomposed or in silence, while he spun
around like a madman in his narrow office. And meanwhile, England might well take
California militarily or ally with the Mexicans through the concession of a so-called
mortgage credit, through which it would be given precisely California as a real estate
guarantee so as to later adjudicate that gigantic territory to Great Britain, once the
economic insolvency of the Mexicans were proved. An impeccable financial operation
stemming from an exquisite diplomacy to throw the White House chief's plans to the
     The pretext? The pretext was given long before what the protagonists could imagine.
I, I will expose their villainy in detail so that no one can ignore it and will know the
whole truth.
     --Shall we swim naked, Toñis?--Dolores suggested in the hearing of the
Meritorious while the warm light of dawn flooded the habitation where His Excellency and
his young wife rested, after an amorous rapture, moments before the aurora. They had
opened the windows so that the soft and perfumed Caribbean breeze caressed their nude
bodies. They lived these last nights of March in that 1846, while on both sides of the
border between México and the United States one breathed an intense odor of powder.
     --Swim, no--responded the ex-president. --You see that for me to move in the water
with one damn foot is like taking the tail off a fish, and the impotence infuriates me--
he added with his chest exposed trying to remove one of the gauzes that served as
mosquito netting, to be able to see how far the dawn had advanced. --Furthermore the
sharks in these waters are ferocious and when you dive you do not come back up to the
surface. I like to see my enemies straight ahead, thus, face to face, not the submarine
attacks from those where suddenly, you are simply not there...
     --How is it possible that you have fought in so many battles, have defeated half the
world and you are afraid of some little fish, of some sardines, my king? Sometimes I do
not understand men, above all the invincible conquerers like you--argued Lolita, while
she rested her long-haired head on the chest of the indestructible warrior.
     --Little fish? They split you in two with one bite and furthermore you neither know
how nor from where they are going to attack, and you call those gigantic and tricky
creatures little sardines?--Santa Anna playfully questioned while he caressed the silky
hair of his beloved.
     --Alright, but since you have always said of your enemies that you would eat them
in one gulp...
     --Yes, but remember that whether they float or creep, are rodents or human, it
costs me a little more work to control them and, above all, they disgust me more.
     --And if we go to the water pond to await the sun?--she asked excitedly, while her
body in the penumbra, after almost two years of marriage, had strengthened and the magic
of nature, the light and the food, the tropical air and, above all, youth, had caused her
to bloom like the Caribbean rosebuds in April.
     --And if they see us, Lolita?
     --At night? Furthermore, you have never been a coward. Let us do something new,
break with the routine, let us play like children. Do you not remember when you caused
mischief? Does not that memory alone refresh your life up to today?--insisted Santa
Anna's wife standing up on the bed and pulling on one arm of her husband. Come,
Toñis, let us go, little boy... I will help you put on your foot...
     When the ex-dictator lifted his gaze, he could see her in her splendor. An aureole
of white light surrounded her whole body: 17 years of age, vigorous youth, curious, avid.
Those breasts, that full chest, full-fledged, crowded, a bath of hope, a cry of
reconciliation with existence; the gift of a miraculous fruit, a sweet and meaty delicacy
dedicated to please only her chosen sons, one of the divine signals with which God sends
us, the chosen, a message of eternal love, a just tribute granted to us on waking, upon
seeing, in sleeping, while dreaming, and when living. Why did the Most Saintly put a
woman at my side with such forms, that taut skin without any trace of fat, that hair,
those buttocks designed by He himself to drive me crazy with contemplation and touch?
     It must be the caprice of divinity to be able to re-create myself, as often as I
desire, with the most beautiful being in creation. Those aromas, those downturned eyes,
the size of her feet, that languor when I have her turn slowly in the bed, that giggling
levity when she sits on me, those fine ears designed for me to penetrate to her soul,
that walk that seems to be floating, that laugh which delights me, that singing which
moves me, those loose, vaporous, transparent garments, with which she ignites my
imagination and nourishes my inspiration, those hard muscles, indolent, which converge at
the source of the world, her exquisite touches of rouge, her language refreshing as the
voices of a river, that playful language that when she murmurs I am lost, when she asks I
am weakened and encumbered when she appeals to me not to wait, honors and dignifies me
until I am seated in the throne reserved for the Greek deities. Those lips, that gaze,
that happiness, that pulchritude, that delicacy, that pleasure in seeing her sleep,
hearing her breathe, listening to the passage of life. That personal appearance which
moves and undermines me, that smile, those little fingers, inexpert and so weak, which
scarcely can support the weight of a flower stem and which perturb me when they finally
touch the most elevated pride of man. That breath perfumed like rosewater, those pearls
of cold sweat when she moans at my side; those pure and chaste invitations to the
obscene, that pleasure in the prohibited, those laments, ay! Ay, Toñio, Toñis,
my Toño, king, my king, mi emperor, my giant, my being, my sun, that bold temptation
to explore the unknown, that admiration which she awards me as conqueror of every domain,
how then can I refuse to go nude to the water pond, as Lola wants?
     His Excellency dedicated a few more instants to contemplation of his woman. He
filled his eyes with that mysterious image, the last that he wanted to have in mind
before surrendering before the Lord and proceeding to subjection to Final Judgment, from
which he undoubtedly would emerge already absolved, as bishops and archbishops had
assured him, in exchange for which he would commit to no attempts against the patrimony
of the Church.
     You will be eternal, Your Highness, to the degree that you do not confiscate
ecclesiastical goods, the property of God...
     Dolores pulled on Antonio:
     --Shall we go, little excellency...?
     --Love:--countered Santa Anna--please consider that a man of my prestige cannot
display himself without clothing. If the peons and little ones saw me, they would all
lose respect. How do you suppose that I am going to scold anyone in my leather...?
     --Come, come with me. If you were prepared to give me Popo, Izta and Citla and all
the seas of México and the world, why will you not satisfy me in some insignificant
naughtiness?--she pleaded without stopping pulling him. --Besides, at this time
everyone is asleep, nobody will see us, I assure you.
     Santa Anna doubted it for some moments. Anyone who sees me I shall have shot as a
voyeur, he said silently while viewing his woman's forms sideways. Why not, let us see,
 why not...?
     He then got up from the bed to go to the wardrobe in search of a wooden foot, and
would choose the prosthesis with a walking boot. How hard it was for him to go outdoors,
in the sight of all without anything to cover his shame! Shame? Who had said that the
pride of my virility should be shameful? By God! So then, from there to emerge forwards,
in the vanguard, to challenge the enemy cannons with neither a horse, nor a machete nor
a pistol or a musket...
     By the time that Santa Anna returned to the room Dolores already could not be found.
He called her various times, and searched for her uselessly. She, apparently, had gone
forward towards the water pond. He saw her fly like a gazelle, while the transparent
fabric of the mosquito net floated out sustained by her raised arms. She laughed like a
little girl.
     When His Excellency arrived at the pond, Lola had already submerged and returned
rising to the surface with raucous laughter and insistent calls to share the pleasure
of the bath. Santa Anna preferred to sit on the bank and observe her with a smile on
his lips. He would give up all his titles in exchange for having her at his side.
Dolores plunged, was lost and suddenly in the darkness of the night appeared anew
pulling her husband's leg. She invariably surprised him causing him to lose his
equilibrium on every level. Ask me to confront Napoleon's armies but do not ask me
to dispute anything with that woman who wrenches my feelings.
     Dolores headed to the center of the pond. Once there and, knowing she was observed,
she threw her head backwards, inhaled all the air of the Caribbean sea and thus,
floating mouth upwards, without covering herself with the mosquito net or with any
modest garment whatsoever, contemplating the remote brilliance of myriad stars,
delicately illuminated by the light of the moon as if it were offered in sacrifice to
all the stars in history, in that position, with her legs and her arms open, immobile
and helpless, exhibiting the black flower which guarded the doors of the universe,
remained a few instants, those same that Santa Anna of course understood as a new
invitation to the gods' rite of rapture. They will not give it to me: I will take it...
     To the Meritorious it then did not matter getting his wooden prosthesis wet and he
slowly entered the water without making the slightest sound, touching the bottom by good
luck, until coming to make happy contact of his chest with the feet of his beloved. She
will let him do it. The profile of her breasts, at times covered by the greedy hands of
the water, shone, yes, like the rump of La Morena, his favorite mare. What an
animal being so powerful and difficult to tame! The ex-president of the Republic
separated the maiden's ankles even more, then kissed the left one, came up the calf,
reached the knee covered with a smooth and perfumed skin, while he noticed how Dolores
firmly closed the fists of both hands: she would submit to the test, to the offering,
without imposing any defense. The Mexican Caesar ascended up the thighs, kissed that
splendid garden seeing it sideways and with broken breath, until Dolores surrendered,
could no further, conceded and embracing the Great Admiral and Marshall of the Armies,
made intense rings in the water until creating an immense whirlpool which was lost in the
night of those times.
     Moments later the pair rested reclining upon a hammock massaged by the soft
Caribbean breeze. They did not speak. Santa Anna simply caressed the hair of Dolores
while he seemed to scrutinize the unattainable mountains of the moon.
     --Would you like to return to being the first lady of México?--he serenely
asked, in knowledge that she had known how to conquer a warrior's retirement.
     --Love--she replied undeterred--you said that this exile was definitive, do
you remember...?
     --The nation claims me, Dolores, I should be loyal to their call, and always have
     --And all this?--Lola questioned remaining motionless with her head resting on the
chest of the Meritorious. --All the effort to find, decorate and bring your
commendations, arms, uniforms, and flags from Mexico City, the hiring of the personnel,
all the work invested in this house, for nothing, like that for nothing?
     --Not five hundred palaces like that in Versailles would constitute a sufficient
pretext to ignore the supplications of my compatriots. Whenever they need me, there will
be Antonio López de Santa Anna to serve, support and direct them--he exclaimed in an
apostolic tone. --Never forget that we Mexicans always require the presence of a chief,
someone to preside over our relations: head of the household, head of the school, head of
the Church, head of the marriage, head of the business, head of the nation, do you
see?--as he enunciated his viewpoints which demonstrated a great knowledge of his people.
In order to arrive at being president of México nine times would require enjoying a
great knowledge of one's compatriots. --They need a strong figure to survive and, when
he fails them, they think of me or else prostrate their faces before God asking for help,
counsel and consolation.
     Dolores entered covering herself with the mosquito netting.
     --The truth--she continued--I already knew: during all this time you have never
stopped receiving visits and letters daily from Mexico City. For you politics is an
addiction similar to that which the Chinese have to opium.
     --The only addiction that I have is the defense and the progress of the nation--
responded Santa Anna, expanding as if he were on the point of violently lowering his
sword of refulgent steel and ordering the first line of the artillery to fire! I cannot
remain here, in this Cuban paradise, enjoying my woman, my cocks, the music, the food,
the atmosphere, and the climate, while Gómez Farías offers me the Presidency to
confront the yankee expansionism... My life is pledged, that on my running watch they
will not annex California nor Nuevo Mexico, part of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas
and even the Yucatán, such as it is in their dreams. They will have to pass over my
     --You are a great politician but additionally, will be consecrated as a unique
soldier in the history of Mexico--Dolores noted, twirling a strand of hair with her
index finger.
     The first rays of dawn could be perceived on the most remote line of the horizon on
the Caribbean sea. It was time to return to the residence. They would walk along
laughing, wrapped in the mosquito netting and embracing as if sheltering under a roof.
The peons, helpers, slaves, and children began to occupy their respective work places.
They would abstain from talking about México at least during the brief trajectory
from the water pond to the principal residence of the ostentatious establishment,
acquired, according to Santa Anna, thanks to his exemplary capacity for saving...
     Once inside, seated in an armchair, the Father of Anáhuac detached his fully soaked
wooden foot. Without being able to separate from the subject that devoured him and
after asking his woman to put it out to dry, Santa Anna continued describing, without
wasting time, the progress of the negotiations between radicals and Santannists in Mexico
City. He left it clear that the plans would filter intentionally into the press and in
society so as to permeate them like humidity in order to obtain the necessary political
supporters. Spark a rumor and the addicts will surround you. Insistently divulge a lie
and very soon it will become a truth. A gadget in a community of illiterates produces the
same effect as books in a literate society. The Meritorious revealed that he would seal
an alliance with the liberals that would abolish the centralist system, to which he had
sworn to dedicate his life and honor and impose the federal again, which he will also
defend with his life and honor...
     Dolores had opened the window. The sunlight had tinted the florid tropical garden
that surrounded the central residence a multitude of colors. Her arms rested on the
windowsill without her really being able to know if she heard her husband or already
imagined her life on returning to Mexico City or simply thought about pruning or weeding
the roses so they would yield more perfumed and bigger flowers. On occasion, the
monologues of the ex-president bored her to tears. The grasses around the stem, near the
root, rob the plant of all the nutrients for its growth. Why do men have to be so
compulsive and fanatical? They seem unable to talk about anything else. Their themes are
work, women, money, or drink.
     Santa Anna threw his head backwards, intertwined the fingers of his hands and
looking at the ceiling, elegant in his armchair, wearing a red coat of Chinese silk,
continued absorbed in his plans now not with the intention of explaining them or of
trying to convince his woman of the pedigree of his ideas, but instead as a personal
political exercise in order to purge errors.
     --I shall vehemently defend the federal Republic--he exclaimed, delicately and
rhythmically tapping the knuckles of his fingers. --I have learned that that is the most
convenient democratic organization for México because it permits the free
expression of  civic ideas, the only alternative for finding the road of well-being, the
best option for all, though afterwards I impose my viewpoint whenever I please--he was
going to add but did not find it convenient to include the comment so as not to cause
unnecessary damage to his image before his wife. --Thus indeed--he concluded his
reflections: --I will require from Gómez Farías, as an inalienable condition, the overthrow
of Paredes before I put the soles of my feet on my adored country. The new coup d'etat
would have to give me more followers in my absence. They will bear the historical
responsibility: I shall not return without having the absolute certainty that one of
those messes who overthrew me and who provoked the street dogs to carnally dispute
the remains of my leg, is held in the darkest and deepest cell of San Juan de Ulúa.
I will be the best goalkeeper for democratic principles. As Titular Father of México
I will respect and cause provincial liberties to be respected...
     Dolores, meanwhile, thought about the best way to protect her roses in the event
that a hurricane, of the many that furiously attack the Caribbean sea, might demolish
her flowers in one of those fickle gales which extinguish the hopes and the lives of many
generations of natives.
     --You know Toñis, just when did you sell your soul to the body?
     --No--Santa Anna responded disturbed by the question and by the interruption. He
thought he had dissimulated his emotions before his woman but the words of his spouse
indicated a different reality.
     --You completely changed beginning with the visit of the Spaniard, the
little perfumed one. Do you remember how poorly you behaved when you ejected poor
little Juancillo Trucupey in such an ugly manner because he offered you a glass of rum
with lemon?
     --Are you referring to Atocha?
     --It was not a moment for interruptions. We were dealing with priority issues for
the Republic, love...--commented Antonio, letting his imagination fly. According to the
news revealed by Atocha in his letters, those same that had been cast with nostalgia and
precaution by His Excellency onto a bonfire improvised during a voodoo ceremony, it was
evident that the chief in the White House would lay a trap for the Mexican government
causing general Taylor's troops to go down to the Rio Bravo, into territory clearly the
property of Mexico. On that occasion, how can we forget, the Mexican Caesar once and a
thousand times had punched the straw man of president Paredes. Polk, the ex-dictator
reflected, must have understood to perfection that the suggestion saying to move the
North American army in a southern direction would be a response to an evident provocation
which would have to be translated into a Mexican attack to repel the yankee forces making
them return at least to the north of the Nueces river, the historic frontier of Tejas.
     --I already know you were dealing with priority matters for the Republic,
yet this is true, with interruptions or without them, beginning that day you began to
smile again like the first time I knew you.
     Of course Santa Anna had reason to smile again beginning that past month of
February, since he was receiving the correspondence sent from Washington by Atocha.
Through those letters, the Spaniard clarified his perceptions regarding the effect of
his conversations to influence president Polk in his military plans:

     I am an expert in facial expressions, my general, and I can assure you that the
     head of the White House remained very pleased with our idea. The movement of his
     facial muscles gave it away. He remained happily convinced that the Mexicans would
     not tolerate Taylor on the banks of the Bravo and that the developments at the mouth
     of that river could finally ignite the spark that would unleash the war.
          I should guarantee you, Mr. president, that the North American fleet will
     hermetically blockade Veracruz without even permitting the wind to pass... Depend on
     it. The commodore entrusted with imposing the blockade will permit you and only you
     to disembark at that port, by previous authorization by the Department of State.
     Our agreements can only be executed in this manner.
          I should also tell you that the thirty million dollars which we asked did not
     seem to them at all out of this world, in exchange for California and Nuevo Mexico
     until reaching the Bay of San Francisco on the Pacific Ocean.
          It is clear, my dear sir, that Polk was not going to commit in the first
     interview to accede to all our petitions. The fact of his having conceded two
     additional audiences reflects his interest and confidence in my proposals.
     Nevertheless, it would not seem strange to me were he to send a secret ambassador to
     meet with you. I would do the same in his place. It is the best way of verifying my
     word. Polk has no reason to believe me at the outset. It is of an elementary order
     to verify the validity of my offerings.
          From now forwards, dear general, you will observe how events will accelerate
     to an unsuspected velocity...

What did Antonio López de Santa Anna expect starting those last days of the month of
March of 1846? Why did he amuse himself so much and even extract the last drop of life's
elixir running or copulating naked through the gardens of his Cuban house before dawn?
What moved him to play with Dolores, like an errant boy, to the extreme of kissing her
between her legs while she floated nude seeing even the last star in the firmament? I, I
know, or better, we all know: the euphoria of knowing new possibilities of returning for
the ninth occasion to the Presidency of the Republic provoked in him an overflowing of
his most optimistic spirits. The Mexicans required his presence. Daily they transmitted
their petitions. Santa Anna, by what you hold dearest, return. Impossible to survive
without your direction and your assistance and your stimulus. In the hands of the
Liberator of the Nation everything would go well, very well, and the entire country would
be enveloped in a white, absolutely protective, light.
     Individuals, societies and governments exhibit their pathetic weakness from the
moment when they prefer to fool themselves rather than confront the terrible weight of
reality. It is only that when the latter is finally imposed, the consequences of the
cowardice and timidity enormously increase the dimensions of the disaster from not
having taken valiant and intelligent decisions at the right opportunity without hiding or
blurring the invariably stubborn events... Why do facts have to exist instead of the
Santannist fantasies?
     His Excellency required the rapid overthrow of Paredes. The very sons of Gómez
Farías, in their recurrent trips to the Caribbean island as loyal representatives of
their father, had revealed in detail to the Meritorious the plans to depose the latest
usurper, very much despite the imminent outbreak of war against the United States. Upon
his return to México "the necessary measures" would be taken to elevate him once
more to the leadership of the Executive Power, sharing the Vice-presidency with Mr.
Valentín himself. Why would the Napoleon of the West not be happily content if he
would soon return to Veracruz, would stay a few days in the port, would bet a few hands
with the shrimpers at the docks, would immediately convene his favorite trio, would dance
a little footwork, would eat some oysters and snapper and, if the circumstances
permitted, would perform a visit of love...? He would always find time for love! En
route, he would make an obligatory stop on the road to be for a few moments at his estate
El Lencero and fleetingly touch its walls; he would greet his peasants and immediately
direct himself to the capital of the Republic to be newly anointed supreme chief of the
Nation. In the following act, and in his character as general-president, he would
continue the march towards the north of the country to cover himself with glory in the
international battles where in the national history he would be projected as the most
luminous of the protagonists.
     --And do you have many friends in Mexico City?--Dolores Tosta suddenly questioned
glimpsing her future in the capital of the Republic. --Would you like to see them
again?--she asked again while he rotated the prosthesis with the country boot so that
the heel would dry.
     Santa Anna emerged for a moment from the daydream to return to reality. Dolores was
still standing at the window when she turned with her arms crossed to see her spouse,
without for an instant hiding the admiration she felt for him.
     He had never been asked about his friends. --Friends?--said the ex-dictator,
surprised. Perhaps he himself had very rarely questioned it. He furrowed his brow. He
interlaced his fingers again and with an evocative, even lost, expression responded:
     --A man in my condition cannot have friends and, do you know why?--he slowly
questioned giving himself space to arrange his reasoning--simply because I cannot confide
in anyone. With whom do you think I could share a secret of State without my interlocutor
running to gain from my confessions? No, no, impossible--he added shaking his head--or is
the intention to profit politically from my hesitations and intimate projects by my
"friends" motivated by an interest in my money or in the desire to perform a public
service... Never does one approach me to be with Antonio, the friend, without it being to
solicit a loan, transact an appointment or ask a favor. I am valuable, Lolita, in the
function that I serve and in no way for what I am as a person--he concluded narrowing his
eyes and speaking in a very low voice. --Men are like my roosters, love: they come to me,
greedy, whenever the corn is in my hands. When it is gone, after giving me some pecks,
they leave, slighted. My countrymen surround me, seek me out and find me when I can
corn them at will...
     --Do you always feel used?--asked Dolores without waiting for an agile and gracious
reply like those on which her husband relied to seduce her. Mrs. Santa Anna demonstrated
the necessary maturity to remain at her husband's side. --The same thing happens to we
women: many men seek you for your flesh and not for your feelings or for your values and
personal principles. They come towards you, you open the doors to them, they satiate
themselves like animals and they leave, licking their snout, leaving us in a frightful
emptiness, in terrible abandonment--she exclaimed with great tenderness while she stroked
Antonio's hair. --See whether I understand you...?
     Santa Anna knew that his woman was precociously mature. Advanced. Owner of a very
acute and developed intuition. She could lack knowledge, but sensibility and astuteness
she had much of. The comparison had fascinated him.
     --The truth, love, often I feel alone, very alone and this solitude, this sensation,
as you well put it, of feeling used, this system of adulation and contempt for my person,
translates into rancor, into resentment, into a spirit of revenge which I like to satisfy
when I stamp on the people and feel that I cram their whole head in a bucket of rotten
excrement--he asserted seated and immobile while his gaze acquired a level of profundity
never before seen by her. --Do they want something from me?--he began to raise his
voice--do they not want to know about the boy or the young Toño and what he feels
inside or are they only interested in what I have? Ah, yes, dumbasses? Well, prepare
yourselves because I will have to charge dearly for the humiliations I have suffered
throughout my life. Do you know that until I was 12 years old I thought that my name
was, shut up damn it?
     --You talk as if you were full of bile...
     --Alright, yes, yes I am rancorous, very rancorous--he noted expanding without
being able to tame his arousal. Dolores had touched, without meaning to, a neuralgic
point in the personality of her husband. --I used to think that if I managed to achieve
political power I could hoard the respect and admiration which I lacked as a boy and now
I see that, having my hands full of recognitions does not distinguish me, but those who
surround me, and that causes an anger to emerge which devours my entrails--he concluded
without being able to lower his voice. --Are there not awards given for the soul? Are
there not medals to sentimentally dignify the mutilated boy. Do not scrolls exist to
return illusions and lost love to a lost and despised lad who becomes, furthermore, an
adult full of fury? May they all, all, all go to hell!--he shouted forlornly without
getting up, and hitting the arms of his chair with his hands.
     --Yet love, if everything you have is the consequence of your success, it is yours,
it is part of you that has been the result of your so strenuous life--she insisted to
free him from the charge and trying to put out the fire being caused.
     --No, you do not understand me, you are very young to be able to join me in these
reflections--showed marked discomfort due to his wife's reply. He now sought an exit, a
change of subject before the discussion overflowed and erased domains of peace and
tranquility in their matrimonial relation.
     --Of course I understand you--Dolores answered without allowing him to downplay her.
     --No, no, Lolita, on one hand I am president of the Republic, Meritorious,
Excellency and all the titles you wish and another is Antonio, the generous and tender
man, sympathetic, happy, a dancer and noble, a good father to a fault, just that the
contempt for my highest values fills me with resentment and the agitation leads me by the
hand to commit atrocities--he added trying to prevent another eruption of violence.
To his own surprise he began to come apart as if a force contained at the bottom of his
being were suddenly untied:
     --I dump on all the Mexicans!--he intoned. --I dump on the poor dumb, dumber and
resigned! Do you hear me...? Do you hear me well, damn it? I dump on the self-interested,
avaricious and despotic rich! I dump on the petty, perverse priests, traitors to the
cause of humility! Hypocrites who profit from the weaknesses and fears of others! They
are the worst in our society, do you understand me?--he shouted uncontainable and
totally beside himself. --I dump on the aristocrats as useless fakers! I dump on the
military, yes, on those of my own class, as stupid petty thieves! They only know how to
play at war with chocolate soldiers... I dump on the whole world! I dump on the
journalists as ignorant, perverse and corrupt! I dump on those who only want to rip
something off from me! I hate life because it is an interminable spoliation! I feel the
hands of those who surround me in my pockets while they search, rummage and ransack them.
I will take vengeance, I swear, I swear, pack of dumbasses--he concluded lowering the
timbre of his voice upon seeing that he had gone too far in his terminology and the
scope of his confessions, above all he who had always enjoyed genuine popularity, love
and authentic admiration. Did all the foregoing mean that finally he believed in nothing
nor in anyone and that he was emptier than the shell of a Veracruzian coconut from which
the water has been extracted and the pulp removed?
     --And I, your woman, where do I stand in all this?--Dolores left the window, having
decided to confront him in the center of the space with her hands of her hips.
     --You--he repeated moderating his voice and taking stock of his forces so as not to
equally dump on her and her question--remain at the bottom of my soul as my inseparable
companion, my intimate confessor and the proprietor of all my secrets--asserted the
Protector of the Nation cogitating in silence on how a relation can deteriorate at a
given moment when women always felt referenced and were incapable of escaping the
generalizations invariably requiring a special place, something which nobody had ever
conceded to her person. In the end, another sort of spoliation. The women who had come
near him had always wanted to strip him of some of his glory. They could not be called
disinterested either. He, he personally, screw them too...? Upon their lacking, according
to Anthony, the manly tools to conquer the world, they felt obliged to revert to instinct
and other skills to sate their ambitions and conquer, in turn, the conqueror with their
grace, their artfulness and their talent...
     --Do you think that we women are mutilated...?
     --Not only the women, love, no--he said in a very low voice. --Everyone, men, women,
children, and the aged are spiritually mutilated. These inhibitions prevent we Mexicans
from angrily protesting injustices. Do you know someone who will not swallow the
injustices, who protests, who demands, who shouts angrily when she is trampled, is
stepped on or humiliated?--he questioned raising his voice. His feelings seemed to have
been stuck in his chest since a long time back. --I, hear me well, can humiliate whomever
comes for gain slapping their face with my gloves, pulling their ears in public,
urinating, if you like, on them in complete gala uniform at a reception in Chapultepec and
they will never defend themself face to face or schedule a duel. In any case they will
see the type of revenge for giving me a blow, a punch in the back, indeed, when they have
all the advantages on their side. We are mutilated, can you see it clearly?--he
questioned scrutinizing Dolores' face to determine whether he convinced her or not.
     --And who mutilated us?--questioned Ms. Santa Anna, conscious that her husband's
understandings concerning their surroundings would permit him to return again to the
Presidency of the Republic, if the plan of Gómez Farías did not fail. If anyone dominated
to perfection the personality of the Mexicans at every economic level, sex, age, and
religion, it was the Immortal Caudillo of Veracruz.
     --The military rigidity of the Aztecs mutilated us for the first time. The
punishments were so severe, authority was so extreme, that we learned to bow our heads
to force. It was our first contact with defenselessness, with impotence, with
unconditional surrender or they cut off a hand or seized your goods or made you into a
slave, not without first torturing you along with the males in your family--Santa Anna
alleged with his wide gaze directed at the window, as if he were to encounter
explanations beyond the line of the horizon. --Later the Inquisition clinched the wounds
cauterizing them with fire so that their omissions and responsibilities would never be
forgotten. The auto-da-fés imposed by the high Catholic hierarchy mutilated
the imagination, the courage and any capacity to respond or challenge, making us forever
understand that in our nation there would never be equality. Someone would always have
the power, the reins, would wield the force and the others could go to hell. Ay for him,
it remains forever inscribed, who lifts his head because they will cut it off, or lifts
his glance, because they burn his eyes! That is why it is so easy to govern this nation
of eunuchs. In truth you dominate the submissive indian by raising your voice or the
whip, while the landowners you control with threats and warnings of the privileges they
can lose if they challenge you, and they eat from your hand, just like the businessmen
and the few industrialists: an opportune shout is enough, a message in the ear, a
friendly recommendation to make them understand the risk to their interests and as
consolation and thanks they will align on your side celebrating your sense of humor with
horselaughs. The clergy, his analysis concluded, will always be with you if you do not
touch their patrimony and if you let them fill the double lining of their cassocks with
     Dolores listened dumbfounded to the description of a world foreign to her own. A
milieu where flattery and hypocrisy facilitated social coexistence. Santa Anna's
political experience at 53 years of age was admirable. How to survive in such a false,
deranged environment where as a matter of course no one believed in anyone? Confidence,
Lolita, is the glue to attach two stones and thereby construct an edifice and if the
Mexicans mistrust each other, the governed do not believe in the government and vice
versa, we shall never be able to make even a rowboat, much less a house or an edifice
where the Mexican family can live amply.
     --In our country everything is rotten, was given to us rotten, we inherited rotten
from the Spaniards, or do you think that corruption appeared during the last 25 years of
independent life?--Santa Anna asked, truly irritated. --The only way that exists to cure
us is applying the law, yet nobody applies it because it is auctioned to the highest
bidder, do you understand? The only tool which exists is also contaminated as if the
plague had taken us over and everything in our surroundings were infected. Who will have
the clean hands to intervene? That is why Paredes and a thousand Paredes think of
bringing a blond prince to govern us. We no longer have a remedy. Who is going to
administer the purge that the Mexicans so badly need? The priests? The military? The
politicians? The journalists? Or the tax-evading businesspersons? Bah!--he concluded
indicating the conversation was over. It was useless. Everything was useless, at least
at that moment.
     --And do you know the worst of all?--he ended looking for his canes to stand up.
     --No--Dolores responded, worried by what seemed to be Antonio's final conclusion.
     Some brief moments passed before Santa Anna got up without saying anything. When he
was already heading with much difficulty to the walkway leaving the residence, Dolores
managed to hear:
     --If they adore me, it is because they want something from me, they want to use me
and therefore despise me as a person: at those times I feel like killing; now then, if,
on the contrary, they do not adore me I feel that they despise me, so whether they
admire me or judge me, the will to murder them overflows me...
     In México there is more talk every day of Santa Anna's return. The Hero of Tampico
and of Veracruz, the Savior of the Nation works intensely by long distance with
Gómez Farías to arrive at a political agreement. They try to spread a new reality,
the happy arrival of the new Mexican Caesar, with additional democratic convictions,
with a novel political agenda learned during the hard period of exile, from where it
was impossible to help the nation, he who was born to offer his life in exchange for
the nation's welfare. The rumor spreads of the issuance of orders to apprehend and
detain the seditious, incendiary Santannists, enemies of the public peace. The newspapers
announce the arrival of the American troops to the north of the Rio Bravo. With
diplomatic relations broken since the previous year, war seemed to be the only
alternative to settle the differences. Words lacking they would utilize projectiles. In
place of arguments they would revert to bombs. They no longer tried to convince, but
instead to kill, no longer to talk, but to shoot. Before the impossibility of purchasing
Mexican territory, it was necessary to steal it. One part of the North American army
installs itself to the north of Matamoros, in the state of Tamaulipas. "In effect it is
as if the damned yankees had entered Chihuahua, Durango, Jalisco, or Puebla." Paredes
orders, behind closed doors, defense of the national territory. Not only will he not
sell it, but will defend it down to the last square millimeter having been invaded...
     On the other side, the United States rejects the English proposals in relation to
Oregon. Once more the theme of war between the two nations appears. The pro-
monarchical government of México, convinced of its impotency to defeat the yankees
in an armed conflict, insists on seeking, at any cost, the military support of Europe.
Paredes fantasizes, dreams and desires the immediate, urgent outbreak of hostilities,
also for territorial differences, between the United Kingdom and Washington. "If those
powers could shatter amongst themselves that would leave us Mexicans in peace during the
time necessary for Polk to leave power at the start of 1849. Later, later, then we shall
see. Let the North Americans and the British kill each other in what, ultimately, will be
a family quarrel..."
     Jones, the last president of the Republic of Tejas, had relinquished power the 19th
of February of 1846 to Peter H. Bell, the first governor-elect of a state of Texas now
annexed with all the formalisms to the American Union. Before leaving his post, Jones
clarifies that "the American troops in Tejas are not there to protect Texas, but to
guarantee a collision with México." His vision of the political reality is
irrefutable. He sees very clearly the march of events. He distinguishes and announces
the intentions of presidents of the United States. Remember how he himself told them,
Ah! what you want is for me to manufacture a war against México, right, gentlemen...?
     Polk, for his part, awaits Taylor's reports every day. They do not arrive with the
desired frequency or with the required content. He despairs. Becomes violent. Have the
Mexicans not attacked...? Are they waiting for me to put my troops in the National Palace
to react? If a foreign ship were to invade the coast of New England or of the Carolinas,
before the last frigging sailor got off the whole crew would already be hanging from the
leafy pines of our beautiful Atlantic coast...
     Instead, the polemical and old North American general in a letter dated the 28th of
February of 1846 reports: "I began the construction of Brown's fort on the banks of the
Rio Bravo. I have a battery of four cannons pointed directly at the public plaza of
Matamoros. I have a good angle for destroying the whole village. I can identify no more
than two thousand regulars of the Mexican army of a very low quality. I have taken the
necessary precautions to avoid a surprise attack." Impatient in the extreme, the chief
of the White House leaks news through the Washington Union, a newspaper of his
persuasion. In editorials, columns, interviews, and reporting he shifts the rock and
hides his hand so as to leave it well established that: "If Mexico newly refuses to
receive Slidell, the president of the United States might convene Congress to declare
war upon that country." On March 21st Slidell's applications for diplomatic accreditation
are returned to him. I will not sell. Nor will I receive any North American ambassador
no matter how many dollars they have in their suitcase. I would be immediately
overthrown. Good-bye sir, king of Mexico...? No, no, do not even speak of it: Slidell
must go... I prefer defensive war...

The White House was an anthill. Through one door of the presidential office came
Bancroft, secretary of the Navy, informing of the location of the North American fleet
at the mouth of the Rio Bravo, while through the other Buchanan exited with the reports
from the accredited consuls in Mexico, which Walker, from the Treasury, awaited, seated
at the desk with the presidential authorization to begin to draft a proposal of war for
Congress. Marcy, the secretary of War, had just left the most important office in the
United States with the text of a new message directed to Taylor, again containing
confused instructions that ordered him to proceed even more, with due caution, into
Mexican territory.
     The president of the United States impedes the access of journalists and
oppositionists, in particular any damned Whig, to the region where armed conflict between
the two nations could erupt at any moment. "I want no foreigners south of the Nueces
river. Only the presence of military personnel strictly and directly dependent on my
orders will be permitted." The justifications for declaring the war could collapse if a
witness dared to expose the chief of the White House through the press or through
Congress, in relation to the exact location of the start of hostilities. For Polk it was
imperative to allege his condition as the aggrieved nation, to acquire before public
opinion the role of victim to deal with solid arguments opposing a formal declaration of
war. "Take intruders out of the zone between the Nueces and the Bravo. The zone of the
border where the spark is lit has to remain blurred..." Only I will say who attacked,
when they attacked and, above all, and most important, where they attacked...
     Polk was fully conscious that the Congress had authorized a restricted proposal to
sustain exclusively a defensive war against Mexico. Defensive, Mr. president, but,
indeed, in no case a war of aggression. In Polk's political lexicon, in his speeches and
declarations, the words California and Nuevo Mexico do not exist. The real basis of the
attacks. For public opinion the said territories were unrelated to the problem at hand.
He informs part of the cabinet that he intends to remain with half of Mexico simply to
strengthen his position at the hour of negotiating... "Never forget that discussion wins
from positions of strength..." For the president it had become vital to be able to
convince the nation with respect to the precise spot where blood had been shed, that is,
on what side of the border, which nation, had made the first attack. One condition was
imperative: Mexico should appear as greatly culpable. As soon as the first skirmish
occurs a declaration of war would be produced and, at that moment, Polk would have
created a justification to invade California, his golden dream, his expansionist
fixation. Additionally, a critical part of his strategy was to prevent Great Britain
from advancing and militarily taking that very rich Mexican state and hoisting their
odious flag, that of the Commonwealth, which already flew over three quarters of the
     The Mexicans had definitively and irrevocably refused Slidell, and elsewhere did not
pay agreed claims to citizens of the United States, and did not attack Taylor's troops.
Nothing. No nothing. Dead stop. Relations continued to be bogged down. Are problems
created and resolved by themselves, thus, by themselves, Mexican style...?
     When Polk, for lack of a better pretext, was disposed to declare war on his neighbor
to the south as a consequence of the suspension of claims payments to North American
citizens; when the pressure becomes irresistible; when rumors are lighted afire divulging
that at any moment the United Kingdom will invade California or that the latter will be
delivered as a financial guarantee to the British in exchange for a loan granted to
México destined to finance hostilities against the United States; when the diplomatic
pouch arrives daily to the Departments of State or of War with neither a letter from
Taylor--what might that little soldier-tourist be thinking?--nor a report; when any
justification might be valid in the White House for militarily invading Mexico, in
that desperate juncture of anger, impotence, territorial voracity, and racial contempt,
finally the so long awaited events occur.
     On the 9th of April of 1846 colonel Truman Cross does not return from a routine
visual inspection ordered by general Taylor. Worry spreads in the North American camp,
especially when it was discovered that Antonio Canales and his hated and no less feared
ranchers were prowling around the fort. Cross becomes an obsession amongst his people.
Have the indians skinned him alive removing his bloody scalp or had the Mexicans eaten
him fried? A few days later Mexican reinforcements arrive in Matamoros numbering three
thousand headed by Pedro Ampudia. The local population fears new acts of savagery
on the part of his military. His well deserved fame for cruelty goes back two years when
he ordered the execution of Francisco Sentmanat in 1844. That little French bootlegger, a
pirate of the worst breed, whose head was fried in oil, do you remember...? Clearly
previously, of course, they decapitated him... If that were not enough, Ampudia was
considered an incompetent, an opportunist who had been named to defend a plaza only as
recompense for having supported the coup d'etat by Paredes against president Herrera.
     On April 12th Ampudia, desirous to cross the Rio Bravo and give battle quickly,
sends Taylor a peremptory, threatening, reckless note, contrary to received instructions,
now that president Paredes will announce his "defensive" war 12 days later. We have here
the last part of the text sent by the Mexican officer:

     For Mr. Zachary Taylor:
     I apply to you in the broadest manner and in the imperative term of 24 hours, to
     dismantle your encampment and return to the east bank of the Nueces river while our
     Governments dispute the inconclusive question regarding Tejas. If you insist on
     remaining in the territory property of the state of Tamaulipas, this will result
     that arms, and only arms, will resolve this situation. If that were the case I
     assure you that we would accept the war which you had so unjustly provoked.

     For all his reply Taylor orders naval support. He does not back down. He has a
mission to fulfill. He is always thinking about leading the White House. Political
popularity goes in proportion to his criminal capacity. Taylor will be prudent and
discreet. He will not fall into Polk's traps. He will not interpret orders: he wants them
concrete and without ambiguities.
     The United States then commits the first act of war against México: its naval
forces now blockade not the mouth of the Nueces river, but that of the Rio Bravo itself.
Obviously Mexican territory, more concretely, Tamaulipan water and land. The
international border is ostensibly violated. The anxiety leads to the loss of manners.
Polk says:

     Everyone is in agreement that if the Mexican forces found in Matamoros commit any
     act of hostility against general Taylor's forces, I should immediately send a
     message to Congress recommending the immediate declaration of war. I told the
     cabinet that, until the moment, as they already knew, he had not had notice of any
     open act of aggression on the part of the Mexican army; yet that there was immediate
     danger that such acts might occur. I added that, in my opinion, we had ample motives
     for war and that it was impossible for us to remain in the status quo, or for me to
     be silent any longer. It was my duty to very quickly send a very concrete message to
     Congress, recommending definitive measures.

     Days later, Ampudia is replaced by general Arista, a man of 43 years, freckled, red-
haired, respected in the usual environment, a distinguished Mexican general, who had
refused to support Paredes in his coup d'etat against Herrera and, of course, not being
an exception, also played his own role in the spirit founded on profiting politically
from the conflict between the United States and México. The nation invaded? Personal
interests revert to having priority.
     Cross does not return. Half of his patrol remains missing. Lieutenant David Porter
goes on his search around the zone where one of Taylor's most beloved assistants has
supposedly disappeared. Produce him living or dead! In any attack or aggression we can
find the pretext we seek. One by one, the conditions for the clash are being given. Two
uncontrollable forces are vertiginously approaching from opposite directions and at
maximum speed. The great encounter seems inevitable. Porter is similarly ambushed and
brutally massacred together with ten of his people. Curiously all the cadavers show
wounds in the area of the genitals. The Mexicans kill them, yes, but before they very
slowly bury bayonets in the testicles. The invaders will have to pay a high price for
their misdeeds. The rest of the North Americans are taken prisoner and brought to
Matamoros, where Ampudia, second in command of the Mexican garrison, idly readies a tub
of boiling oil and orders the machetes to be sharpened as a precaution in the event the
yankees have iguana skin... General Arista sees to good treatment of the foreign
soldiers. They put out the bonfire, store the kettle and sheathe the machetes: we will
not fry anyone. The invading troops already clamor for vengeance for Cross, for Taylor
and his detachments. A colonel Ethan Hitchcock writes several notes in his diary for
history regarding the execution of the White House's plans:

     We do not have even a particle of right to be here, on Mexican territory. Our forces
     are very small to fulfill this mission of charity. It seems to be that our government
     sent an intentionally reduced armed force to provoke a war and be able to have a
     pretext for taking California and all that one chooses from the neighboring nation.

     The parties move their knights, bishops and castles in the direction of war. The
fuse is lit. A greedy and playful spark is directed, radiating a brilliant energy,
towards an enormous barrel of powder with no one being able nor even trying to detain
it. Neither of the two bands ignores the size of the detonation or the extraordinary
power of destruction of so much concentrated explosive. Arista orders 1,600 cavalry
to cross the Rio Bravo, with general Anastasio Torrejón in front, to practice
reconnaissance of the area. In the final analysis it concerned the Tamaulipan territory,
Mexican territory. "Make a map of the place. I want to know the exact position of the
North American forces. Their movements, the size of their cavalry, the number of cannons,
as well as an approximate number of regulars. In synthesis: how big is the enemy." There
is no farm for so many immobilized soldiers in a village as small as Matamoros, where
almost five thousand foot soldiers of the Mexican army are already found, double the
population. The actions are forced. Hunger and thirst threaten...
     The president Paredes Arrillaga, in an unexpected outburst while being against an
armed conflict, declares war on the United States the 23rd of April of 1846, without
getting legal authorization from the Mexican Congress:

     I solemnly announce that I do not declare war against the government of the United
     States because it falls to the august Congress of the nation, and not to the
     Executive Power, to decide what should be the exact reparation for these injuries.
     But the defense of Mexican territory that has been invaded by the troops of the
     United States is an urgent necessity and my responsibility before the nation would
     be immense if I did not order the repulsion of forces which are acting like enemies
     and thus I have ordered it. The defensive war commences on this date and every point
     in our territory that has been invaded or attacked will be defended by force.

His declarations are understood, at the beginning, by the foreign consuls as discharges
for domestic consumption. They do not seem to impress even Mexican public opinion, as
indeed comprising a clear warning, an ominous signal for the near future, of the danger
which is blossoming between both countries. Violence is at the point of making use of
the word. It begins slowly to arise. Various themes occupy the front pages of the
newspapers: the war, the identity of the presidential tenant of the National Palace and,
above all, that unfortunate focus, what will be the best form of government for
México. The country has already been invaded in Tamaulipas. All that seems to be
irrelevant. We shall resolve now, right now... The installation of a new European
monarch, Centralism, a return to the Constitution of 1824, or a new Santannist
dictatorship? The invaders could wait...
     Taylor discovers through his espionage service that an important force of Mexicans
will attempt to cross the river. They carry, it is clear, instructions to defend it as
part of the national territory. He sends a new patrol consisting of 63 men to perform
reconnaissance of the area under the command, this time, of captain Seth Thornton. They
march upstream against the direction of the Bravo. In the dawn of the 25th of April of
1846 they arrive at an abandoned ranch. The Mexicans patiently await the yankees
barricaded behind the shrubbery. Very soon they have them surrounded. They can shoot at
will from every flank. Not even the birds had begun their routine flight in search of
fresh worms for their young. Nothing moves in the Tamaulipan countryside. The wind does
not blow. A bank of motionless clouds, a thick cap of morning fog, await the inevitable
confrontation. At any moment hostilities will explode that will forever change the
political geography of Mexico and of the United States. The first will emerge mutilated;
the second will almost double its surface and dramatically expand its borders, this time
reaching to the Pacific Ocean. The disaster takes hold here, in this zone known as
Carricitos. The branches of the trees do not sway. The paralysis is total. Momentarily
and in disorder a group of soldiers in unknown uniforms begin to emerge from the
thickness of the forest. Their speech is foreign. They speak in a low voice. They have
percussion rifles held by the handle with the left hand and the index of the right on
the trigger. They are ready to shoot. They remember Cross and Porter. They are here to
avenge them. Curiously they do not carry bayonets. They seem to be modern arms. The
foreigners commit a grave error: while they investigate the area they neglect to place a
sentinel while their other colleagues fulfill their own reconnaissance obligations. No
one guards the rear.
     The Mexican soldiers have their attention fixed on Torrejón's drawn sword.
Everyone holds their breath with difficulty. No one blinks. There is not time. When the
Mexican general feels he has a shot at the major part of the invading patrol he orders a
furious "Fiire" that causes the Castle of Chapultepec to tremble, "Fiire" which violently
shakes the foundations of the Mexican National Palace, "Fiire" which forever mutilates
the national eagle, "Fiire", that will make the halls of Moctezuma fly through the air,
"Fiire" that will shake the pyramids from Teotihuacán to those of Chichén Itzá,
Palenque and Monte Albán and avenge with a single voice for all and always the horrors
suffered during the first conquest of México...
     The voice of, "Fiire" will move rivers and adjust borders, "Fiire" will change the
appearance of the face of the bronze race. "Fiire" will demonstrate to us the extremes of
our weakness, "Fiire" will always make us think about the dimensions of our errors...
"Fiire", which will create an historical trauma in Mexicans of all times, "Fiire" that
will mutilate the national territory of two million square kilometers, "Fiire" that will
show the extremes of our laziness in self-organization and self-government, "Fiire" that
will demonstrate the consequences of ignoring the law, as well as the fragility of our
democratic structures, our indolence before corruption, "Fiire", that will increase the
differences among the Mexicans even more and will clearly reveal the abysses between
ourselves, the lack of adherence to our values and principles and, above all, our
incapacity to work in a team with the objective of achieving the rescue of an invaded
México, besieged by some rascals moved by avarice, protected by Divine Providence,
the same which abandoned the weakest, the most disorganized and skeptical. Providence,
as always, is on the side of the strongest...
     Welfare, prosperity, health, wisdom, and abundance are reserved for the powerful.
Neither light, nor comfort, nor peace, nor equilibrium go to the poor and the wrecked.
The most to which they can aspire are ill health, frustrations, hope, resignation, and
privations of all sorts.
     The Mexicans shoot from every angle with their antiquated flint and powder rifles.
If it had rained they would have become useless. In any event they have closed off
retreat. They have closed the rear. When the novices choose a target they do not hide
their anguish at having to lower their head and momentarily lose the enemy from view in
order to introduce a new round ball into the musket. They shoot almost point blank. There
are shouts of pleasure for good marksmanship and laments of pain for the incurable
injuries. The North American flag is on the ground, dirty with mud, tattered to shreds.
It does not occur to any Mexican to pick it up to showcase it as a souvenir or simply to
use it as toilet paper. It remains discarded in the clay. Anastasio Torrejón does
not cease rabidly ordering, Fire, Fire, Fire...! Thornton and 15 more North American
fall dead. The birds escape in terror. They abandon their nests. Never in the history of
Tamaulipas had such thunderous detonations been heard, whose echoes reached as rapidly to
the Potomac, as to Chapulín hill. The sky opens. The fog lifts. The sun burns. The
corpses are buried by the foreigners. Isolated sounds of grace shots are heard. The cries
of pain immediately stop. And nothing disturbs the silence.
     Some of the survivors are made prisoners and chained to one another, by the feet
and hands. They are led on a painful march with an indefinite destination, for now to
Matamoros. The rest of the yankees, certainly very scarce, manage to escape as they can.
A captain Hardee is one of the few survivors. They stop. They turn around terrorized to
determine whether they are pursued. They know what awaits them if they are trapped. They
hide. They begin the trudge again. Behind every chaparral, at every nopal, a treasonous
Mexican soldier may be squatting, who attacks one's back, a tricky criminal who does not
respect the rules of war and who has invaded North American territory... Did you know,
they cut off your head and fry it...
     That night they arrive dragging themselves to the fort, where an anxious Taylor
awaits fresh notices. It is enough to see them, before they can say any words at all, to
be aware of the dimensions of the disaster. Horrors! Cross, Porter, Thornton and the
members of the patrol dead and maybe even devoured by the feared Mexican hyenas... Once
the explanation is concluded and after having offered them some blankets, some drinks of
whiskey and a little coffee, now calm and reconciled, he directs them to his quarters
opening the door with a kick. He brings the chair nearer pulling it with his foot. He
takes a paper and a pen holder in order to write a letter to president Polk. He lights an
oil lamp placed on an improvised worktable. He drafts a laconic text over some spread
out maps:

     Today, the 25th of April of 1846, hostilities can be considered to have begun. I
     urgently require that the governors of Texas and of Louisiana send me eight
     regiments, approximately 5,000 more men.

The missive will take about 15 days before falling into the hands of president Polk. It
will not arrive at the White House before the 8th of May of 1846. Taylor's request for
reinforcements is of an urgent nature. He knows that Arista's troops are coming without
pity to find them. He doubtless does not ignore the fate which well might await the
prisoners, his soldiers or, he himself: he imagines that they slice them alive, or
slaughter them, just like Santa Anna did at the Alamo, or forcefully lie them, the more
resistance they exhibit or cries of pain or irrelevant supplications cast to the heavens,
upon a sharp stake and watch them bleed amidst the laughter and satanic jests of their
captors. For Taylor the bloody Aztec inheritance is clear.
     The North American general remembers images from books where one contemplates the
extraction of the still-beating heart from the maidens, lying over the stone of the
sacrifices, to offer it to the gods and to the people in general, gathered for a
religious ceremony in the heights of a temple from which rivers of blood drained down the
stairs guarded by the priest-warriors. Their best destiny could be a massive fusillade,
like that for the North Americans who defended El Goliad. Taylor imagines succumbing in
those conditions. To him it does not appear to be an act of barbarism to have accumulated
the political capital necessary to arrive at being president of the United States, thanks
to his role played in the robbery of territories and in the extermination of thousands of
Mexicans. One is dealing with a more refined savagery. Is this military campaign to
become head of the White House what one should call "modern civilization"?
     Taylor instinctively puts his hand on his neck. He cares about it as far as his
imagination and his forces will permit. Of course he will not dismount during the combat.
At the last minute he will emerge at a full gallop on course for the infinite. He suffers
daily nightmares contemplating how a dark-skinned man will approach him with his head
covered by an enormous plume created with feathers of macaws, toucans and wild parrots
of every color, to sink in his skin a blade sharpened from black obsidian, while
immobilized he contemplates the light of the moon without ceasing to lament his fate by
compulsively shaking his head.
     In history and in life one encounters various paradoxes that call our attention.
That same 25th of April of 1846, the precise date of the first informal confrontation
between the United States and Mexico, curiously a bilateral agreement is reached
in Carricitos, Washington and London to resolve the territorial problem of Oregon. The
North Americans enjoy an exit to the sea on the west coast of their country for the first
time in splendid expansion thanks to the determined character of their president. Polk
had not been deterred by the possibility of one more war against England nor had he been
daunted by an armed conflict with Mexico, which well could happen at the same time
between the three nations. The chief of the White House had very clear objectives and
was disposed to do anything to fulfill them in just four years of his administration,
even if his demise or not being re-elected by the majority of the citizens of his
country were to befall him, due to his well-earned fame as "Polk the mendacious," "Polk
the opportunist," "Polk the lying manipulator..."
     With the assignment of the Oregon territory would be discovered, much afterwards,
a scheme, a new trap by England, a shameful negotiation at the expense of Mexican
interests. Santa Anna, with his suspicions and all, his sharpness and his political
nose, as well as his  enormous skepticism, a vital tool for being able to anticipate
traps, had fallen in the net along with ex-president Herrera and even Paredes himself,
president of the Republic. Lucas Alamán, the recognized expert in foreign affairs had
stumbled into this ignominious stratagem perversely placed by the British to profit
politically from whatever circumstance. England first, then England and ultimately
England would maintain its enormous overseas might at the cost of sacrificing what.
Friends? The English have been distinguished by having very vague notions of loyalty,
yes, but before expressing them they invariably interpose their economic interests.
Did not the queen of England herself name a pirate "sir" for his services rendered to
the Crown...? They have committed atrocious felonies ever since the Anglos and the
Saxons first put the soles of their feet on some island of the now ostentatious
British archipelago in the 6th century. And all to further the supremacy of the
Empire and the king.
     Gómez Farías will confess his naiveté upon discovering the British position, and
also its secret manipulations. It would come to be known with certainty that the
United States had finally reached agreement with the English on setting the border
between Canada and the United States on the 49th parallel in exchange for which the
English Crown would withdraw all its support for México and would abstain from
conceding a financial credit to Paredes involving Californian territory or concluding
any type of military or diplomatic alliance with the Mexicans and, of course, would
renounce not only Texas, well that state already formed part of the American Union, no,
no, Tejas was no longer a negotiating chip, but in any case California and its colossal
San Francisco Bay. México was thus left helpless in Polk's hands.
     Great Britain, by conceding Oregon, would lose a part of its territory, and in this
manner the United States would reach the Pacific Ocean, yet in exchange, they would save
the immense majority of the Canadian territory from Polk's threatening tenacity, from
the White House's unlimited territorial ambitions and, above all, would avoid one more
bloody war against its former colonies, today converted into an enormous nation which,
sooner or later, would threaten the entire world. The English lost something, yes, but
they saved the whole at the cost of abandoning the Mexicans to their fate, incapable of
adding one plus one to attain the common good...
     What was the common good for the Mexicans? Did they enter into agreement perhaps to
define it? The English could not ignore that, in order to reach concert with a
representative of that Aztec nation, the latter could modify, revoke or repeal it the
next morning following a sudden overthrow of the general-president in turn, a clear
recidivist demonstration of the political insolvency that could cast to the ground the
patient negotiations completed in the past. Wool they had, so now, to make a weaving,
that was already a different goal... How was a treaty to be signed with the Mexicans
if every day a new representative was presented to "advance" the negotiations and when
these were finally and formally achieved, they were not respected by the successors,
each more indolent than the rest? What else might lead the Mexicans to stop in the
middle of the road! It was impossible that everyone newly accredited might have an
historical memory. We shall negotiate with the United States, we shall arrive at an
agreement with Polk, the English seemed to say, and in the end the Mexicans will not
be aware of it and if they do notice, whoever exercises power at that moment might
ignore the antecedents to avoid angry condemnation in the future... What was truly
important: that Oregon move to become part of the North American territory. Polk is
attaining his objectives.
     In Mexico the rumor spreads of a coup d'etat against the government of Paredes,
inserted into a dangerous international scenario. The president, in person, solicits a
loan from the English with California as the financial guarantee. Once again it was late,
very late, for dissimulation. A disguised sale was involved. Great Britain, however, does
not approve it. The military enters into action. The distant sound of some horses' hoofs
suddenly acquire an unexpected realism and noise is heard from a crazed stampede the
length of the principal streets of Mexico City. The shod hoofs of the beasts raise sparks
on the cobblestones. The mules pull the cannons. The swords are unsheathed. War, war,
war...! An intense interchange of letters is discovered between Santa Anna and the
authors of the armed uprising. Details are revealed of the future landing of the dictator
at a Mexican port. He returns. He returns despite all the ills caused the nation. It is
opium. Opium must be inhaled.
     His Excellency presents himself from Cuba as an official with a new agenda, with an
advanced ideology in tune with the times. He has learned, he has evolved, he has
meditated critically on his previous activities and finally has understood what is a
suitable course for México. Now he has no doubts. The road is wide, clear, evident,
simple, without potholes or obstacles or precipices at the edges. It is not a matter, of
course, of adapting to conditions imposed by his followers nor is it one more project of
Santa Anna, the opportunist, who takes advantage of every juncture to present himself
brazenly at the dance of the thousand masks with the same number of disguises, no,
clearly no, cynicism is discarded in advance, believe me, my project is sane, genuine,
disinterested, and responds authentically to the immediate satisfaction of the needs of
this nation that I love so much, that has given me so much and to which I owe so much, so
very much. In any case it is a problem of uncontrolled gratitude and I try to settle
somehow the historical debt acquired on my part...
     In the scheme to overthrow president Paredes appear the list of names of Gómez
Farías, Lafragua, Almonte, Tornell, Boves, Álvarez, and Otero. Don Valentín
confesses in intimacy, to his sons, his suspicions, doubts and grounded skepticism
regarding the modern Santa Anna and the fortress of his new political principles.
At root he does not believe in them and profoundly distrusts the "new" Mexican Caesar.
He decides to go forward very much despite having seen it in his first administration
as president of the Republic in the year 1833, when Gómez Farías put in motion, by
common accord with His Excellency, his anti-clerical project to begin México's
vertiginous takeoff and, a year later, Santa Anna had appeared to him dressed as a saintly
archangel surrounded by lovely cherubs, with the blessed one held in his hands looking
to the sky with a pious and beatific expression, proper to a saint.
     --Back, Gómez Farías, back! I have said in the name be it of God, of the Catholic
congregation and its representatives here on the Earth, back! Satan, devilish Lucifer
incarnate in the sad figure no less of my vice-president. Horror, horror, horror...!
     Of course in the year 1835, the year of his forced resignation, don Valentín
knew how the Catholic hierarchy had pressured Santa Anna at his Veracruzian ranch to
prevent the execution of his "Mephistophelean plans" from taking place. The Meritorious
had returned disposed not only to abruptly cancel the assignment of Gómez
Farías, but to revoke the Constitution of 1824 and impose a centralist government
which, headed fundamentally by the Catholic Church, would create grave consequences for
the nation. He would set in motion, in reverse, the Mexican historical chronology.
     Sir Valentín did not ignore the felonies of which the "hero" of Tampico and of
Veracruz was capable... Even so, he insisted upon the latter's return because he warned
that that name alone would ensure the success of the movement. Santa Anna had written
him repeatedly: "I would give you, dear friend Gómez Farías, the respect of the army,
where I can count on innumerable friends, all of them unconditional and you, for your
part, will give me the respect of the masses who account for an enormous influence.
Between the army and the people we will make an invincible alliance, do you not think
     By way of reply the doctor Gómez Farías answered in a few paragraphs, full of
information and valor, so as to leave no doubt as to his program for government nor of
his anti-clerical plans as soon as he were to accede to the Vice-presidency of the
Republic. Santa Anna could never say he was surprised. He knew all too well the
implications of naming the distinguished physician:

     With the law in hand and a view to the future, I would prevent the Church from
     continuing to be the biggest landlord in México and would keep capping the
     charging of very elevated rents. The Church, and hear me well so that all
     México knows it, has property in Mexico City alone worth 21 million, from which
     they generate rents of a million pesos per year. Not even the government of the
     nation's capital accounts for such an income. What does the country get from all
     this wealth? Nothing! And those dead from hunger? Nothing! Why does a single
     institution, supposedly dedicated to prayer and consolation, limit the welfare of
     our México without sharing it with anyone?
          Then we have the clergy benefiting from the income from rental of houses and
     land, fattening itself on tithes, making unfair loans with mortgage guarantees
     granted by diverse and well-camouflaged religious corporations, executing
     millionaire investments, receiving voluminous donations, obtaining juicy legacies in
     exchange for eternal pardon, owning buildings acquired through insolvency,
     charging dowries between 3,000 and 4,000 pesos to permit the entrance of a daughter
     to a convent plus other income from weddings, baptisms, communions, extreme
     unction, benedictions of all sorts, among many other uncountable areas to earn more.
     It is clear that it does not grant loans to the indians lacking real guarantees,
     except when, in its inaccessible mission, it obtains endorsements with recognized
     solvency! True...? Is it true that the dutiful, designees of the hypocritical
     prayers of the high clergy, are condemned to poverty for life because they lack
     productive capacity and financial flows?
          Does the clergy lend its resources to the construction of roads? No! For the
     development of mines? No! for the organization of industrial establishments? No! For
     the opening of artisan and goldsmith shops? No! Do they risk their copious clerical
     capital in the development of businesses truly useful to the nation? No, no, and
          The banker priests betray the Gospel, the Mexican State and, finally, the
          I shall occupy myself, for better or for worse, in financially rescuing our
     country from the yankee claws, at this moment when the young Mexican Republic is
     threatened like never in its brief history.

     Meanwhile the chaos in Mexico assumes scandalous proportions. It is a case of a
ship adrift, with sails torn, located amidst a ferocious storm in the middle of the
Atlantic and the members of the crew still kill, stab, dispute, and threaten in the midst
if the hurricane. General Álvarez rises in arms on the 16th of April of 1846, when
it is evident that Arista as well as Ampudia should already be confronting the yankees to
try to chase them beyond the Nueces river. The troops of general Téllez, assigned
to protect California, equally rise in arms against Paredes knowing that the country has
already been invaded by the United States and that at any moment the reports can arrive
of the outbreak of hostilities against that power. Paredes declares: How can it be
justified that those troops abandon the government at the moment when they receive their
orders and resources to defend the integrity of the national territory? It is an horrific
crime and patricide! Paredes Arrillaga himself, cannot he be accused of the same?
Mazatlán declares itself against the president of the Republic and also requests the
return of Santa Anna. Castillo Negrete publishes on the 7th of May of 1846 his
pronouncement to promote the removal of Paredes, followed, on the 20th day of that same
month by Jose Maria Yañez from Guadalajara, who, in the same fashion, displays an
iron fist against Paredes, the traitor, the monarchist...

The news of the massacre at Carricitos reaches Polk in Washington on the 8th of May. The
president of the United States desperately tears the envelope, as was already habitual
when he received communications from Taylor, so long awaited from a good time ago. The
letter is dated the 25th of April and sent by personal messenger from Carricitos, Tejas,
according to the seal a letter from the general of the United States himself. The text
of one paragraph: "hostilities can be considered to have begun" causes the chief of the
White House to stand up as if a whip had been snapped in his face. In the sobriety and
solitude of his office he repeatedly kisses the page. He lifts both arms towards the sky.
He abstains from shouting from a certain modesty. He lowers his head as if he were
raising a silent prayer from the bottom of his soul. Thank you sweet Lord, thank you
for your generosity, he murmurs while he clenches his jaws. He does not forget that
the walls speak, see and hear. He could finally count on a cause that would cleanse his
historical image which the whole world would approve. How many wars have been unleashed
in the history of humanity to defend against apparent territorial invasions...? This
would be one more...
     Very few knew Polk's true urgency to declare the war he had attained by the fact
of already having dispatched soldiers disguised as expeditionaries, mercenaries
camouflaged as investigators, admirals, commodores, commanders, and captains of
schooners, brigantines and other warships, as well as generals and their respective
brigades, to seize Mexican ports, villages and cities, and raise the North American flag
as soon as the populations were controlled and, if this occurred without issuing a formal
declaration of war, his game would be discovered and the ridicule would be immense.
     Thanks to the skirmish in Carricitos he no longer would be required to found his
declaration of war upon Mexico's economic insolvency. He would not remain before other
powers like a cannibal, intrusive and plundering: he, Polk, would declare a "civilized"
war before the evident aggression of a neighboring country, a flagrant violator of his
sovereignty... His impatience is such that he abstains from touching the stolen bell
placed on one side of his work table. He does not have time to await the arrival of his
assistants, even though they seemed to be holding the latch on the other side of the door
eager to satisfy the slightest desire of the president. The same head of the White House
appears with an enormous smile and eyes glassy from the emotion of the pending dispatch,
while his assistants and his secretary would transmit his instructions without any delay.
     --I want Buchanan right away! You, John, you yourself go on my behalf and tell him I
am waiting. Let him stop whatever he is doing. I need his immediate presence. It concerns
a very delicate matter of State.
     He returns to his office. He reads and re-reads the letter: "Today the 25th of April
of 1846 hostilities can be considered initiated. Taylor." He compulsively moves his right
hand grasping the note from his general as if he blandished a sword, while with his left
he strokes his hair, unable to contain so much emotion. He needs to share it with
someone. Buchanan! he shouts again to the office annex. He closes the door. He slams it.
He goes to the window. He looks at the garden. The grass appears greener than ever. The
plants seem to flower in unison exhibiting their liveliest colors during the middle of
that spring. There is no doubt that Sarah knew how to dedicate body and soul to the care
of the home down to the last detail. Impossible at such moments to keep his attention on
the flowers and on the wise hands that cared for them. He loses patience. He walks from
one side to the other of his office. He strikes his right thigh without letting go of
Taylor's letter. He sees the portrait of Washington. At its side, he quickly passes his
gaze over that of Jefferson, as well as a new oil he recently had installed with the
required formalities. It was that of his political father, Andrew Jackson, the man who
had inspired his expansionist vocation and to whom, without a doubt, he owed his stay in
the White House. He secretly kisses the canvas, as he would do at the end of the war.
     Buchanan does not arrive. They inform him he will arrive a few hours later. He is
found at a meeting in the embassy of the United Kingdom. He is completing, apparently,
the details of the annexation of Oregon. James Polk cannot wait any longer. He does not
need Buchanan or anyone to sit down and draft a message directed to the Congress of the
United States. The text will contain neither more nor less than a declaration of war
against Mexico. He had not prepared it during the previous days for a paradoxical
superstitious reason, and also, he wanted to do so when the reality of the events
occurred so as thus to instill it with burning blood and give more force, more
expressiveness to his text.
     In silence Polk recited an old litany to justify it to himself: I tried various
diplomatic intrigues and failed. I tried to bribe the Mexican functionaries and failed; I
tried to encourage the revolutionary forces of California and failed; I used threats to
cause Mexico to sell its territory and failed; I probed the possibilities of organizing
the war through Stockton, leaving my own hands clean, and failed; through Slidell I
solicited the purchase of those territories so necessary to us offering them elevated
prices and failed with all my options. I am looking like an amateur, for sure, decidedly,
yet in the final analysis an amateur above all through the fault of the Mexicans. If I
could already convince the English regarding the cause of Oregon, and previously we
convinced the French and the Spaniards regarding Louisiana and Florida, how could I
accept defeat from the Mexicans? They do not want to sell their abandoned territories,
very much despite my good faith, no...? So then I will appropriate it all by force. After
all Mexico had already bitten the hook. Bitten? Better to say swallowed providing the
perfect pretext.
     Polk requires a speech that synthesizes his thought and fully summarizes all the
facts without the need of explaining them. He seeks an idea that justifies his decision
in no more than ten words. An expression that fills the newspapers the next day and
which clarifies to the electorate and to the nation, in general, what has occurred. He
scribbles one concept after another. He crumples the sheet. He throws it to one side
along with his frustration. Sometimes it falls in the trash basket, others onto the
wooden floor of his office. He takes another sheet. Again he submerges his pen in the
carved inkwell of black ink. Again and again he must wet the ink before returning to
write. Let no one interrupt him. The cry that would reach Miss Jemima were she to
suddenly appear with the teapot and its cups ordered upon their tray covered with a white
hand-woven white doily. The same. He does not come up with the key or with the precise
idea. Nevertheless, little by little he is finding the road to satisfaction. He cannot
permit North Americans to have been murdered, according to him, by foreigners on North
American soil. Impossible to consent to such villainy.
     Now it is coming, now. His breath feels out of step. His fingers sweat. He dries
them rubbing them on his pants. With difficulty can he use the inkwell. Little by little
the phrase emerges with which he shall begin his speech, will ignite the consciousness
and mobilize the nation standing everything up like a single unit and will leave the
Congress without another alternative but to give him the required political and economic
support. Whoever refuses to give it to him after hearing his message will be considered a
traitor to the nation... He will take much care not to implicate more and other powers.
How he had dreamt of this moment since his days of the electoral campaign for the
Presidency of the United States! If his incomprehensible neighbors refused to sit down or
even to negotiate; if they would not sell even using bribes or offering elevated prices
nor were aware of the threats nor would budge before the possibility of violence and had
wrecked all diplomatic possibility, then the war would constitute the only option to take
regarding the valued treasures for which generations and more generations of North
Americans would never be able to thank him in a sufficient and accomplished manner.
"Gentlemen legislators: North American blood has been shed on North American soil."
     No, no, he needs a small introduction to round out the idea. That first part will do
very well as the most convenient lead summary for the newspapers of the following day and
his speech in the Congress. He writes and crosses out. He edits again. He rubs his hands.
He covers his mouth with his right hand. He searches for the ideal expression, that which
must pass into history. He knows too well the transcendence of every one of his words. He
spends Friday the 8th of May in 1846 drafting and meeting with his cabinet. The week end
will be critical for relations between Mexico and the United States. He again takes the
inkwell under the quivering light of a candle that drips down the length of the wax

     After repeated threats, Mexico has trespassed the border of the United States, has
     invaded our territory and has spilled North American blood on North American land.
          Since war exists in fact and, despite all our efforts to avoid it, exists because
     of an act pertaining to Mexico, we are obliged, by every consideration of duty and
     patriotism, to decisively vindicate the honor, the rights and the interests of our

Despite lamenting the fact of passing the week end without rest, Polk feels obliged to
participate in an urgent meeting with his cabinet, another than that which he himself had
convened. He takes his lunch seated behind his desk. He asks Sarah not to accompany him
this time. Sarah? What a great woman! Always there at the opportune moment and,
furthermore, sharing with whomever a very fresh smile saturated with optimism.
     The last audience on Sunday, late at night, he gives to Robert T. Walker, his
secretary of the Treasury, to finalize details of the war budget. He had always
characterized Walker as a poisonous enemy of Mexico and also as unconditionally allied
with total annexation of that country to the United States. He was the creator of the
idea, All Mexico. Once the presidential audience was concluded, he boldly solicited
the head of the White House's bankroll to read him a text he himself had prepared
with the goal of helping to convince Congress of the advantages of the war against
Mexico. Polk let him speak. A new opinion is a new possibility, he thought to himself
consulting his timepiece and realizing that only a few minutes remained before the
formal appearance with his government secretaries. Walker read a few paragraphs in a
high voice. He resorted to various types of inflections and gesticulations while Polk
displayed a slight smile:

     There are nations--began his speech undeterred--that to invade and territorially
     mutilate awakens in them an uncontainable anger, a fierce resistance which can lead
     to frightful bloodbaths. To militarily seize the most important capitals, one must
     daily wage and urban and rural guerrilla war of terrible consequences because their
     inhabitants, in general, are ready for whatever sacrifice so as to regain their
     liberty and unleash kicks or bayonets on their enemies. The resistance can become
     open acts of sabotage, isolated assassinations of our soldiers, in massive
     poisonings, in blockades of our supply lines, in closures of our rear flanks, a
     juncture equivalent to violently agitating a wasps nest without any protection.

Walker read quickly. Occasionally he raised his eyes to interpret the gaze of the
president, clearly seeking approval for his ideas.

     On occasion, the fact of invading another country is equivalent to grasping the
     sharp edge of a sword with one's hand: the cuts will carry the real risk of losing
     some fingers. It is just that Mexico is not this case. You will see: we shall remain
     with half of their territory and nothing, absolutely nothing, will happen. And it is
     not that the army cannot defend their nation, it is that not even the civilian
     Mexicans will organize to do anything in her defense... It is more, to our surprise,
     they can come to ask us for total annexation. They, in their own eyes, are neither a
     country nor a nation. Only a set of lost individuals in search of an explanation or
     of consolation. No link unites them. Because of them it will be very easy to
     dominate them and remain with what is theirs without the slightest opposition. It
     offers the prospect of multitudinous applause for our soldiers when they parade
     through the great capitals of the neighboring Republic.

Polk lifted his eyebrows. Was Walker going crazy? How could he suppose that I am going to
read that piece before Congress and reveal my entire political game, he seemed to say in
his reflections...

     It is false that, as has been said, the Mexicans are going to defend as did the
     Spanish during the Napoleonic invasion for the single fact that they are cousins
     to each other, the same relation existing between ourselves, the North Americans
     with the English. False, nothing more false: we comprise a white race, free, of
     Caucasian extraction, powerful, imaginative, industrious, literate, and productive,
     and never will submit to the racial degradation stemming from miscegenation. Our
     forefathers were right. The best indian is a dead indian. The Mexicans, after 300
     years of Spanish domination, mixed with the aborigines only to produce an inferior
     race consisting of lazy, useless, ignorant, and backward indians.

Polk's expression of stupor could leave no doubt, simply that Walker, engrossed,
believing himself the author of some paragraphs that sooner or later would be set in gold
letters on the marble walls of the Capitol, read on convinced of the convincing power
contained in his sheets.

     The Aztecs were different. One dealt with a nation of valiant warriors with a great
     sense of dignity. They were tough fighters by definition, simply that the Spanish
     domination was so dreadful, the tracks of the conquest so profound, so traumatic and
     bloody the miscegenation, that the actual mix of Spaniards and indians, the heirs
     to 300 years of the Inquisition, of intransigence and Iberian intolerance,
     permanently crushed the pre-Columbian imperial character, that of the dominion of
     Tenochtitlan, to convert the Mexicans of our day into a mere worthless gathering of
     timid eunuchs, incapable of looking in the face even of their own...

Walker lacked one paragraph before concluding his discourse. Why not finish reading it
without interpreting the gestures of the White House chief?

     The Inquisition plunged a burning nail into their neck, marked their soul with blood
     and fire, burned them to such an extent that today they disdain those of their own
     race, are irremediable skeptics and keep waiting for the arrival of a blond prince,
     he of their dreams, he who someday will come to dominate and protect them because
     they recognize they are incapable of self-governance: the famous Quetzalcóatl,
     who very well could be the Spanish prince or French from the Pastry War or the
     yankee, just as we ourselves might come to be. They already adored the blond tall
     rulers long before the conquest of Mexico. Furthermore, unlike us, they believe in
     nothing, not even in themselves: they mistrust each other and, likewise, are
     incapable of uniting and of constructing a common home in accord with the desires of
     the majority. Under those conditions we should not worry: we will win the war...

At that moment Polk delicately covered the pages drafted by Walker with his hand, such
that he could not continue with the speech. He had had enough. He might have been a great
expert in finance and, therefore had been retained to occupy such a high post, but as to
political relations and diplomatic approaches he was very far from being heard with
patience and a desire to understand.
     --Are you against my ideas, Mr. president?--Walker asked surprised by Polk's sudden
and inexplicable attitude.
     --No--he answered smilingly offering an affectionate pat on the back. --They
coincide in large part with my own. But this is a clear example of what should never be
said to an audience where the North American nation is represented--he concluded heading
toward the cabinet session. --If you want and think that we should annex all Mexico with
scant opposition from our neighbors, then say so in Congress and, as you say, the effect
will be the same as disturbing a giant wasps nest... Execute your plans without revealing
     Moments later, seated at the head of the table and without a major preamble, the
president mentions that fortunately yesterday Taylor's letter had arrived announcing the
beginning of the hostilities, yet that, in any case, he had already decided to declare
war on Mexico for non-fulfillment in the payment of claims.
     --Let it be very clear--he stated before the obliging gaze of the majority of the
members of his cabinet: --If we have to go into this war it is against the will of the
president of the United States. It is impossible for us to accept an invasion of our own
territory, demarcated by international agreements, riddling our own with gunfire and the
government in my hands will remain with arms crossed: we will not permit it...
     Of course, Polk was careful about revealing his intentions concerning Nuevo
México and California and, undoubtedly, refused to reduce the confrontation to a
mere border conflict that would conclude with the expulsion of the Mexicans from the
territories supposedly the property of Tejas. Such an expulsion obviously would not
satisfy their annexationist appetites. The only alternative was the war. No topic
relating to Texas still gave him insomnia, but instead, in every case, access to the
giant Bay of San Francisco. A new exit to the Pacific, in addition to that of Oregon and
the annexation of a few million square kilometers which had nothing to do with the
"dishonorable affront of Carricitos" nor with the territories located between the Nueces
and the Rio Bravo...
     At night, agitated, fatigued yet incapable of achieving sleep, the head of the White
House decided to go to Sarah's room, without removing, of course, his sleeping hat, a
gift from his mother, knit by her as a souvenir of his graduation with honors in 1818
from the University of North Carolina, before involving himself in politics, serving in
the Tennessee legislature. His wife was surprised by the ill-timed arrival of her spouse
and even more, it stretched her imagination that he dared to embrace her beneath the
sheets and to possess her perhaps to crown with a little love the historic successes of
the day. The rite was concluded in less than it takes to produce a simple snap of the
fingers. With neither caresses nor kisses nor endearments nor insinuations nor obscene
words nor lustful warnings nor lost respiration nor perspiration nor invocations nor
contractions nor laments nor appeals. The second act, he left the bed and standing up he
retired lowering the nightgown and adjusting the essential sleeping cap, while he
whistled Yankee Doodle. His wife, meanwhile, aimed an accurate look of hate at his

While on the 8th of May president Polk was concluding the drafting of his first speech to
explain and orient the grand cause of the war, precisely on that same date a first formal
battle between the United States and Mexico took place at Palo Alto, in the legal
territory of the state of Tamaulipas, where general Arista, ahead of 304 foot soldiers,
79 artillerymen, 1,729 infantry, and 1,161 cavalry, in all 3,273 men and, in accordance
with the instructions of their government to initiate a defensive war, discovers Taylor's
line of communication and of supply with the North American base of operations located in
the fort of Santa Isabel, on the outskirts of Corpus Christi, obviously to the north of
the Rio Bravo and to the south, clearly to the south of the Nueces, definitely Mexican
territory. They tried to break them by making attempts to blockade them, isolate them and,
once surrounded, open fire without pause.
     Taylor discovers Arista's intentions through Chapita Sandoval, a Mexican spy
contracted by Kinney, the coordinator of the North American army's intelligence service,
and previously an aggressive and talented strategist whom he had left trapped, without
rations or medicine or munitions, on the 8th of May in 1846 on the plain of Palo Alto,
in front of Matamoros, where there occurred, over five hours, what almost in its entirety
was an artillery duel. Both armies possessed ten cannons, just that the Mexicans
controlled eight of four pounds and two, or eight pounds. Whereas the North Americans
had available to them a reach two or three times greater than that of their enemies:
eight cannons, but of 12 pounds and two, no less than of 18 pounds.
     General Winfield Scott had counseled Taylor to employ various Mexican spies
simultaneously because he had seen how many secret agents present themself as such
without being so and, similarly, sold false information in exchange for unjustified
economic compensation. Most likely were the reports crossing signals because it had
already been discovered that many persons, sent by Arista, intentionally revealed non-
existent plans. Do not take a step in México without your spies to tell you where to
put your foot. With the cash that is carried for secret parties you could contract a very
good number of "secret agents" in your service. Only believe them when the reports of a
majority agree on a single goal. Be careful: they would sell your soul to the devil...
     Very quickly the superiority in matters of armaments and military knowledge,
combined with the devastating effect caused by the confidential information provided by
the Mexican spies and, against the manifest superiority of their artillery, the defeat
became patent. The defeat? The massacre of Palo Alto, which fell before the yankee
military might. Everything ended when the artillery made targets of each other causing
important losses, inasmuch as Taylor's men stealthily surrounded those of Arista. The
artillery distracted the enemy, who approached hiding themselves without firing a single
shot amidst the shrubbery. And the sudden voice saying Fire...! certainly unintelligible
and then others Fire...! Fire...! Fire...! - shouts emitted furiously as if they wished
to avenge an historic affront, and the generalized flight soon followed. On the field
of battle remained the corpses of 252 Mexicans, while on the North American side only
11 bodies were recorded.
     Did the hostilities, still unknown by Paredes as by Polk, due to the distance and
difficulty of communications between Washington and Mexico City, end there? No, not at
all... Before the precipitate and chaotic flight of the Mexican troops to the cry of
saving whatever they could, which later would be heard now and again for different
reasons throughout the war, the yankee army ordered the chasing of the Mexican soldiers
to far beyond the other side of the Rio Bravo.
     When Arista and his men found themselves pursued and before the difficulty imposed
by the terrain, given the enormous efforts to cross or leap over the Rio Bravo and its
enormous volume, the Mexican general led his army to a place known by some as Resaca de
Guerrero and to others as Resaca de la Palma. Arista took the troops, that 9th of May,
to the back of a gully with woods and swamps at its sides. He incorrectly supposed that
neither on that day nor much less in that place would he be attacked. Therefore he gave
orders to unhook the cannons and dismiss the reserves, the only ones who could help in
case of urgency. He equally neglected to protect his flanks, an elementary military
precaution for the prudent, with a minimum of imagination and martial perspicacity.
     Feeling himself protected by the chaparral, shrubs and moving sands, hidden in the
hollow, now almost 30 hours having transpired since the troops had any food at all and
reading the tracks of fatigue in their faces, he ordered an obligatory rest. He had
learned nothing from the irresponsible decisions of Santa Anna at San Jacinto. Did he know
nothing of the decisions that led to the disaster? Suddenly, at the most unexpected
moment, the dread yankee artillery again began to find fatal and punctual targets. The
surprise was unheard of. Fear and improvisation caused the desired effects. While they
brought the necessary arms, prepared them, attached the cannons, sought the most
appropriate place for defense and shooting, the enemy fire was ravishing. The losses were
enormous. The majority of the Mexican artillery injured their hands, face or hearing on
detonating their cannons while lacking the necessary space to execute the maneuver. The
Mexican troops, demoralized at this point, ran in terror towards Matamoros. Arista,
after receiving a denial of an armistice, resorted to flight abandoning injured,
armaments, cannons, the waning food, the scarce meat, and the munitions. Many Mexican
soldiers were taken prisoners by Taylor's troops. The surrender was unconditional.
     When the North Americans perceived the presence of a white flag they continued
shooting for a while as if they were avenging the fallen in the Alamo and at El Goliad
and above all the dead of Carricitos. The interchange of projectiles had concluded. Upon
observing that in effect the Mexican were not returning the fire, Taylor, knowing himself
observed by his officials and subalterns of all ranks, waited patiently a few moments
before giving the order to cancel hostilities.
     --Cease firing!--he shouted, smoothing his mustache.
     The yankee hurrays of pleasure rumbled like a macabre echo all the way to the
capital of the Mexican Republic. Surmounting valleys, mountains, oceans, and rivers, they
reached the island of Cuba... The Mexican prisoners, once disarmed, were located on a
small platform to one side of the swamps. The majority of them were slowly examined like
foreign creatures. Very soon they had become an unexpected object of laughter when they
had thrown their arms to the ground. Troops were seen walking around them as if they had
discovered a wild animal in the midst of the park or the swamp. It was the first occasion
upon which the yankee soldiers knew the huaraches up close. A numerous group
of them then took off their muddy shoes at the same time they were ordered to do so
following the immediate translation by two of the Mexican spies, who received all sorts
of insults that they pretended not to hear, and to those who perhaps answered lifted the
index finger to the mouth requiring silence.
     Various volunteers without military rank tried on the Mexican sandals thrown onto
the sandy ground. Impossible to deal with them. In addition to the odor that they emitted
and the difficulty of attaching them firmly with the worn leather laces, they were
designed to be used together for only one foot, in general, the right. The fiesta
would reach a moment of splendor when they revealed their huaraches and tried to
move as best they could making all types of grimaces and grotesque movements. Only some
of the conquerers imagined the insufferable torture that it had meant to march in those
conditions for long periods and furthermore, ascending or descending mountains in rain
or snow. The yankees, even the volunteers, carried good shoes and boots to be used, also
indiscriminately, in whatever extremity and in all kinds of climates. Their uniforms and
equipment never ceased to surprise the Mexicans. The process of observation was
     The prisoners, survivors of Aristas' army, had gotten to know there the new 1841
percussion rifles, all of the same caliber and which shot a ball and three charges. As
opposed to the Mexican spark rifle, that required priming around the flint to shoot.
Also, each of the arms came, for what it was worth, with a bayonet of undoubted sharpness
and shining reflection, as opposed to the Mexicans, almost all oxidized, rusty due to
the lack of a sheath to hold them. Some of the invaders, expert in weapons, noticed that
the rifles were antiquated models of English origin. They must have been acquired during
the independence from Spain, as the newcomers explained it. The latter were instructed in
the use of the bowl where the powder was deposited, which also, if it got wet in case of
rain, would become, plainly, an additional disadvantage, certainly dramatic: the
Americans could shoot, up to their three charges, without worrying that the deposit would
get wet and make the arms useless. To the unspoken surprise of all the existence of
rifles of different calibers was discovered, which were being thrown to the ground like
useless and ignominious toys. It was enough to imagine in the midst of battle, they said,
the desperation of the auxiliaries when given non-matching spherical bullets. Still round
bullets in the middle of the 19th century? The confusion could well lead to a catastrophe
in the midst of a strong firefight.
     During the comparison of weaponry, the conversation turned to the North American
cavalry, also endowed with carbines of recent vintage and also with percussion pistols and
sabers. What might be the face of stupor of the yankees when they verified that the
Mexicans on horseback still used spark muskets and those only when, through influence,
favors or even bribes they might have access to them, according to the tales of some of
the prisoners, given that the greater part of Arista's cavalry was armed with
anachronistic lances due to the lack of a military budget to obtain modern equipment? It
should never be forgotten that when resources for the war finally existed, at a cost of
forced loans or of incremental tribute unpopular to the extent of producing the overthrow
of a general-president in turn, when the money would appear in the personal accounts of
the high-level military and very rarely was seen translated into percussion weapons. A
serious, so serious error of untimely appropriation.
     When the festive talk fell onto the topic of the artillery, it then became manifest,
by a simple view of the sides, the the North Americans utilized cannons, some Howitzers
and other Paixhans, patented in 1826, known in the martial lexicon as firemen's
cannons for the precision of their aim and because at the moment of hitting the target
the bombs exploded, as well as destroying the objectives. By contrast, the Mexican
artillery still used the Gribeauval cannons, a technology used with success in the
Napoleonic wars at the end of the 18th century and beginnings of the 19th. By 1846 they
were already obsolete.
     --The valor of the Mexican soldiers--Taylor noted--could never compensate for the
financial incapacity or the inefficient direction of the troops or the technical
backwardness of the Mexican high military command.
     Had the feast concluded? Of course not: none of the Mexicans ever imagined the
horselaughs they would hear in the future, nor much less the motive for so much
celebration. The reasons for the hilarity were due to the quality and state, above all,
of the Mexican cannons. Did they think of beating us with those toys...? The majority of
our indian tribes have better rifles than the Mexican army, they said between offensive
hoots, a shame that there are North Americans who sell them as contraband in exchange
for a few dollars... Our Apaches fight more than the Mexican soldiers. To trap, for
example, a live Apache takes great prowess... One Navajo fights better than those little
chocolate warriors...
     For the next act they placed a North American cannon beside a Mexican one. Taylor's
prisoners did not say a single word, if indeed the quality and taste of the food
distributed for lunch surprised them. The party certainly seemed to be amusing. They then
improvised a distant target. The veterans familiar with such equipment, a battery
commander and the bombing chief, used the wad to clean the mouth of a four-pound Mexican
cannon, the smallest one so as to humiliate the enemy even more. They introduced the
powder compacting it very well. They slid the bomb in, aiming towards a tree, set the
lighter aflame and then, amidst insulting laughs, in the absence of a ramrod, the yankee
soldiers ran aghast to protect themselves inside a little cave or behind the nearest
cactus, until the detonation were to be produced. It all seemed happy rowdiness. The
howitzer caused damage at the moment of impact, yes, yes, it could topple the walls of a
fort, penetrate them, destroy them, also opening an enormous orifice through which the
infantry could enter, yes, yet it would not cause additional damage from an explosion.
Everyone saw the bomb fall much short of the objective and arrive rolling, perhaps to the
foot of the tree. Of course it never exploded. It could not do so. Who exploded, but
again in thunderous horselaughs, were the yankee soldiers. Taylor himself, always sober
and reserved, could not remain aloof from the celebration, once he had left sentinels
placed strategically at the sides of the clearing and duly equipped with their respective
     Very soon the moment of shooting the American cannon arrives. Of course the 18-
pounder was selected, one unknown to the Mexican army. The yankee artillerymen calmly
loaded the weapon. They were dealing with percussion equipment. They asked in joking
terms for an orderly to give the instructions for mechanically firing it and, without
leaving the team, without running and hiding from anything, simply covering their ears,
they opened fire. Heads turned immediately in the direction of the tree which violently
fell to the ground becoming a smoking torch down to the last of its branches. And
subsequently they resumed shooting towards one of the walls of the gully, a distant
target to which no Mexican cannon would have access. The deafening blast left the
Mexicans open-mouthed. They had never imagined reaching such a distance, and even less
that when the bombshell reached its destination it would still have expansive and
explosive, not simply destructive, power.
     Surprise also occurred when they found out, for the first time, about a percussion
cannon that shot projectiles without the necessity of lighting a fuse. Admiration grew
when they realized a reality: powder was no longer necessary to provoke a detonation.
Their surprise could not be hidden upon lighting the target on fire nor could they
dissimulate when they appreciated the reach of the howitzers. The astonishment was
shameful on realizing the modern aspect of the artifact, and even more so when none of
the artillerymen had to run, prisoner of fear, to take shelter anywhere to be able to
fire, given the hollow in which they practiced the shots. They were apparently dealing
with attending a comedy of surprise and of disadvantages.
     The Mexican prisoners understood at that moment the reach and the dangers of the
war. A Mexican general, Enrique Araujo, Arista's assistant, commented between his teeth:
     --If the Spaniards dominated the Aztecs with the strength of powder, we could conquer
the Mexicans of today with the same powder, but in the middle of the 19th century...
     While he ate lunch and before raising the encampment, Taylor let it be known that he
would liberate many of the prisoners upon arriving at Matamoros and would do it precisely
to make rumors run about North American powder.
     --If we terrorize them before the battles we are already eliminating many obstacles
before arriving on the field of honor.
     --Matamoros?--asked Hitchcock, a lieutenant, while he drank a cup of coffee. --That
is on the other side of the Bravo.
     --In effect--added Good Old Zack, as his subordinates affectionately called him--it
is on the other side of the border.
     --When we left Corpus Cristi they explained to me that this war only dealt with
removing the Mexicans from North American territory, until they are chased to the other
side of the Bravo. What business do we have in Matamoros, on Mexican soil and without
issuing a declaration of war, at least that I know of?
     The position assumed by Hitchcock seemed imprudent to Taylor. In those situations
one saw a general share the farm with all the troops in a plan of camaraderie.
Nevertheless, he still answered nicely in a tone of voice that anyone might have been
able to interpret as the sudden exhaustion of patience:
     --We shall take Matamoros with or without a declaration of war.
     Little by little the true yankee intentions were becoming clear. Of course they now
dealt now with simply appropriating a fringe of land between the Bravo and the Nueces.
The simple act of defense was one thing and a very different one that of starting an
offensive war. To defend Texas, if that had been the object, would it not have sufficed
to send 50,000 men to the frontier and approve a budget for defense of several millions
of dollars? If Mexico felt aggrieved, why not seat them in dialogue and try to settle
only the strip located between the two Texian rivers instead of declaring war...? Or was
there at bottom something else...?
     --Sir--Hitchcock still submitted without noting that his advance was made into enemy
territory--if we come to defend Texas and the Mexicans become very frightened on the
other side of the Rio Bravo, then we will have fulfilled our mission and can return home.
Texas would be safe. Or not...?
     It was preferred then to revert to martial language to give a conclusion to that
part of the conversation.
     --They are instructions, lad. The military are here to follow orders and not to
interpret them... Let us seize Matamoros at any price!
     To distract the attention of the selected diners seated in a large circle together
with Good Old Zack, the latter began to recount anecdotes about the Military Academy at
West Point. For him credentials from that military institution would forever be a source
of pride. "Economic conquests have to be defended with the voice of cannons," he would
repeat at those improvised meetings where he fascinated his audiences whatever their
size. He never tired of speaking of the prestige of that institution genuinely dedicated
to the formation of soldiers to consolidate the economic growth of the United States, in
such a way "that our advances not come apart like wet paper..." The technology and
knowledge acquired will be especially useful now that we have to defend our patrimony
from those invading Mexicans, authentic attackers who refuse to accept the legal validity
of our new borders...
     On that occasion, after winning the battle of Resaca de la Palma and before writing
a report directed to Washington, he commented to his subalterns, holding the hollow corn-
cob pipe between his teeth.
     --If we should be thankful to president Thomas Jefferson for anything it is for
having signed the statutes which would give life to the first great Military Academy of
the United States already since 1802. Our growth should be infinite--as he took a long
sip of coffee.
     --We will need, clearly we will need--he saw in all clarity--to empower our own
officials, military engineers and artillerymen, shape them solidly in the art of war. Do
we awaken jealousies? Of course--now he alone answered. --And to extinguish envy at its
root, to oppose ourselves to it, one necessarily needs to resort to some indispensable
tools: arms, and whoever is not skillful in their use should prepare for all sorts of
subjection and for all types of humiliations, dispossessions and affronts. Without West
Point, believe me--he insisted to a reduced group of volunteers listening--the United
States would be stripped, sooner or later, of its progress and would never be able to
export the advances of her civilization to the entire world...
     Only the breath of the wind could be heard when it rocked the tops of the trees.
What moments before had been a deafening hell, was now heard to partake in the silence
proper to cemeteries.
     While Taylor revealed his political and military viewpoints, the Mexican soldiers
buried their dead, rigidly watched nearby by the North Americans. From their closed
cracked hands, the same color as the soil, one could easily distinguish their humble
extraction. They had not understood the importance of Taylor's speech or the
transcendence of a military academy in the economic development of a nation.
     --Why do you believe we defeated the English in 1812? Why do you think we are better
prepared for this war than the Mexicans? Why do you think that very soon we will win the
respect of the entire world? For our force, for our armaments, for our military
information, for our audacity, courage and temerity! Let no one be mistaken, we are a
nation of warriors--he added without anyone answering. --Thus and only thus shall we have
the authority and will only convince by authority... Imagine, already in 1825 West Point
sent its experts to study the weapons and military tactics developed during the
Napoleonic Wars. We recognized first-class arms from that period and reproduced them,
as well as substantially improving them in the United States. For that reason the
Mexicans will succumb before our arms and before the military tactics which were
particularly useful to us for doing away with the indians. What would our country be if
they had defeated us...? One imagines that you Hitchcock would have been the great indian
Broken Lips--he commented amidst horselaughs that all shared so as not to wound the
sensibility of the respected general.
     Taylor re-loaded his pipe, already burnt at the edges, with perfumed English
tobacco. He took his time for the explanation.
     --What is ignored is that in West Point we killed several birds with one stone
because we did not only produce soldiers, but they had to also graduate as military
engineers. Therefore, in the United States they are sought as much for their knowledge
and abilities to construct canals, ports, bridges, and roads, as well as everything
necessary to ensure our glorious expansion to the west.
     Taylor's enthusiasm was contagious. The satisfaction of being North American was
reflected in the intense shine of his eyes, very much despite his 61 years of age.
Tiredness? Impossible in a military person of his fortitude.He still aspired to be
president of his country.
     --We should all be proud of our nationality. Patriotic pride, and hear me well, you
the young--he exclaimed as if they were the words he wanted to consign to his testament--
is the energy that moves us on the battlefield. It is the source of inspiration in
combat, together with the memory of our families. Patriotic pride gives us the
necessary force, it provides the daring and the audacity to take forts, bastions,
fortresses, and ports, to fight with bayonets attached, hand to hand, face to face with
an enemy who will shrink and flee to the degree that we grow in his presence. Pride--
he added as if he needed to hear himself previewing the armed confrontation which,
undoubtedly, would present itself in an immediate future--is the primal matter to
construct a prosperous nation--for it was also a good moment to continue with the
process of convincing the soldiers of inferior rank, a task which never should be
abandoned. --National pride is the impetus required for the businessman to seal important
contracts. The pride in being North American--he stood up as if the passion was
overcoming him--is the cause that should inspire our legislators to draft intelligent,
useful laws in the vanguard. Pride should move presidents, and judges, to oblige them to
achieve a more efficient administration of justice, and teachers to more adequately forge
the citizens of the future, to whom, in their time, they must pass on the nation.
     --Is that why it is so easy to defeat the Mexicans?--questioned Hitchcock trying not
to provoke his superior especially, most especially, if both were seen in public.
     The question fell from the sky for Taylor. Examples would always be illustrative.
     --Those starving of hunger--he judged without sitting down and hitting his pipe
against one of his boots--use antiquated cannons, have not eaten in centuries, do not
possess the necessary equipment or the ability and, I assure you--he concluded already
finishing--there are no volunteers among their ranks like those found among ours, there
is no mystique of pride nor motives to fight since many of them speak Spanish with
difficulty and the majority will know neither how to read or write. I guarantee you that
a good part of the dead will have been brought by force without knowing even why they
fought--he managed to say, retreating. --Gratitude for the nation is proportional to that
which it has given us in material well-being, and I fear that from the appearance of
those unfortunates, barefoot, they will have received very little from their country, if
indeed it has not taken from them, and likewise, they will have little force, energy and
pride to defend it...

In Washington, Polk submits his message to Congress on the 11th of May in 1846. A good
part of his discourse takes inspiration from the proclamation of war against England,
drafted by president Madison in 1812. The president of the United States did not expect
unanimous support on the part of the legislators, no: he well knew that he was obliged to
grant them time, more precious time for them to deliberate at least a few days in the
Capitol, regarding the risks of entering into a war. He dealt with a law that needed to
be voted upon like any other. The majority of Congress would make the final decision. His
expansionist plans were in the hands of the deputies and senators of both parties.
     The debates on the 12th of May speak of Polk, the mendacious, the liar, tricky...
Clayton and Benton, two congressmen, allege that "the fact of having sent Taylor to the
border was equivalent to a provocation which would necessarily result in a war without
the consent of Congress." "What is going on?" they say in small groups in the middle of
the hallways: "Would you provoke a war and later oblige Congress to declare it when
everything is already irremediable?" "Congress should have named a special committee
to see whether the blood had been shed on North American soil or not. Why so much hurry
to declare war?" "With this war Polk violated every principle of international right and
of moral justice." "If the Mexicans resist Taylor, they should be honored and
distinguished for that." "I hope that the war does not produce alliances between
México, France and the United Kingdom." "Never has such a delicate decision been
taken with so much haste, so little retraining and so pressured by fragile goals."
     The North American Congress, after two days of deliberations, on a cold and rainy
morning, approves the law of war the 13th of May in 1846. Popular manifestations in favor
occur throughout a large part of the country. Hostilities are declared begun. The news
will reach Mexico the first week in June. President Paredes lacks alternatives to prevent
the outbreak of the conflict. It is now impossible to convene negotiations at those
moments. His position would have been understood as a humiliating retreat for his
government, an act of cowardice, a plea for mercy, for he publicly, 20 days previously,
had called for taking up arms. Violence had been stood on its feet and would follow its
own course.
     An enormous war machine is put into motion. Sounds of trumpets are heard, echoes of
wagons, neighing of horses on being put aboard the brigantines. Boxes of armaments are
placed in the holds of the vessels. Millions of dollars are spent on bullets and bombs.
Very soon the foundries began to work at full speed. The clothing industry receives
orders without precedent to produce uniforms. Assembly lines are improvised to produce
percussion rifles and pistols. The powder factories begin to work overtime. West Point
makes plans. The generals deliberate in the War Department. Everywhere signs are seen
soliciting working hands. The caps and cannons of ten and 18 pounds are consigned to
warehouses near the ports. The hospitals and schools of medicine offer their services to
help the wounded in combat. Journalists emerge interested in covering the source and
being present on the battlefields. It will be the first martial conflict graphically
recorded by the newspapers from the front itself. Throughout the nation calls are made
for volunteers to join and offer their lives in exchange for the survival of the nation.
The laboratories massively produce medicines, gases and prostheses.
     The same day in which the North American Congress votes for the law, by means of
which the war on Mexico is formally declared--paradoxes of life, no...?--president Polk
meet in his office with the secretary of the Navy. His first, very first decision, once
the legislative authorization to initiate hostilities is obtained, consists in
instructing George Bancroft to immediately impose an iron naval blockade on the port of
Veracruz. Do you understand, Mr. secretary? Not even the flies should be able to get
through: nothing, means nothing, true?
     --Yes, Mr. president...
     --The only exception will be that of Antonio López de Santa Anna.
     Bancroft was left surprised: The ex-president of Mexico?
     --Only he will be allowed to pass and disembark...?--asked Bancroft without hiding
his surprise.
     --The same, Mr. secretary--concluded Polk with a certain surliness due to the
important number of matters that he should raise that same morning with Bancroft. --You
should instruct commodore Connor of the importance of this order.
     --I shall do so.
     --Is it clear that only Santa Anna, and no one else, will be able to break the naval
blockade?--Polk asked. --It is enough that you identify him in order to offer him safe
     --With our warships we will form an impenetrable wall, sir.
     --Good--Polk concluded, confirming that there was no space for misunderstandings.
--It is imperative to put Santa Anna on Mexican territory. Sometime I will detail for you
the reasons for this urgency...
     That same day, George Bancroft issued an urgent instruction to be "placed into the
hands of commodore David Conner himself. Confidential. Personal and non-transferable.
Secret of war." The sealed envelope carried the seal of the office of the secretary of
the Navy: "If Santa Anna attempts to enter through the Mexican ports you will let him
pass freely. Bancroft."

The machinery of war begins to move with the precision of a Swiss watch. It gravely
announces the passage of the hours at a meteoric speed. Taylor receives the instruction
to move towards Matamoros and attack the north of Mexico, an aggression that would have
been carried out in any event supported by the pretext of prosecuting the murderers of
yankees. The White House is a madhouse. Some enter and others leave with an agreement
in their portfolios or visit it in search of orders. Beginning the 13th of May commences
a long period of sleeplessness among the North American military and the politicians.
Nobody wants to tell bad stories or give bad news. Polk had his finger placed on the
trigger for almost a year in advance. He squeezes it with decision. He is conscious of
the effect of the explosion. He does not ignore, of course, the loss of lives nor the
mourning of thousands in North American homes. The expansion to the west is
uncontainable. Any price is low in exchange for taking the Mexican territories. He knows
he is supported by Divine Providence. He has the backing of Sarah, or his cabinet, of
his party, of a good part of the press, and of the majority of Congress and of the
nation, in addition to that he himself is at peace with his person and his decisions. The
North American people voted for me for some reason...
     According to Polk, he himself did everything possible to persuade the Mexicans of
the path of peace and they refused to accede to his pretensions. He would have to grab
what is his through the use of force. Strip them of their belongings. War is, in
synthesis, highway robbery, an assault by armed hands. The deaths are inevitable.
Undoubtedly he is not called a bandit in the same sense that the prostitutes do not want
to be called whores. Terminological clarities are offensive. What are euphemisms for if
not to justify deviant or exaggerated conduct? Diplomacy can be optimally used towards
these effects. Bandit? No, no: "Expansionist..."
     Polk also has the fantasy of bringing down his martial arm with a sword of iron and
fist of gold while he shouts Fire! from a small hill on the side of the Potomac.
Kearny finally invades Nuevo México, marches in the direction of Santa Fe. Wool
moves in the direction of Chihuahua. In California Fremont declares the independence of
the Bear Flag republic. He abstains from commenting on the killing of aboriginal Mexican
indians that he executed during his passage. They are deeds that, by themselves alone,
would justify a war. The process of ethnic cleansing begins in the new territories. Kill,
kill, his voices tell him, you have the permission of Divine Providence... Viva the
Republic of California! shout the only 60 mercenaries disguised as expeditionaries the
morning of the 14th of June in 1846 to topple Sonoma without opposition. The Mexican-
Californians will not impose greater resistance: they will surrender without defending
themselves, Polk alleges. Why should I send a bigger land force? Only 60 men? Yes, yes,
they are sufficient, soon they will see... Why send twenty thousand...? It is a useless
     The new "nation" submits to martial law and convenes elections. The Texian
theatrical work is repeated, the old strategy originally created for president Jefferson:
populate foreign territories, develop them, arm them, make them independent, convert them
into a Republic and annex them to the American Union. They create a nation so as to rob
it later... Done! la comedia e finita... It is impossible that the freebooters knew of Polk's
declaration of war from only the previous 13th of May. A communication from Washington to
California could take up to nine months, if it were sent around the southern hemisphere,
crossing the straits of Magellan and later coming up through the Pacific until arriving
at the Bay of San Francisco. Stockton himself, aboard the Congress, took nine months to
navigate from Norfolk to Monterey. The brigantine Pilgrim had taken five months to arrive
from Boston to Santa Barbara. To cross from the north Atlantic to Los Angeles by
horseback: in addition to being reckless, could take a long time in the absence of trains.
     Apart from the USS Congress, and the USS Pilgrim, already anchored on
the California coasts are the USS Portsmouth, the USS Savannah, the USS
Levant, the USS Warren, the USS Cyane, among many more others. Who was
Polk trying to fool with a Mexican offensive war for the Nueces river? What does the
Nueces river have to do with the taking of ports, villages and Mexican cities of
California...? Why does he send half of the North American fleet to the Mexican Pacific
of the north? Would it not have been enough to sit down to negotiate the Tejas border...?
Sloat arrives the 2nd of July to Monterey. One year previously he had already taken the
Bay of San Francisco. He will have to wait there for the colonel Stephen W. Kearney. For
now he raises the flag of the United States over Mexican territory. War or no war, for
now this is already ours. The theft of the century is perpetrated. He simply declares,
like an officer respectful of international law: "I do not come as an enemy of California,
but the contrary, as its best friend, since from now on, it will be part of the United
     Commodore Sloat: Are there no customs, nor previous peace treaties or agreements,
nor civilized conventions or models or roles for stealing?
     When on the 29th of July Fremont himself takes the port of San Diego, his first
instruction consists in enlarging the stars and stripes flag. The Mexican emblem will be
used to wipe the clay-covered boots of the North American soldiers.
     Gillespie to Mazatlán. James Maggofin also goes, as a special agent, to Nuevo
Mexico to try to bribe and convince the Mexican authorities of the advantages of the war
and of the Americanization. The Mormons keep crossing the Mississippi to install
themselves in what will be Utah. Clyman encounters them too on the 2nd of July. The
blockade of Tampico and that of Veracruz are ordered beginning the 20th of May. The
president meets for over four hours with Marcy, secretary of War and with Winfield Scott,
the most well-known military genius in the United States, to study Taylor's strategy to
the south of the Rio Grande.
     --Please--he says as always at the beginning of cabinet meetings--work tirelessly
in your offices not to succeed me in power, but instead to achieve North American
     On the 18th of March Taylor crosses the Rio Bravo and captures Matamoros without
having knowledge, of course, of the North American declaration of war. He immediately
informs the White House. "We already crossed the Rio Bravo and Matamoros fell without
firing a single shot. There are no losses. There are no dead. There are no injured. There
are no missing."
     During a cabinet meeting Buchanan reads a piece sent by the State Department to
London and to Paris to explain the war with Mexico. Ignoring the expression of
astonishment and later of rage by president Polk, the one responsible for North American
foreign policy continues reading: "Our objective is not to dismember Mexico or make
conquests. The intended border is that of the Rio Grande. In launching war we do so not
with the goal of acquiring California or Nuevo Mexico, nor any other portion of Mexico."
     When Buchanan finishes reading the message and perhaps awaits an ovation for his
exquisite diplomat handling intended to tranquilize the great powers. Polk, with his face
flushed, without saying a single word, leaves the room after rapidly gathering his
papers and stuffing them out of order into the portfolio without pronouncing the session
ended. The cabinet secretaries exchange glances among themselves. Their surprised faces
and the interchange of signals reveals the commission, perhaps, of a great indiscretion.
Had the president perhaps felt bad? His health, it was known, had always been very
fragile. Buchanan feels as if the floor is opening exactly under his black quilted
leather chair and he is about to fall into the void. He concentrates the attention of
his colleagues. How to stand the insinuations that he can read in their eyes? He then
left in search of Polk to try to obtain an answer.
     The door to the office is open. The secretary of State decided to enter without
knocking. He never imagined finding an irate Polk who, having lost control and respect,
addresses Buchanan with shouts heard throughout the White House.
     --Are you obtuse--he fired point-blank, lost in rage, as soon as he put a foot in
the office. --That declaration issued to the foreign governments was unnecessary and
improper. Do you not understand even with the position you occupy?--he directed at his
subaltern with a volcanic glare. --The causes of the war, note well, were already
sufficiently explained in my message to Congress which was covered by all the world
press. James--he added trying uselessly to contain himself--Of course we are not launched
on a war for conquest, yet, why did you have to mention California and Nuevo Mexico? Do
you not understand that, as the French say, qui'l se excuse, sa acuse? Maybe you
never imagined that upon making peace we might try to obtain California and all the parts
of the Mexican territory that will suffice to satisfy the claims of our citizens against
Mexico, in addition to the expenses of war that that power, with its continuous attacks
and injuries, has caused us? Did you not understand until today that we have to inflate
the bill so that indemnification is never achieved? Do you think that North American
contributors are going to have to pay for this war provoked by Mexico? Was it not evident
that they would have to pay us with land? What devil possessed you to bring into the
conversation the words California and Nuevo Mexico when nobody, absolutely no one should
have in their head the idea that this whole war is to gain those territories and you,
James, go and say something which until today very few suspected?
     --It's that I...
     --It's that nothing...! You have compromised me with the entire world and if I fire
you now everyone will say I did it because you revealed my plans, such that I have no
other alternative but to tolerate it from here on...
     --Silence, now! Do you understand? Shut up!
     --I will not shut up. I have the right to speak even if it is the last thing that I
     --Polk noticed that the door of his office was open and that all the personnel would
already be informing themselves of the conflict. He went to quickly close it while
through Buchanan's burned and fearful mind passed the thought that he was coming to hit
him; to such extremes had the president lost his stirrups.
     The secretary of State argued in his defense, hiding as he could the worry about
the offensive lack of respect, that if the reach and motives of the war were not well
explained to France and England and it were not clear that California was not in the
sights of the United States, those powers could join with Mexico against our country in
order to avoid what they could understand as a dispossession...
     Polk refuted him alleging he might already have forgotten the pact subscribed with
England relating to their surrender of Oregon and the English promise not to support
     --Not even in a war, sir?--asked Buchanan. --I would not be so sure that England
would not intervene in favor of Mexico if the English become aware that our desires are
to appropriate California and Nuevo Mexico for better or for worse. I thought it was
better to demarcate our intentions so that concerns would not emerge on their parts and
complicate our war plans.
     --Hear me well, James and never forget this as I end my conversation with you today:
"Before I would promise not to obtain California I would make war on England and on
France and on all the powers of Christendom that oppose me. Know that I shall remain firm
and fight until the last person of this nation falls as a consequence of the conflict."
     --Mr. president...
     --We are finished--responded Polk. --Tomorrow, with more calm, we shall continue the
conversation--he added to soothe his secretary of State.
     --Do you not speak English...?
     At the door Buchanan crosses with the director of the Washington Union. Polk
gives him very precise instructions in his role as first executive of one of the most
influential newspapers in the capital of the United States. The orders are already
written on a paper without signature. There is no room for interpretation. These are the
eight columns. Taylor's triumphs should be divulged. The grandeur of the North American
army has been proven. The Mexican threat should be recognized and considered in all its
extremes and dangers...
     On the following morning the newspaper dawns with those notes on the front page. The
White House chief prepared public opinion, as also his nation's Congress. His intentions
could not have been more clear, even when he transferred the stone and quickly hid his
hand: "We shall conduct a war against Mexico with all the vigor in our power... We will
invade the territory, take all their strongholds, forts and bastions, even take the
capital if no other way exists to achieve a sense of justice."
     The Mercury stated: "We do not throw away the precious joy of our liberty for
the greed of looting and the pride of conquest."
     The Times asserted: "Are we prepared to raise to our level of equality, to our
social and political position, the Mexicans who are nothing but some street dogs dying
of hunger?"
     The Mexicans are not adversaries worthy of our steel. They are a diminished enemy
very easy to defeat and incorporate into slavery, but ah, be careful because with each
annexed territory there will be more confrontations with the abolitionists, more
divisions within ourselves and more danger of a fratricidal war in the United States
which could divide this extraordinary nation in two. Pro-slavery versus abolitionists: we
shall end by creating two countries which the Founding Fathers never wanted...

Many businesspersons oppose the war against Mexico just as they rejected at the time the
annexation of Texas because that would be stimulating abolitionism and, therefore,
weakening the lucrative commercial relations with the south. Bank credit in New Orleans
immediately freezes. The price of cotton plummets. The price for freight takes off. The
amounts for insurance premiums against the possibility of attacks by Mexican pirates
rises. In certain sectors the economy is temporarily paralyzed. The complaints about Polk
begin. The questioning revolves around the true need for the war. Is it worth it? Let us
defend Texas and be done! Let us not enter armed conflict against our southern neighbor.
We comply only with the proposals for a defensive war. The bellicose effervescence grows.
In México it is still unknown that a formal declaration of war is making its way
with sails extended and good wind, across the north Atlantic, in the direction of the
port of Veracruz. It concerns a gigantic cannon that soon will make a target of the
National Palace in the central port. On the 25th of May Polk has a long conversation with
John Slidell, the frustrated plenipotentiary ambassador who tired of being slapped in
the face by all the Mexican authorities.
     Among the subjects discussed, Slidell professes his absolute incomprehension toward
the Mexicans. They do not understand that only the rich and successful men will be saved.
That God is not with the poor or with the failed. Why decline money, Mr. president, if
by having it one has all the sympathy and good will of the Lord? With 30 million dollars
in exchange for some territories they do not even know, they might well have
reconstructed their country and, at least, clothe, feed and educate their people.
Impossible!  A Mexican rejects the table of salvation even with the imminent danger of
drowning if they have to compromise their public image.
     But was it not said that they would sell to the highest bidder in exchange for two
     They will always sell when nobody can see them or expose their political prestige.
     And were you not able to deliver the bribe with all discretion?
     No, because Paredes never would have requested authorization from Congress to sell
the territory nor would the latter have granted it: the Mexican people would have
devoured them in several bites. It was impossible to keep such a secret. The formalities
had to be performed in the open, in the sight of all, and thus the immobility was
     Polk spoke with John Slidell about various matters. In all his reasoning there
appeared his reiterated complaints about the gross conduct of the Mexican government
towards his person. To be slapped in the face or have the door slammed in it, was
equivalent to their doing so to me, John...
     In those moments and, given the good relations of confidence and even affection
between the ambassador and the president, the latter decided to tell Slidell of the
conversations that he had had the previous February with a certain Alejandro Atocha, a
Spanish gentleman of very artificial behavior to whom he would not entrust even a sorry
piece of sugar cane from our plantations in Louisiana. Polk told his interlocutor that
Santa Anna had informed him from Cuba, through Atocha, of his intentions to return to the
Presidency of México to help the United States in the acquisition of the intended
territories and that, furthermore, the Mexican ex-president had given him military advice
and shared strategies to facilitate the North American domination in his own nation. All
that, John, in exchange for 30 million dollars...
     President Polk expressed to him his skepticism regarding Atocha's approach, given
that--and why not--as much the message as the supposed Santannist ambassador could well
be part of a perverse trap pertaining to periods of war. Thanks to the discomfort that
the matter awakened, he had decided to send a personal representative to Cuba to
interview, without intermediaries, Santa Anna. Only in this way could he verify the true
intentions of the Napoleon of the West and would unmask in one motion, if that were the
case, his pretentious envoy. Slidell, without ceasing to be astonished at the boldness of
the Mexican ex-president, and without making the slightest comment concerning his concept
of patriotism, without imagining the response and as if he had thought of it all his
life, proposed the candidacy of his nephew, the commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie:
     --He, Mr. president, is bilingual. He is expert in Spanish, in addition to his being
a discreet and intelligent individual of military extraction. With regard to the
temperament and determination, I should tell you that it was precisely he, who in 1842
was in charge of the brigantine Somers when it suffered a mutiny on board. Well
then after discovering the rebels and locking them up, one of whom, it should not be
forgotten, was no one less than the son of John C. Spencer, at that time our secretary
of War, my nephew formed a war council on the high sea, in which three sentinels were
found guilty who were hanged the next day as an object lesson for the rest of the crew.
Upon his return Mackenzie was subjected to a court martial at the insistence of Spencer,
for what he called the assassination of his offspring, but was absolved of all the
charges and returned to the Somers with no consequences whatsoever. That is our man,
     Polk accepted the idea with the same rapidity with which Slidell had offered it.
After clearing up certain doubts in relation to his personal habits, and his actual
availability, given his commitments with the armed forces, and regarding the political
and diplomatic experience of the commander, he asked that a brief audience with him be
requested, to give him responsibility for that new secret mission.
     A few days later ambassador Slidell and his nephew, commander Slidell Mackenzie,
arrive at the White House to receive personal instructions from the president of the
United States. As was traditional and supposing that the military had knowledge of Polk's
intentions, they entered the subject fully without the least loss of time. Polk put
emphasis on certain fundamental aspects after revealing to the officer his conversations
with Atocha, as well as with Santa Anna's plans in relation to Mexico.
     I found myself to one side of the president when he instructed Mackenzie repeating
point by point the steps to follow, as if he had no other issue on his mind. He utilized
every one of the various fingers on his hand to ensure that no matter of enumeration
would escape. Left pinky: This! Left ring finger: That! Middle, index and thumb, those
over there... He counted looking fixedly into the face of his distinguished messenger.
There was no margin for error. There could not be one. Therefore he never delegated
anything to anyone.
     First: I wish to verify each and every one of Santa Anna's affirmations in relation
with the war strategy and his country's territories. What are his conditions for signing
a peace treaty? Second: for no reason should anyone find out about this secret mission
for which I am entrusting to you. Flee from the journalists. Beginning today abstain from
explaining your presence in Washington and, above all, the reasons for which you visited
the White House. Third: you should memorize this conversation so that you bring nothing
written or compromising with you, except the documents which I will give you later. This
note contains my offer to Señor Santa Anna. As you will see it does not carry a
signature or official seals or letterhead. You should memorize it and destroy it so as
to leave no track, much much less with the subject with whom we are negotiating. Fourth:
you affirm my offer of 30 million in exchange for Nuevo Mexico and California. Fifth: in
this letter from secretary Bancroft addressed to commodore Conner, anchored in the port
of Veracruz, consist the instructions for the naval blockade to be broken and Santa Anna
and his companions to pass. These orders were already sent at the time to Connor, but
Santa Anna should carry a copy of them for better identification. The head of our fleet
will require it in order to allow them to pass into continental Mexican territory.
Seventh: you will return directly to Washington, without stopping anywhere, to inform me
of what occurred and how it worked in consequence. Eighth: you will set sail from Norfolk
next 6th of June aboard the brigantine Truxtun bound for Havana. Once there the
consul Campbell will bring you before the presence of Santa Anna.
     Mackenzie reflected in silence on his nautical experience: A brigantine with two
sails...? A month! At the end of the first week in July I will be seated, face to face,
with Santa Anna. I hope that we have good winds...
     The meeting had been very brief. Polk had been very clear. Slidell Mackenzie had
understood his instructions. As he departed the White House in an open carriage enjoying
the temperature of a sunny day at the end of spring in 1846, the ambassador was sure that
possibilities for achieving a great career at the president's side depended upon the
success of the negotiation. You have a splendid future in your hands... Can you imagine
how many would envy your position? You will be alone. Nobody will be able to help. The
results depend on you. Good luck!
     We already saw the rigidity of Slidell Mackenzie's strict military formation in
complying with "the very letter" of his orders...
     That night Polk set down in his diary: God chose the United States to regenerate the
decadent population of Mexico. Today, in determining the re-installation of Santa Anna as
dictator, I took the first step towards dismembering Mexico. I hope that the operation
will be quick."
     It was just that neither contracting Slidell Mackenzie nor Santa Anna's re-
installation in the Mexican Presidency nor the triumphs at Resaca de la Palma and Palo
Alto nor the order to blockade Mexican ports and launch military expeditions to Nuevo
Mexico and California and take those territories in the name of the United States were
sufficient to calm the voracity of Polk. Santa Anna? He was capable of tricking himself.
He stole single-handedly. Such as they told me, on one occasion the famous dictator was
getting dressed and on putting his hand in the left pocket of his pants he found some
silver coins. He considered, in silence, arching his brows before the mirror, the origin
of the money, how had it arrived there...? It was then that, once he had turned to both
sides to make sure no one saw him, he rapidly switched the coins into the right pocket
and continued very coolly: he had committed his everyday misdemeanor...
     No, no: the idea of dispatching Mackenzie was very good, obviously, yet at that
instant he might miss a meeting with secretary Marcy to study the possibilities of
attacking Monterrey and Tampico. Had not Santa Anna himself, by means of Atocha, advised
him at the beginning of the year? When Monterrey falls half of the Mexican force will

In Cuba, meanwhile, in the middle of the spring of 1846, Santa Anna poses for a new bust
in bronze consigned to a French sculptor Guillaume Noire, from the shop of Isabella
Ribeaux. His desire is to appear with his face lifted and defiant gaze imagining the
cupola at Les Invalides, in Paris, where the emperor Napoleon, emperor of all
of France, rests forever. In such a pose, a tailor from Havana, Francisco Betancourt,
tries out his new outfit of pants and shirt made from imported white cotton fabric.
Before an immense mirror adorning the wall at his Hall of Glory the complete body is
admired, fully dressed, without the wooden hoof distorting his image. The reflection that
he contemplates is much bigger than his own vanity. Trying on the clothes requires
solitude and silence. It helps the happy moment of contemplation. He adores the front and
the profile, with his chest inflated, the belly flat and the back erect. The fallen
shoulders and the ungainly figure correspond to defeated men, to the resigned, to those
who have lost all hope in life. By the tone of the shout, festive or rabid, squeaky or
hoarse, sonorous or weak, suppressed or piercing, "Scissors," as Santa Anna fondly
calls Francisco, already knows whether he was affirmed or not in the courts, if it had
or had not been to the liking of His Illustriousness. It is always said in family that
a man as vain as the Mexican ex-president requires perfection in his apparel. If the
outfit does not impress, even when it may be due to the obesity of the model, he, the
tailor, will always bear the responsibility.
     Santa Anna will shine splendidly well in his external aspect, tall, slender, lacking
the slightest stomach protuberance, eyes the color of dark coffee, eyelashes naturally
long and curly, long and very well cut sideburns, clean nails with white edges,
varnished, black silky hair, a trimmed beard, in the mid-afternoon blue, the gaze of an
eagle, never that of a raven like Sam Houston. The Savior of the Nation has white, very
well cared for skin, impeccably shaven, to the extreme of shaving the slightest
roughness. At any hour of the day he is seen fresh and shimmering, as if moments before
he had taken a tub or steam bath. He never fails to perfume himself with heliotrope
water mixed with petals of white roses to initiate an intimate dialogue with those women
who, other than flattering him with a simple genuflection, still dare to approach him
excessively during the interchange of social greetings. The hygienic care of his person
reaches the extreme of placing melted wax, lightly warmed, on the inside of his nostrils
so that, upon drying, the barber Mambón will yank the hairs from his nose
with a single pull, causing the howl to be heard the length and width of Havana.
Everything for gallantry, right Mambón?
     When seeing himself reflected in the mirror he will never think of his catastrophic
presidential efforts nor will remember his military failures nor dwell on the coups of
State that he himself fathered and even executed which have so unbalanced the nation,
no, it will not pass through his mind the number of times he beheaded prisoner soldiers,
and he will prefer to avoid the subject of the killings at Zacatecas, in the same way in
which he will not remember the loss of Tejas. Tejas, which Tejas? Texas in any case from
here forward until the end of history, will not wish to revisit the memory of the
ignominious and secret clauses contained in the Treaty of Velasco which he signed in
exchange for saving his hide in his capacity as Father of the Nation. No, no, in the
mirror he will always be seen as His Excellency, as the Meritorious of Tampico and
Veracruz, as the Mexican Caesar and even as the Napoleon of the West, among so
many more titles to help him feel the unnerving contact with glory.
     On occasions, after the tests by the tailor or of posing before the bust sculptor
for posterity or visiting his fighting cock farm several times a day to supervise the
hygiene and nutrition of his animals, once the reading is concluded of letters sent from
México or the United States and of answering his correspondents in a fine hand with
not very good orthography or of meeting with visitors, the majority of them members of
the army or representatives of the clergy, both Mexican, when suddenly he found idleness
within reach, once his cachumba classes were over, he would go to ride horseback,
galloping at times on the beach or he launched on a furious race between the aisles of
banana trees and if even in this way he did not manage to unburden because the feeling of
remoteness and absence of recognition devoured him from within, then the fixation
assaulted him: Lola, Lolita, Lola. Where might Dolores be?
     Then, suddenly desperate, as if a passing fury had taken possession of him, he could
be seen dismounting from horseback after aiming it almost into the vestibule of the
house, where he physically passed the reins to the nearest stableman, because they were
to wait for him in different parts of the ranch so as not to be bothered with tying up
the beast, and hurriedly entered the residence in search of Lola, Lolaaaa? Looolaaaa!
shouting like crazy, hitting his boots with the whip, requiring the immediate presence of
his woman. When he heard her voice coming from the gardens or from the kitchen or the
sewing room or the Hall of Glory, where she liked to be to care for the details of the
decorations or the uniforms or the flags, until His Excellency rushed in limping to take
the hand of his wife and lead her to his rooms in the upper part of the house. Of course
from this distance it was impossible to contemplate the Peak of Orizaba, yet there,
without Veracruz and far from his land, from his environment and from the majority of
his people, possessed that woman once and again without conceding to her, in the majority
of cases, the opportunity to undress. It was sufficient to lay her down and lift her
petticoats to consummate the pressure without considering the desires or the pleas of his
young and beautiful spouse.
     Many of his nearest collaborators, as well might be the fighting cocks chief,
so named by His Excellency to note his rise in the strict hierarchy, remembered how the
Caesar insistently asked the service with badly dissimulated anxiety for Lolita's exact
whereabouts, until he went searching for her to possess her if the occasion was
propitious. How the demureness of his wife, at times inexplicable, irritated him!
Therefore, precisely because of that, when he returned walking slowly through the banana
rows, helped by his cane in the fashion of a white tortoise covered with sea foam, he
soon saw a native girl carrying a large plant, and unburdened her of her tremendous
effort and thus, feeling enervated by the musky perfume she emitted, after giving her a
generous gratification, the ex-president slid open the straps of her neckline holding the
girl by the shoulders and thus, without delay, removed her blouse and skirt leaving her
exposed to the sun like a stout goddess carved in ebony, whom he covered with kisses and
caresses, meanwhile murmuring his thanks to God for this splendid gift given to
well-to-do men. After all they already knew the weaknesses of the patron and they let him
go ahead as if beside a prince and, why not, for the pleasure of receiving some gold
coins, useful for survival in case of firing...
     I myself was present when at night or after the indispensable siesta or, lost in
nocturnal fantasies, he simply turned in the bed, smoothed his appearance, and without
awakening, or maybe already awake, as if he were the victim of wild instinct, possessed
Lola without speaking, without consulting or asking her: he made her his amongst
unintelligible groaning and a soft and inviting resistance. The same happened when he did
not receive the opportune notices from Mexico or, in recent times, when the awaited
letter did not arrive with the exact dates to return to power and defend the nation from
the tricky North American attack. What is he up to, that he does not write? The mail coming
from Washington reached Havana one week before Mexico City. For that reason he knew,
before the government headed by Paredes, the news of the declaration of war against
México by the president and the Congress of the United States. What a grand
opportunity life presented on a silver platter to be able to avenge the sorrowful affront
of San Jacinto! He would cause all the Sam Houstons, Polks and Andrew Jacksons of
history to choke on their words one by one. Expensively, very dearly would the North
Americans pay for the humiliations received exactly ten years before, when Tejas was
still Mexican.
     Santa Anna did not discuss with anyone, of course not, that he had given a set of
advice on military strategy to the White House chief to speed the Mexican defeat and
thus, and only thus, facilitate the annexation of California and Nuevo Mexico. The last
of Atocha's meetings with Polk had been in February and, since then, almost four months
had elapsed without any secret ambassador from the yankee President presenting themself
at his ranch in Havana to prove the veracity of his proposal. Had Polk not believed
anything? Very soon the declaration of war would be in Paredes' hands and, nevertheless,
Santa Anna had not been summoned nor did he apparently form part of Polk's war strategy
and that of the High Command. In any event he would try to continue with the execution of
his plans beside Gómez Farías, without knowing that the latter had been arrested for
a very short period, together with some ex-ministers such as Trigueros and Lombardo,
Sierra and Rosso, Santa Anna's personal lawyer, for their participation in the conspiracy
hatched against Paredes.
     The apprehension of those who promoted the repatriation of the Visible Instrument of
God would set back the plans to overthrow the government of Paredes, who had intercepted
the letters sent between Cuba and México, those exchanged by the "loyalists" and
therefore he knew in detail the strategy to remove him from his high office.
     Wherever you may find yourself, damned Atocha, you should send a line. How can you
dare to leave me starving for news for so long? Will someone come to see me on the part
of Polk? Do they not believe me that I can help them in exchange for an almost symbolic
remuneration? Do they think I will not keep my promises? Lowly yankees! Where are you
Atocha? Where is Polk's envoy? Pea-headed impostor! You only wanted to travel at my side
with a great budget, true...? Well your foolishness is already over...
     In those days, when his anxiety overflowed he sought out Dolores wherever to possess
her in dreams or in reality. The more she resisted for feminine reasons, the more
deafness the dictator appeared to have. Thus, he looked for her day and night, in the
afternoon or in the morning after frenetically hitting the bongos, in the garden, at the
beach, in the sewing room, in the Hall of Glory, in the kitchen, while Dolores put the
finishing touches of cream and sausage on the eggs a la veracruzana prepared for
lunch, on the banks of the pond, the eye of the water, where so often he had dedicated
himself to enjoy the exquisite pleasures of touch.
     When the notices coming from Mexico did not arrive, the recurrent moments of love
with Lola or with any of the mulattas that he took in hand consoled his uneasiness,
helped him to extinguish, or at least reduce, the interior fire that devoured him; so
then, when the letters signed by don Valentín or by general Salas or from Canalizo
or any other of his followers, for whatever reasons, arrived on time and with due
informative abundance, then the grounds for celebration were such that neither lady Lola
nor all the natives dressed in grass skirts could please him even with a carnival to
celebrate the happy news.
     Paredes never imagined, thought Santa Anna during his long walks on foot through the
immensity of the farm, that he would be the president of the Republic, to whom would fall
the enviable privilege of opening the waxed letter containing nothing less than a
declaration of war on the part of the United States. When Mariano reads the letter with
president Polk's signature, he will feel that the roof of the National Palace is falling
down on him leaving him buried beneath the debris together with that which was
Montezuma Palace. If I know him: he was born a coward, is a coward and will die a
coward. For me it would be a distinction to receive such a missive, an invitation to a
formal duel to defend the country's honor and territorial integrity; for Mariano it will
be a slam to the face, a kick in the testicles, a blow delivered with a white glove
filled with steel, a terrible crossroads so as to save his dignity without being exposed
as what he is, a small man, very little, insignificant, who does not attain to the height
of the historical circumstances. What a way to waste a true honor...! Let them declare
war on me, damned bastards... That I would like to see...
     The news of the two successive defeats of Arista at Taylor's hands, in Palo Alto and
Resaca de la Palma, begins to arrive in Mexico City. It becomes publicly known that, in
his precipitate and no less undignified flight, after abandoning men, field, cannons,
muskets, and other arms and equipment, he had gone to take refuge in Matamoros and that,
still pursued closely by the North Americans, he requested, required, and claimed,
desperate, the sending of reinforcements to prevent the movement of the enemy to Plateros
street itself, that which leads to the Plaza of the Constitution of 1824 in the center
of the capital of the Republic. Paredes orders the replacement of Arista. As well as
being inept and cowardly, a traitor who, the previous year, had refused him support to
overthrow president Herrera. Now he had the opportunity not only to express contempt for
his courage, but also to remove his from his position with every justification. My
general: you are useless. Leave! Arriving in his place is general Francisco Mejía.
"The distinguished honor now falls on you of causing the invading yankees to return to
beyond the Nueces river. Fulfill your patriotic and military duties: expel them from the
Tamaulipan territory..."
     While Slidell Mackenzie sails en route to Havana, the declaration of North American
war makes its way to Mexico City. It will take between four and five weeks to arrive
beginning the 13th of May. On the 12th of June the Mexican Congress officially and
legally names Mariano Paredes and Nicolás Bravo president and vice-president of the
Republic, respectively. Now they will be Executive officials under the law and not only
in fact.
     One day after taking possession and of surrendering his formal protest as head of
the Mexican State, when he was barely finished adjusting the tricolor band across his so
often decorated chest, the general Mariano Paredes Arrillaga finds, atop the black
leather cover of his desk, a mysterious envelope that displays the bald eagle of North
America with the legend E pluribus unum in the upper left corner. One of the
claws of the animal, the left, keeps a grip on 13 arrows, the force and the power of the
original colonies. The right exhibits an olive branch also with 13 leaves representing
the desired peace...
     Afterwards...afterwards the two of us looked at the white envelope, immobile and
defiant. The two of us contemplated it fixedly. The two of us anticipated its content.
Under diplomatic forms, exquisite and refined, a genteel notification is used in order
to inform of the use of force to kill, destroy and sack without any consideration. It is
a notice that nations give before unleashing barbarism and descending into animality. It
is international civilization at its maximum expression. The two of us understand that on
reading the message life will change for him, as my own will alter, that of everyone,
that of the entire nation which must accustom itself to another political geography, to
other borders, to other boundaries, as well as making whole families mourn who will place
black wreaths in the halls of their houses or on the doors of their huts. How do they
dare talk of peace...?
     The smiles that the Legislative Assembly returned when they awarded him a strenuous
ovation upon assuming the position, were about to immediately freeze for the new Mexican
head of State. Consul Black himself of the United States had carried the missive, in
accord with Polk's instructions, to deliver it by hand to the president of the Mexican
Republic. The North American diplomat had spent the entire morning in the antechamber
waiting for a meeting with Paredes. He had come without a previous appointment given the
urgency of the matter to treat. He will return later to discuss the message sent by his
     That day, the 13th of June in 1846, precisely on the morning when Paredes Arrillaga
had taken charge of the most important office in México, moments after having
removed his three-corner hat and frock coat and having left on a chair the indispensable
white gloves and the long curved saber with a gold handle, without attached jewels nor
writing on the refulgent steel, at that precise instant when, in accordance with the
Constitution and the laws which emanate from it, he set out to resolve the destiny of
the country seated on the green velvet armchair with the figure of an eagle devouring a
serpent bordered with gold threads on the raised back, at the moment when the
presidential investiture weighed on him more heavily than the flagstone of the famous
Pípila, the hero of the Granaditas Corn Exchange, nothing more inopportune,
devastating and maddening than to find oneself with a letter originating in Washington,
from the office of the president of the United States, which no head of the Mexican
State, nor of any other nation, would have wanted to receive at any cost or under any
     Paredes Arrillaga had known through Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, the Mexican ambassador
during the final part of the situation with President Tyler and the beginning of Polk's
mandate in 1845, the responses given to the White House on the part of the government of
the Republic relative to the Mexican refusal to sell anything, not a square yard or an
acre or a cactus stand or an oak tree or a sad cornfield no matter how dry and
abandoned it might be. We do not sell our land or our eyes or our children: we sell
nothing. Because of course, as opposed to you, we believe that not everything is
     The Mexican diplomat had revealed to Paredes the military capacity of the United
States. He brought word of its bellicose character and of the professional formation of
its cadets in various North American academies specialized in the arts of war. The fact
was known that that country could unite in a very short period a surprising force of
volunteers disposed to defend their nation. Recruitment would never be a problem. The
draft did not exist, that co-active recruitment so diffused throughout Mexico. It was
enough to remember the heroic deeds executed by the Minute Men during the years of the
War of Independence. A short and hasty trumpet-call at dawn was sufficient to bring to
their feet, armed with muskets, thousands of civilians turned soldiers. A significant
part of the military budget was destined for improvement of the army, seeing that the
economic resources arrived effectively into the army's coffers. They would defend their
own with tons of powder and also that which they have robbed, Mr. president... Believe
me, the United States is the biggest gang of thugs known in history and is now perfectly
armed so that no one will dare to protest or to criticize their thefts.
     For some reason, when they floated a new frigate with three horizontals at some
port on the Atlantic coast, they immediately informed the diplomatic corps accredited in
Washington of the novel destructive capacities of the ship, precisely to impress them,
so that, in their monthly reports to their countries of origin, they would not neglect
to mention the strength, in this instance naval, of North America. Why do they send the
USS Congress to Europe on a good will visit, endowed with an impressive artillery
capacity? West Point, for its part, also performed recurrent military practices and
exercises in the facilities of the academy and, later, served a grand lunch to the
foreign guests so as to divulge, dissimulating, their new advances in matters of
armaments. No one should overlook North American military strength. Only obtuse
mentalities could fool themselves denying the consequences of a bellicose conflict with
that which very soon would be known as the Colossus of the North.
     In the same office where Santa Anna learned of the demise of Inés, the same
office where daily the history of México was being written, Mariano Paredes took off
a corner of the envelope assisted by his teeth. Only a few occasions had taken place in
the National Palace. Paredes preferred to hold them in the mezzanine of the Rail Palace
or in the post office, a place where "the blessed and the blest met, the attendants of
nuns, parish clerks, devout nephews, and remorseful sinners," according to Guillermo
Prieto's account... In the next act, instead of using the silver Zacatecan letter-opener
placed on the out-box tray, he inserted his index finger to quickly tear the wrapping.
Impossible to hide his anxiety. There was no time for exquisite refinements. He extracted
the paper, anxiously unfolded it and read as he could the diplomatic note, in which they
made known to him the state of war between the two nations, along with an initial
declaration of hostilities.
     Paredes gave a leap in the chair as if he had suddenly sat on a hot iron. He
suddenly stood up holding the missive between his fingers. The text burned his hands. He
contracted the muscles of his face. He instinctively fixed his gaze on the decor. He
sought explanations. Exits. Last minute solutions. Perhaps an intelligent evasion. The
president immediately became pallid. He felt himself perishing buried by the weight of
the responsibility. His hands froze. A cold sweat covered his whole body, while his mouth
became dry with his tongue stuck to his palate. The severe heartbeats in his chest
signaled the terrible gravity of the situation. He felt lost and alone at one of the
most critical crossroads in the nation's history. He knew he was a coup artist and
ultimately, at root, despised by society.
     Can it be true, or maybe I was only dreaming...? No, it could not be real. We always
thought that Polk would be the same as Andrew Jackson, as Martin van Buren, as William
Henry Harrison, and as John Tyler: all of them presidents expert in threats and in
blackmail, yet incapable of moving on to deeds. Only this time it has gone too far. The
error in calculation, the irresponsible generalization, will be paid with blood, land,
deaths, and disgrace. Why had he not been alert to the presence of a Polk, a ruffian, an
assailant who will go far implementing a long tradition of spoliation within a politics
of cynical expansionism?
     Why, why a war between México and the United States precisely during my
administration? Why, why me...? Why me...? Why not Herrera? Why not Santa Anna...?
Why, why me...? Why not Bustamante, Bravo, Lucas Alamán, or Canalizo, the clown,
pipeline to 15 Nails? Why not await the arrival of don Enrique of Spain to be crowned
sovereign of Mexico, the foreign king, the Spaniard of a pure strain who we Mexicans need
to govern our country and be respected by the United States? Time, time, I need time...
Yes, yes, but it was already too late. The facts had been consummated and the
circumstances had overtaken him: he now lacked any margin to maneuver. An armed conflict
between the United States and México, with a bankrupt treasury, a disunited divided
nation, skeptical and apathetic, with an army consisting of "brigades of generals instead
of generals of brigades," without strategic knowledge or modern and sufficient military
equipment, expert among themselves in the most sophisticated techniques for coups of
State, a war in such conditions comprised a complete suicide.
     He violently threw the letter onto the desk. He looked out the window to contemplate
the passers-by in the Plaza de la Constitución. He suddenly imagined several
battalions of North American soldiers, handsomely uniformed, dedicating honors to the
stars and stripes flag located on the pole of a defiled National Palace, invaded by
foreigners: the catastrophic proof that México had fallen into foreign hands. The
future of the nation was now indecipherable. The North Americans openly sang their hymn
with their right hand on their chest, while some drums and trumpets kept time for the
ceremony. They sang with an intimidating enthusiasm. They seemed to have intoned the
melody and the words all their lives.
     We Mexicans have lost the sun: now we do not control our own country. Impossible to
bear those images. Montezuma had felt the same sensation when he was informed that the
Spaniards, armed with weapons of fire, were passing Popocatépetl en route to the great
Tenochtitlán, much despite his ostentatious gifts and warnings. He had not managed
to make them desist from invading. They came, also, to take power over everything
Mexican. They would arrive with the destructive force of an imposing flood. He retreated
from the window without knowing, for now, what to do with his hands, what to do with the
situation, where to lead, what to do, regarding the press and public opinion, with the
sinister letter sent by Polk; what to do with himself, with the general-president, with
his political image, what to do with the Congress, what to do with the army, what to do
to defend now not only territorial integrity, but the very survival of Mexico, preventing
the whole country from being swallowed in a single gulp by the damned money- and people-
eating foreigners, the pirates who require money with one hand with a pistol in the
other... What to do to rescue the nation from these assassin corsairs who kill in the
name of liberty, assault by supreme orders of God and burn, despoil, usurp, violate, and
steal with the protection of Divine Providence, such that their mischief and criminal
acts reinforce their army's confidence and security, and that of business and society in
general? It concerned, clearly, license and rights conceded by God exclusively to her
chosen, preferred race, her undoubted favorite. Everyone can go to the chingada!
     Why, why had Herrera been unseated with the pretext that he did not want to go to
war and appeared cowed, when in reality prudence and caution dictated the movements of
the ex-president? Why if when he had the best division of the Mexican army he had been
sent to the north by president Herrera himself, to defend the national territory, did he
order the troops to go to the capital of the Republic in order to depose the head of
State, instead of patriotically complying with his instructions? How he regretted it!
Horror! He was paying, and at a very elevated price, the cost of the treason. He would
never be able to allege in his defense that he had deposed Herrera for his repeated
refusals to go to war, when he too did not want military conflicts especially, much
less, with the United States. If he refused to initiate hostilities it would be evident
that Herrera's overthrow had become nothing more than a lame justification for taking
power at any price. A vulgarity. History would categorize him as a coup artist and an
authentic traitor. Such that the war was the war... Onwards to the front...!
     Why among dozens of presidents of México did it have to be precisely myself
upon whom the United States declares war? Damn, damn, daaaamn...! he said contemplating
himself before a mirror with a shiny frame located to one side of the meeting room door.
He felt as never before the uselessness of his sideburns, saw them as ridiculous for
some reason, just like his uniform with the top full of decorations placed on both sides
of the tricolor stripe. He understood the fatuity of his existence. What good were so
many awards and recognitions, demonstrations of power, prestige and authority if the
range of the North American artillery, as Arista's lieutenants had informed him, was much
superior to the Mexican firepower capacity? We shoot with a bow and arrow while the
enemies do so with cannons. My powers are hollow. I have no means of displaying them nor
using them. I have nothing. The only thing I have are portraits from the past. It was
then that I threw the great Prussian Cross of Honor to the ground, followed by angrily
discarding that given by the French Legion of Honor and thus both to the devil, to the
junk pile, to hell. I had the appearance of a demoted sergeant. Soon enough I would be
naked. What is all that except vanity and pedantry? Impossible to thus remain with
medals useless to an army of professionals.
     He took off the tricolor sash in silent fury, as if in tossing it onto the nearest
chair he might feel relieved of all national responsibility. His fierce and discomposed
face reflected an unknown hatred within him, while his famous goatee appeared more
protuberant than ever. His eyes shone with anger or, perhaps, with remorse. He
subsequently opened his deep sea-blue colored shirt, cuffs and collar bordered with
gold, and practically ripped the eye-holes and broke the gilded buttons. Once free of
the damned garment saturated with significance, taking it by the neckline, he spun it
with his right hand from bottom to top throwing it against the mirror on its first turn.
It did not cause the slightest damage. In his anger he went to his desk to take an inkwell
and fling it amidst curses against the figure whom he saw reflected. He wanted to convert
his image into shards like one who destroys a watch with a hammer for not being able to
slow the passage of time or hits someone in the mouth who shouts truths one does not want
to hear or burns the instruments in an orchestra to end the music and cancel all
possibility of re-entering that world of fantasies...
     Quite soon he is only dressed in his very ample white shirt and his snug pants of
the same color. The high black boots, perfectly polished, made him look like a dwarf at
the circus. Deprived of tinsel, makeup, shaves, and disguises, he contemplated himself as
an insignificant being. He then felt the need of getting dressed again in formally and to
keep dreaming. To again lift up the decorations and put them on his chest to be able to
be dignified and honorable again. If you take a Virgin from her elevated niche in a
cathedral and strip it depriving her of her little brocade dress and her cape, then it
will seem a sorry rag doll, absurdly manufactured, without any power or authority or
magic to impress the congregation. How important the wardrobe was! How many complexes
hide behind it!
     Soon the citizen president of the Republic, Sir general don Mariano Paredes
Arrillaga, gathered courage and kept looking at them a few more instants. How difficult
it is to dare to contemplate reality! He did not take his sight off the mirror, noticing,
with the movement of the minute hand of his clock on the wall, how he sank to the floor
unable to prevent it. Did he sink...? No, I was present at the moment when he fell on his
knees and covered his head with both arms. I was there at the most desperate moment of
his existence. After lamenting his luck one more time he moved backwards and leaned
against the wall. He remained so for a long time until he folded his legs so as to place
his hands on his knees. He then observed that not even his personal secretary had called
at the door. Apparently nothing urgent or important had been seen... Also, it would have
been inappropriate if his subaltern were to discover him in such a lamentable condition.
     The North American military forces had one additional advantage: they had already
been preparing and mobilizing for at least four weeks. To turn back at that moment?
Impossible! As well as foolishly looking like an authentic coward. Was it not very manly
to overthrow Herrera? Then he should continue being so at a time of military confrontation
with the yankee murderers of millions of indians, whom of course also had had their lands
robbed through bullets.
     Paredes had only completed one day legally installed in power and already felt
asphyxiated. Some cold stiff inclement hands took him by the collar and sadistically and
furiously thrashed his head against the wall. He needed to seek a graceful exit, or
would be eternally condemned. Stay in his position and confront, together with the entire
body of the Mexican army, the invaders who very soon would enter the country from all
sides like vultures arriving from the four cardinal points avid to devour the carrion?
Do not speak of it! The demonstration would be capital. Seek permission after 48 hours of
having humbly accepted the charge, but with the pretext of assuming control and
direction of the nation's defense? Do not speak of it! He would not carry responsibility
for the defeat. Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma would be Dante-like war scenes which
would repeat again and again until the yankee troops were to enter Mexico City. Commit
suicide in the style of the Japanese military performing harakiri, cleaving his belly
before accepting the loss of honor? Do not speak of it! Not even a shot in the head with
a bullet from his Belgian pistol with two percussion chambers with its mother of pearl
and silver handle. No one had returned from a stab in the lower belly or from such a
gunshot, yet it was understood that both injuries produced an intense pain, though it
may be momentary. Do not speak of it! Then? Then he would have time to seek a good
     The bad moment passed, with the sensation of shipwreck without land in sight 
temporarily superseded, for the North Americans will not parade tomorrow afternoon past
the church of la Profesa, true? Given the foregoing and, still having some time,
it would be best to put on the sailor blouse, gather up his awards and attach them to
the garment together with the tricolor stripe, authentic proof of his political power,
and demonstrate audacity, equilibrium, composure, that of a president, yes, yes, one had
to behave like a head of State, by no means like a child who no longer wants their toy
because it hurt their fingers. Thus he did so. With lordly repose, the pain confronted
and the initial discomfort of the news surpassed, he will adopt the posture of a chief.
There would always remain the old recourse for which such good results had been obtained
on the steep road to success: "Children can be fooled with toys, and the people with
words." He knew how to speak, would find the way to explain himself well, would
produce the adequate solution at the suitable juncture. In time, in time...
     Upon returning to his desk, once the blouse was arranged and his scarce hair smoothed,
seated on the presidential chair with his elbows placed on the top and his head supported
by both hands with his fingers intertwined, Paredes thought of alternatives. For now, he
said, why not diminish the pressure and drink a little, just a little brandy? A "shot,"
the perfect tool, irreplaceable for fleeing from reality even if only for a few hours.
He turned instinctively to the sides and not feeling watched, opened the right drawer to
extract a bottle of dark brown glass. He held it to the light in order to discover the
remaining quantity of liquid. He measured the drink to determine the level of euphoria and
the duration of the flight. He had more than enough to spend quite a while, sufficient to
observe the future from a white marble watchtower. The label seemed to have been cut from
old parchment. It was hand-lettered. The vintage seemed very old. Good liquor revives lost
courage. It lights the spirit. It shortens distances. Breaks the ice. It flushes the cheeks.
It reduces the size of the difficulties. It summons optimism. It awakens boldness. Stimulates
calm. It invites comprehension and communication. It extinguishes anxiety. Awakens your
optimism. It animates the contemplation of beauty. Reduces the dangerousness of adversaries.
It releases enjoyment of the happy moments and causes the sad ones to be forgotten. It
liberates generosity. Invites forgiveness. Induces understanding and tolerance. It unties
the emotions. It relieves the burdens of life. It revives the splendid being who lives
within us. It diminishes the size of the challenges. It threatens megalomania. It projects
the image of enemies in smaller proportions. The obstacles appear to be surmountable. It
causes petrified faces to smile and promotes love between mortals. Follow my example:
drink to all the intriguing women, my brothers, let us love, embrace and multiply...
     The president of the Republic spent the rest of the day drinking. He arranged his
ideas. He could not be molested. Apparently he had received a communication from
Washington that required all his attention.  No one should interrupt him. He had to be
left alone and thus he remained until doña Josefa Cortés de Paredes arrived at
the National Palace, accompanied as always by a pair of attendants, in search of an
explanation regarding the long absence of her husband. She had heard nothing from
him all day. The pleas to prevent her entering the presidential office were useless.
Madam Pepa did not take long to know the lamentable state of her spouse: he was drunker
than a barrel of ripe pulque. He would have to pray much more than one Our Father
to obtain pardon and confess himself more than once, so that the priests would know, in
live voice and first hand, the gravity of the national problems. What has made you drink
like this, my son? Tell this pastor of God the whole truth so that divine indulgence will
help you in your need... They never would stop profiting from the secrets of confession!
     Paredes knew that the Mexican attacks on the North American troops were justified in
full measure because they were defending the Tamaulipan territory. The strip between the
Bravo and the Nueces had never been Texian. One was clearly dealing with an intent to
rob, with barefaced dispossession, where the military actions would serve the United
States as a pretext to declare total war. North American blood had never been shed on
North American territory. Never! False, absolutely false!
     In the first place poison had been shed, never blood, for that was what ran in
yankee veins and, secondly, the battles had always taken place on Mexican soil, which
should be defended at any cost and with whatever is at hand. Polk lied. Polk deceived his
people. Polk hid the truth and, if he received support, it all was due to an alteration
of reality. It is clear that they were Puritans whenever it was convenient to them. They
resorted to lying, prohibited by Protestantism and equally sanctioned by Calvinism,
even when it would not be discovered. For that reason the war correspondents, the
representatives of the most recognized North American newspapers, even envoys of the
United States Senate, were not allowed to enter the conflicted areas, those where the
hostilities were developing. "You will understand that we prevent your entry. We protect
your physical integrity, also, it concerns protecting delicate matters of State..." Of
course, had they gone in, they would have immediately discovered that battles unfolded on
Mexican soil and that the abusive, assassins-for-hire yankees invaded foreign property...
     The great cynic might well have said: True! The declaration of war had been the
product of a deceit of Congress and the electorate, yet after all we already had a
declaration of war. A justification, if you prefer, very arguable, but like it or not, a
justification... Time would be occupied later with erasing all the details. In a nation
of immigrants, like ours, no one has a memory nor is interested in having one. There is
California or Nuevo Mexico and Texas. Do you want to live there and forget Prussia or
France or Spain or even England? Welcome! Set to work sowing or looking for flakes of
gold in the rivers or found a bank. Forget about the rest. It means developing the new
territories and not falling into the error of the Spanish Crown or that of independent
Mexico. The ideal would have been for Santa Anna to convene us to draft a new border
treaty and accrue the agreed price. Hopes still exist. We shall see the response from His
     Paredes knew too well that the North Americans kill for money and later disguise
their horrendous crimes alleging the cause of liberty and of democracy and the defense of
honor. They sadistically assassinate with their powerful weaponry, decorate their faces
with the blood of their enemies, generally incapable of defending themselves, shout like
madmen, dance a series of macabre steps around the victim, destroy villages and cities
with bombs, burn fields, churches and cathedrals to intimidate their adversaries and,
later, justify their sinister aggressions with infantile pretexts, hiding from their
electors and the society the only truth that they try to conceal: behind each attack is
an economic interest that always should be hidden from the eyes of public opinion so that
the latter always believes that its government defends justice, legality and democracy,
in synthesis, that their army worked as the promoter of universal well-being.
     To Polk, it is evident, only California interests him and he will disguise his true
intentions until annexing it with all the cunning, tricks, lies, and abuses that he has
within reach, in the name be it of God who always blesses us in our uses and our abuses.
Maybe it is not known that ever since 1825, the years of Poinsett, the North American
ambassadors accredited in Mexico had come to make economic offers in exchange for
territory? Guadalupe Victoria has refused them, just like Vicente Guerrero and
Bustamante, among other additional Mexican presidents. There, their intentions in plain
sight were Poinsett, Butler, Shannon, Ellis, and Thompson until reaching Slidell, who
now had not even been received despite his plenipotentiary character.
     The last conclusion to which Paredes arrived before losing lucidity concerned
the necessity of declaring war on the United States before México were to
disintegrate. He did not doubt that many Mexican states might request annexation from the
White House so as to ally themselves with a giant instead of continuing tied to one
starving of hunger incapable of imposing order and of prospering. To detach from the
Mexican political scheme in order to hook onto an enormous locomotive did not cease
being a temptation and, to do away with this, before it was too late, it was convenient
to unite the nation by means of an armed response against the greedy corsair. Certainly,
all that was valid and, nevertheless, Paredes does not respond with another declaration
of war because, in his judgment, it involves a legal authority belonging to the Mexican
Congress... The general-president, except when he dealt a coup d'etat against president
Herrera, has always respected the sovereignty and autonomy of conduct of the powers into
which the Republic finds itself divided... He will defend the nation however he considers
most convenient...
     The next day, of course already well into the morning, president Paredes ordered the
publication and diffusion of the war declaration on the part of the United States. It is
impossible to hide from the country that terrible reality or the range of such an unjust
attack. Would he perhaps publicly announce the beginning of hostilities when the yankees
had already placed their hateful flag on the bell-shaped towers of the Metropolitan
Cathedral? Of course not. The proclamation was read aloud in the Plaza of the
Constitution at all hours of the day. It also tried to inform the illiterate population,
more than 85 percent of the nation, of the ills that were overwhelming the nation. It is
the hour to unite: all Mexicans, standing up like a single person, should fight against a
formidable enemy whom we can defeat only if we take courage in hand and the dignity
inherited from our ancestors. The national circulation newspapers received the fatal
notice, locating it in the headlines with the largest letters available. The following
years would only be occupied with one subject: the war. The dying. The devastation. The
agony. The impotence. The humiliation, and the mutilation. The circulation of the
newspapers multiplied. Sales were limited because the majority nationally could not read
or write.
     Where are you going with a people with whom you cannot communicate, that is to say,
with a nation which speaks diverse dialects without anyone or very few understanding
each other and who also cannot access written resources due to the prevailing illiteracy?
Equal treatment of unequals yields an aberration. How to govern with such imbalances?
     There is the México of whiskey and that of pulque; that of the Bohemian crystal
cup and that of the taco; that of those who eat seated with fork, spoon and plate and
that of those who do it squatting and with their hands; that of nails cut and filed with
a white edge and that of fingers covered with dry clay; that of the beard trimmed in the
barber shop and that of the overflowing mustache of the vendor; that of perfume and
lavender and that of the rancid sweat of centuries; that of the English court and that of
the poncho blanket; that of the piano in three fourths time and that of the distant
harmonica or nostalgic guitar; that of the top hat and that of straw; that of the doctor
graduated abroad and that of the wizard who cures an ill wind with incense and ritual
dances; that of the silk handkerchief and that of the bandanna; that of the marble
bathroom and that of the rural outhouse; that of imported boots and that of huaraches;
that of the sedan and that of the oxen; that of the mansion in the capital and that of
the pestilent shanty; that of the travelers to Europe and that of those who never went
beyond their cornfield; that of those who express themselves in Castilian and those who
do so only with reliance on dialects; that of the home barbecue to heat food and that of
the fire pit; that of the bed and that of the backpack; that of the dirt floor and that
of the carpet; that of swimming pools and that of ponds...
     Paredes' doubts begin to assume overtones of reality. The periodical Don
Simplicio notes that, in Corpus Cristi, the North Americans have attracted the
sympathies of its inhabitants by the improvement they have realized... In Camargo, the
North American troops have helped the population with great efficiency during the flood
that they suffered that same year... They show their gratitude. The danger of a voluntary
request for annexation on the part of any state of the Republic grows with the advance of
the yankee troops. El Tiempo considered that if Mexico City vacillated, many Mexicans,
"understanding the immense weakness of the country," would not hesitate to annex to the
American Union. For that reason, the decision to declare war had to be made immediately
so as to impress the citizens themselves and to keep the nation united insofar as
possible. Did not Yucatán have an independent statute so that at any moment it too
might annex to the United States? Other newspapers adduce: "We cannot sign a treaty that
legalizes the usurpation. We should go to war until re-establishing things in the state
they were found before the first act of hostility by that nation."
     In approaching the subject of the sale of California and of Nuevo Mexico Martinillo
articulated in one of his columns:

     It is the essence of the buy-sell contract that consent be mutual and spontaneous.
     One cannot buy when the owner of something does not want to sell it. Sell to me or I
     will kill you, is the language of the robber. The threat proper to a bandit and not
     to a supposedly respectable nation that every morning sings in its schools and
     actual temples paeans to liberty and assumes submission to law as a symbol of public
     spirit so as not to behave like a barbarian resolving its differences with its
     hands, without having the least respect for foreign property. The North Americans
     have not evolved in terms of right: they keep thinking at the level of Paleolithic
     man. I like this. I possess it. Now it is mine. I am the stronger. Shut up!

Other dailies record: "The war should be offensive instead of defensive because otherwise
our moral force will be ruined forever." "The glory that you will give to the Mexican
name is that the hordes of thieves will learn a lesson from their audacity in shameful
defeats." "The United States is not a warrior nation or a conqueror but instead a
composite of all the vices." "The war is the only stance left to the Mexicans if they do
not want to lose everything." "We should carry the war forward until the North American
populations are converted into mountains of ruins."
     El Republicano recognized that the invading forces were superior to ours but
insisted again on a system of guerrillas and discarded all possibility of taking the
offensive. "We should continue the war before an ignominious peace makes México the
object of universal contempt. The war and nothing more than the war is the only path that
México should follow." "Any offer of mediation should be rejected despite the
country's situation being truly deplorable. If we want to keep our personality unharmed
we cannot give public demonstrations of impotence." "The Nation should battle and even
succumb yet with honor and dignity. Whoever maintains the need for peace should be
accused of factionalism, treason and degradation." "The defeat and dying on the
banks of the Sabina will be glorious but vile and execrable the peace signed in the
Palace in Mexico City. We should seek an alliance with Europe so that the assault from
the North does not do away with us."
     The Mexican extraordinary Congress authorizes repelling the bellicose aggression on
the 2nd of July in 1846. The first paragraph of the historic decree was dispatched in the
following terms:

     Decree of the Mexican Congress authorizing the Government to repel the aggression of
     the United States.
          Mariano Paredes Arrillaga, division general and interim president of the
     Mexican Republic, to all her inhabitants, know, that the Extraordinary National
     Congress has decreed the following:
          First Article: The government, in providing the natural defense of the nation,
     will repel the aggression which the United States of America has initiated and
     sustains against the Mexican Republic, having invaded and attacked in various of the
     States of her territory...
          Done in Mexico City, on July 2 of 1846. Anastasio Bustamante, deputy president.
     Manuel Larrainzar, deputy secretary. Luis M. de Herrera, deputy secretary.
          Therefore I order this printed, published, circulated, and given due
                        Palace of General Government in Mexico City
                        on the 2nd of July of 1846
                        Mariano Paredes Arrillaga

Paredes thinks about the only two warships that are the property of Mexico: the
Moctezuma and the Guadalupe. He immediately authorizes their movement
and their sale in Cuba with the idea of preventing their being sunk or captured by the
North Americans. The Cuban government embargoes them for not having liquidated their
pending amortization balances. To defend the Mexican coasts remain the brigantines
Mexicano, Veracruzano, Libre, and Zempoalteca, as well as the schooners Águila and
Libertad, the pilot boat Morelos and the gunships Guerrero, Queretana and Victoria,
all sail vessels. Paredes himself decides to protect the scarce Mexican naval force
sheltering them on the Alvarado River. The high command of the navy is opposed. It
would be enough, they allege, if the yankees impose a blockade at the opening of
that same river for us to remain without our schooners, pilot boat and brigantines.
We shall leave all the Mexican ports at the disposition of the North Americans, sir!
History would not delay to concede his point.
     The Mexican perform an internal review, looking in the mirror when they notice that
a majority of the states into which the country is divided are not disposed to send help
in the form of "men and resources or actually openly refuse them, some finding themselves
in frank rebellion against the center or divided into local bands such as occurred in
Tabasco, Chihuahua and California, for they considered the foreign war as a war against
Centralism or attempted to consider it with partisan self-interest." How is it possible
that in an invaded nation there are states who declare themselves neutral because the
wars of the nation are not necessarily theirs? We have here the beginning of the
disintegration of the country. Puebla? Neutral. The state of México? Neutral.
Yucatán? Neutral. Why keep on counting...? Future shock...
     In full martial effervescence, when the drums of war are heard in North America and
the trumpets call to the defense of the homeland, when both sides promise to wash away
the offenses, vexations and humiliations in blood and each of the adversaries claims to
have the legal, as well as moral reason, life, full of paradoxes and chance, puts the
golden opportunity into Paredes' hands, the desired, the required so as to renounce the
Presidency of the Republic saving his honor, leaving his patriotic convictions intact and
demonstrating, to his people and to foreigners, his sense of honor and of military
     During the process of invasion by the North American army, an armed uprising against
Paredes is produced in Guadalajara. They insist on calling him a traitor for his known
intentions of bringing a Spanish monarch to rule the destiny of México. He is also
accused of cowardice for not declaring war. The same movement proposes the restoration
of Federalism and most surprisingly solicits the immediate repatriation of Antonio
López de Santa Anna to put him in charge, once again, of the Presidency of the
Republic. Mr. Valentín Gómez Farías and his sons, as well as the rest of those
involved in the political conspiracy, smile within the fullness of their intimacy. A
coup d'etat with a full war and the nation already invaded.
     In the armed uprising Paredes finds the happy opportunity of escaping from his
elevated charge and becoming a president stripped of his own powers. On the 27th of July
in 1846, on a mid-summer morning, he untimely renounces the Presidency of the Republic.
The monarchical project that he himself wished to launch a month ago ultimately
spectacularly aborts. He delivers command to his vice-president, the general Nicolás
Bravo, together with the tricolor sash and the 3,000 men to protect the capital. We have
here the new head of the Mexican State. Reasons? He will cause the rebels to be crushed,
will institute a War Council and, after a summary judgment, will condemn them to be
brought by force before a certain firing squad. I need to impose order through exemplary
means: we shall do away with the rebels and with the cowards. In this nation there is no
room for the pusillanimous nor for traitors, especially when we are invaded! Evil-doers:
you will know the edge of my sword... Once this task is done, he will march to the north.
He will lead the Mexican army to defend the nation materially devastating the invading
troops. Let not one yankee soldier remain alive within the national territory! Have you
understood me...?
     Herrera had overthrown Santa Anna at the end of 1844. Paredes Arrillaga had
overthrown Herrera, in turn, in January of 1845. Paredes had renounced the Presidency
the 27th of July of that 1846 and one week later, on the 4th of August in 1846, at 5:30
in the afternoon a thunderous cannon-blast, shot from the Citadel marked the beginning
of the return of Santa Anna to power. The Mexican Caesar can hear it smilingly in Cuba.
A new chapter opens in the sorrowful history of México. The general José Mariano
Salas, in disguised representation of the Meritorious of Veracruz, demands Bravo's
capitulation, who, in a desperate movement and trying to avoid a coup d'etat, changes
Paredes' cabinet and confirms the validity of the organic bases, only to renounce the
Presidency after having held it for one week...
     Salas convenes a Congress to restore the Federal Constitution of 1824. Anyone could
be a candidate or constituent deputy who wanted to be, without limitation of personal
income nor display of their property assets. Likewise, he soon causes Paredes to be
arrested in order to make himself the complete owner of the situation and so clear the
road for His Excellency towards leadership of the nation or, at least, toward leadership
of the Mexican army, during the most compromising and dramatic moments of its short life
as an independent nation. Salas, Salas, why Salas, my most nauseating enemy, Paredes would
say remembering the drunkenness that 7th of April in 1843 when precisely general Salas
accused Santa Anna of a state of intoxication and, for that His Excellency dismissed him
as governing head of the capital of the Republic? Then and there the processes of
revenge started.
     Taylor is left without an adversary. A parenthesis opens in the war. How can the
Mexicans grab at power when a foreign power has intervened militarily? Valentín
Gómez Farías rubs his hands. He will return to being vice-president like in 1833.
He will lash out again against the economic interests of the Catholic Church and will
put the army in order. This time he will not fail. One would have a very short time to
live who lacked time to notice, with horror, the behavior of the Mexican clergy during
the war against the United States. The adjectives simply impose themselves.
     It is my duty to simply report here a few paragraphs from a letter sent by the
Spanish ambassador, Mr. Salvador Bermúdez de Castro, the most distinguished
ally of president Paredes, together with Lucas Alamán, in the conspiracy to bring
don Enrique of Spain with the goal of occupying the Mexican throne. This missive drafted
by a foreign diplomat never stops surprising with the vision they had of our nation in
those unfortunate years of confusion, instability and disorder, precisely during moments
when Mexico was invaded and the enemies, furious destroyers, advanced toward the capital

     I, I who lived through those years, can describe the faces of my dear colleagues,
     the foreign diplomats accredited in that nation, when we observed that the United
     States had declared war on Mexico, that the country was massively invaded by North
     American troops and boats and that, nevertheless, much despite that terrible
     juncture occurring, Paredes, the president of the Republic, in the midst of the
     armed conflict, had ceded the charge to Nicolás Bravo the 27th of July in that
     same 1846.
          As if the foregoing were not enough, only one week after this timorous and
     inopportune renunciation, when the substitute president, Bravo himself, had scarcely
     seven days exercising the position, he in turn was violently overthrown. Everything
     seemed to indicate that the dramatic surrounding reality did not comprise a
     sufficiently grave threat as to invite the Mexicans to close ranks in defense of
     their nation. Horrors...! What would have to happen--I asked stunned in my
     incredulity--for the Mexicans to unite and thus together, might attain a goal of
     reciprocal interest? If not even an armed intervention would unite them, what then
     might do so...?
          But the alarming games at the 50-yard line had barely begun: on the 4th of
     August, Bravo's very same hangman general Salas, unconditionally for Santa Anna,
     assumes power only to deliver it newly to the ex-dictator who, they say, will wear
     the presidential sash for the ninth time also in this current month of August. Four
     presidents in less than a month in open bellicose confrontation against a growing
     power: Paredes, Bravo, Salas, and Santa Anna. What irresponsibility! Was it so
     complex to defer the internal differences to attack the invaders and, once the peace
     is signed, resume the difficult tasks of untying the domestic problems?
          It becomes very simple to distract the Mexicans from what is really important,
     to induce them to fight like mad dogs, while meanwhile on the other side you strip
     them of what is really substantial. Upon the arrival of Santa Anna it will be enough
     if he is deposed from the position for those fanatics, our sons, to kill each other
     in order to obtain the tricolor sash and meanwhile the invaders will be able to
     approach Mexico City, until they enter singing beside Xochimilco, appropriating the
     whole country...
          They have every reason to seek a European prince: they are incapable of self-
     government. Mark very well: if this political chaos and this galloping corruption
     continues, very soon we can observe the total absorption of México into the
     United States. Ah, what was our richest and most prosperous colony, with whose
     wealth we consolidated ourselves in the rest of the world...

That same August, in the North American Congress the abolitionists lose the vote to
prohibit the extension of slavery into Texas. This new state will be slave-owning. Few
foresee the political threat which is blossoming across the United States. By following
racial division a civil war can result converting the dreams of the Founding Fathers into
splinters. California and Nuevo Mexico, parts of Chihuahua and Sonora might unbalance
the composition of the chambers of representatives and cause the original project of the
13 colonies to be aborted.
     As to what it meant to Polk, the president of the United States, nothing would stop
him. He had no time to lose. He armed the fabric like a spider spins its web. Methodical,
convincing, punctual, and murderous. He declares before his nation's Congress that the
real objective of the war is "the territorial enlargement" of his country. The
opposition's shouts of "privateer," "freebooter," "thief," "liar" do not matter to him.
Nor is he injured when during a speech in Congress itself, senator Corwin says to his
face: "If I were Mexican I would tell you, do you not have room to bury your own dead in
your country? Because if you come to mine we will receive you with bloody hands and give
you a happy welcome in very hospitable tombs..." The president is neither moved nor
impressed. Slidell Mackenzie had already sailed the 14th of June, en route to Havana.
The plan was in motion. Its mission before public opinion? To study the movements of the
corsairs in Cuba and in the rest of the Antilles. The secret objective? To interview with
the Mexican ex-dictator, Antonio López de Santa Anna, to verify one by one the
asseverations and the promises issued through the person of Atocha in the White House.
Buchanan orders the consul Campbell to "facilitate Mackenzie's work to gather information
concerning the modus operandi of the corsairs in Cuba and in Puerto Rico."
     To the silent surprise of Polk and Buchanan, much despite their efforts to prevent
all sorts of infiltration, when the lamp on the enormous lighthouse on cape Henry was
barely gone from sight, the New York Journal of Commerce publishes on its first
page: "The commander Mackenzie sailed on the 14th of June from Norfolk in the United
States aboard the brigantine Truxton, in the direction of Havana, charged with
fulfilling a mission with Santa Anna."
     The expedition is in the public domain. Polk's angry shouts do not reach Mackenzie's
hearing, who standing on the prow challenging the night wind, uncombed, sailing under one
mast, anxiously awaits the aromas of the Caribbean Sea and dreams of new diplomatic or
naval papers: he envisions himself in a full-length oil painting, located in the enormous
central hall of the Navy Department, displaying his gala uniform as the supreme admiral
of the oceanic seas, with his arms crossed, holding a pipe in the right hand, while
behind his back a colossal world map can be seen, drawn on old pergamine. I shall be the
North American Nelson...
     On the morning of the 5th of July, Mackenzie is the first to discover, in the
distance, the shape of El Morro. A soft morning breeze brings the Truxton towards
the dock, while dozens of seagulls fly overhead, curious and playful, around the
brigantine in search of fish. The fickle wind causes them to rise and fall without
leaving the pier. The day is clear, even if perhaps in the distance, on the Atlantic
coast side, some innocuous clouds can be distinguished across the line of the horizon.
The birds, an unpolluted white, comprise a happy and festive reception committee. At
times they float motionless, at other times, briefly agitate their wings to remain in
space. They cavort. The sun caresses the skin at those hours of the dawn. Its arrival on
calm flesh comforts the senses. The ship moves slowly in the direction of its final
destination helped by the sails which face the beach. The tweet of a tocororo
breaks the silence. It surprises the travelers with its red, white and blue plumage,
exactly the colors of the North American flag. The commander-ambassador considers
giving a similar bird, stuffed, to president Polk. The first souvenir of Havana.
     The commander is the first to jump onto Terra firme without requiring anybody's
help. He kisses the prow of the boat, hits it twice with a closed fist, by way of special
thanks. The intense heat is immediately felt. The loose, white, long-sleeved shirts
immediately adhere wetly to the chest. Mackenzie's face, crossed with wrinkles at his 43
years of age, is populated with small pearls of sweat. The salt of the sea destroys
everything except honor, he would tiresomely repeat to his subalterns and friends. At
that moment an open carriage arrives pulled by a pair of starved horses. Mackenzie boards
after ensuring that his trunk, bound in brown leather with his initials, is duly
accommodated in the rear. An incoherent shout and crack of the whip are enough for the
beasts to set off in motion at a trot heading in the direction of old Havana. The
boardwalk is guarded, in back, by a long line of Royal Palms, among the few trees, so
they explain, with the capacity to resist the assault of the more powerful hurricane
winds. Nature is wise, it is said in silence. Only the strongest survive, the best
endowed. If the big fish eats the small, in the same manner, sooner or later, we will
absorb the entire southern hemisphere. We shall see the same emblem of the stars and
stripes wave over the Capitol, in Washington, another, here, in Cuba, and one more, at
the Straits of Magellan. The perfect triangle.
     He locates in the Siboney hotel. He immediately sends a messenger to the North
American consulate with a letter, drafted the previous day aboard the Truxton,
addressed to Campbell announcing his arrival, along with the implacable necessity of
meeting with Santa Anna as soon as possible. The reply does not arrive until two days
later. His Excellency, sir Antonio López de Santa Anna, will receive you in his
residence, on Varadero street, on the 8th day of July at 17:00 hours. The honorable
president (the title is never dropped) requests y)ur punctual attendance "given the
complexities relative to the administration of his agenda..."
     When Santa Anna learned of the visit the previous afternoon, he threw a stack of
papers into the air, including the "untouchable" ones. My queens, the mulattas of the
domestic service had been ordered: never remove the dust from this desk, is that clear?
Neither clean it nor come near it nor much less arrange it, because each one of you would
then pay triple, do you understand me...? While the letters, folders, documents,
envelopes, stamps, and bundles fell to the floor, the ex-dictator left running helter-
skelter in search of Dolores. She, upon hearing the shouts, assumed a new amorous attack
by her eternal squire. She felt it. She closed her eyes, put the palms of her hands
together, threw her head backwards and shook it briefly like one who invokes the holy
piety of the Lord. It was up to Gómez Farías to conclude the arrangements for the
repatriation of the wife before he could be relieved of her and much else. When
through the doors Ms. Lola heard the comments of the "help girls" in relation to the
persecutions of which they were victims on the part of their husbands, she could relax...
She, according to what she told her mother in private letters, "could not abide the
virile impetus of her husband" and, on occasions, even wished to himself "that he were
out there, with another woman, to help her bear the weight of the conjugal
obligations. Did my father also chase you throughout the house with that thing in his
     This time Dolores was wrong. He was clearly looking for her because he insistently
repeated her name and slammed doors on not finding her. When he encountered her in the
dressing room arranging her sandals around the intensity of yellow colors, those of
summer, he embraced her, lifted her into the air, held her, kissed her on the neck and
made her turn, this time without falling, like when both rolled on the floor, amidst
raucous laughter, upon breaking the damned wooden stub in two.
     --Do you know who is already in Havana and is coming to see me just tomorrow, little
     --Father Frías, my confessor--she replied, without dampening the Meritorious's
     --No someone very important for me, whose visit I have awaited for a long time--he
responded without deceiving or upsetting Dolores or letting her go. Love women as they
     --I already know--said Lola, Lolita, Lola, hanging on her husband's neck. --Another
son of Gómez Farías come to tell you that now everything is ready, that we will leave
for Veracruz on the first ship, that the committee already awaits you in the port, and
that they will fire 21 cannon shots to honor your presence...
     --Are you mocking?--he questioned, becoming serious.
     --By no means--she kissed him repeatedly. --Just that we have so often already gone
from heat to cold waiting for the celebrated visit that, in truth, I do not know what to
     Knowing that his wife would fete whatever he celebrated, he pulled her toward him to
say in her ear: president Polk of the United States has finally sent his messenger to me,
of whom Atocha often spoke, do you remember?
     --Yes, of course I do--Lolita euphorically exclaimed without having the slightest
idea of the person to whom her husband referred. Only when the name, Polk appeared,
there, in the midst of the conversation, it was well to react without too much festivity.
--Polk, did you say...? And who is the envoy? Do you know him?
     --I do not know whether he is the brother or the nephew of Slidell, the ambassador
whom Herrera and Paredes refused to receive, do you remember?
     --Of course, of course, yes, yes, my love...
     --Well they are coming tomorrow afternoon, at five. They have bitten the hook, my
love, they have swallowed it whole with all the bait--he exclaimed smiling, celebrating
his astuteness. --Now I have to skilfully pull on the line so that it does not break--he
replied releasing his wife and going to the bed to sit on one corner. --This is really
happening. It is certain that we will be leaving again for México in the next three
weeks. If Polk orders that the blockade be broken to permit me to disembark in Veracruz,
hear me well--he repeated enthusiastically rubbing his hands--if Mackenzie brings the
safe conduct pass with him, without a doubt I will return to being president of
México.--he managed to say without compromising himself with more words in relation
to his plans. --It is clear that Atocha convinced Polk and they are coming to ratify my
proposal. They are late, yet they are here.
     --What shall we serve them?--Dolores asked without noticing the significance of the
last words spoken by her husband.
     --Of course we will give them my favorite tequila. Take out the little blown wine
glasses. Serve some small chalupas and prepare everything in the Hall of Glory. Have them
clean my uniforms and the display cases and buy Juancillo a butler's uniform and some
shoes so that he will seem to be someone... That coxcomb will now see what it is to meet
with the Napoleon of the West...
     --Shall I serve you the hot red salsa so you can spice him like you did to consul
     --No--Santa Anna replied smiling widely. --No, not this time.
     --Do you remember--doña Lola said on the verge of releasing a laugh--that the
poor guy broke all protocol and came into the kitchen like a true madman to quench the
fire in his mouth with something and, so as to escape from his torture, he plunged his
finger again and again into the guacamole which stung even more and all that he achieved
was that his lips, eyes and tongue also stung? That little fat guy drank almost all the
water on the island and did not manage to put out the fire...
     Mrs. Santa Anna felt very comforted that she had caused her husband to break into
laughter, a very simple goal to attain because he was always ready to celebrate the
slightest occurrence to his woman in quite a scandalous form.
     --Do you remember Toñis, how that damn fat guy only lacked a chile in his
ass--lady Lola asked knowing that if anything united her with the ex-dictator it was
precisely his sense of humor. How they laughed. The horselaughs were heard throughout
the ranch.
     If the first indiscretion, improper for a North American secret agent, was committed
by Mackenzie in confessing his mission to a "friend" at the New York Journal of
Commerce, he incurs a second error upon arriving at the residence of the Mexican
ex-dictator and giving Juancillo Trucupey his presentation letter, indicating to the
waiter in good Spanish that he came on the part of the president of the United States.
How can he open his hand like that, to an unknown, when his identity, supposedly, had to
be preserved beyond the reach of all the curious, including, of course, the good
Juancillo? The week begins badly when the hanging is on Monday.
     Moments later, dressed in all propriety, Juancillo returns with instructions to lead
Mackenzie to the Hall of Glory. There he will have to wait a few minutes, intentionally
conceived as part of the strategy of the Meritorious, to give the ambassador an ephemeral
idea of the dimensions of the personality of his future interlocutor. No, he did not come
to render honors to the chief of a tribe or to the supreme priest of a population lost
in the sierra nor, much less, was he visiting a minor functionary of the Mexican
government. No, very soon he would be in front of The Visible Instrument of God, the
Grand Admiral and Marshal of the Armies and Father of Anáhuac.
     Mackenzie could not hide his surprise upon entering the hall. The windows were
closed to produce a solemnity. The curtains permitted the passage of a discreet and
polite light. The silence was scrupulous. This was not the moment to hear the sound of
the bongo or that of the chuchumbé or to dance the siquisirí. Only a pair of
guards was missing to feel oneself on the grounds of a museum. He felt that he was in a
temple. For some strange reason the candelabras flickered. Would Nelson's or Napoleon's
trophy hall be like this? The North American ambassador remained immobile before moving
with his arms crossed at his chest around the showcases located in the center of the
hall. There, on foot, he read some of the inscriptions engraved on the decorations, as
well as the explanations that justified their awarding on the part of countless foreign
governments. While the North American commander touched the sleeve of the blouse worn the
day Vicente Guerrero took possession of the Republic, who also repented to the point of
tears not having hung Santa Anna, his "dear" comrade, who heard voices and steps that
slowly approached. At that instant it was just a matter of time before feeling the point
of one of the bayonets taken from the Spaniards in Tampico during the expedition of
     On the threshold of the central door appeared the figures of Santa Anna and of
Dolores, whom the president had issued a last-minute invitation. Mackenzie never
imagined the beauty and youth of the wife of the ex-dictator. How can someone put
together so many privileges and honors? What I just saw in that hallway and now, that
woman whom everyone would want to have...
     After paying a brief reverence and quickly kissing the hand of such an enchanting
lady, he extended his right hand firmly towards the Mexican patriarch. Santa Anna's gaze
displayed great generosity and even bonhomie. At no moment did it project that of
a traitor who would sell his nation's secrets to a third party or leak military access
codes so as to dominate México without further complications. He shone like a man of
serenity, projected a great interior peace, and showed himself to be an affable person
prone to smiling, to laugh at the slightest humorous comment by his interlocutor. Cordial
and understanding, Santa Anna knew he was owner of a captivating sympathy, of a
contagious laugh and of a magnetic personality to which the majority acceded. One dealt
with a professional seducer. Mrs. Santa Anna claimed whatever silly pretext to withdraw,
once she had satisfied her feminine curiosity.
     After a few banal comments in relation to life in Cuba, the times, the weather, the
food, and the music, Mackenzie was the first to enter into the material. He expressed
himself in Spanish with surprising fluidity, an indispensable requisite for fulfilling
his mission, given Santa Anna's known ignorance of the English language, even though his
friend Sam Houston had taught him some English phrases during his captivity following San
Jacinto. To the surprise of the president, the North American let him know how thanks to
the trips he had taken through the Mediterranean aboard United States warships at 26
years of age he had published a book titled A Year in Spain and that, from then
on, only and exclusively in his free moments, he had devoted himself to writing books,
indeed with very little commercial success."
     --As will not escape your interest, this coming week we complete two months since
the declaration of war by my country on Mexico...
     --It has been a shame--replied Santa Anna laconically without showing any emotion
or rejection. He knew that by doing so the ambassador would have to talk more and thereby
would run more risk of making a mistake.
     --My president, señor Santa Anna, has instructed me to make known to you his
desire not to continue the war. We want to sign for peace right away with a treaty that
awards us all the territorial rights to California and Nuevo Mexico, of course paying you
the amount, not insignificant, of 30 million dollars. The war helps no one, so better
for us to have a fruitful mercantile transaction over lands that you have forgotten--the
sailor adduced dressed in a suit of gala white with insignias revealing the naval
     Santa Anna gently shook his head. He stood up exhibiting his long-sleeved shirt and
white pants. He dressed with great simplicity. Upon entering that hallway one already
could know everything about him.
     --Perhaps I did not explain myself sufficiently to Atocha or Atocha did not
correctly convey my suggestions to president Polk, but never, ever, will any Mexican sit
at the table with the yankees or with any other foreigners to sell part of our territory.
That can be forgotten by you, your president, your Congress, your press, and the entire
North American society--he argued, smoothly blandishing the inverted palm of his right
     --Then the war will be long, destructive, expensive, very expensive, bloody, and
painful--intercepted the commander with a threatening intention, feeling relieved to hear
the name Atocha in the mouth of the ex-dictator. Now he did not have the slightest doubt
concerning the identity of the Spaniard who had visited Polk at the beginning of the year
as Santa Anna's representative-messenger. A good part of his assignment had been
completed before expected and without raising questions. Atocha, it was now clear, was no
phony. He could bring out his letters with due tranquility. The relation with the
ex-dictator had been demonstrated.
     --In effect--Santa Anna clarified, without sounding intimidated--if you want to
shorten the war, you only need to open the blockade in Veracruz to let me pass in
absolute secrecy. There you have an alternative to reduce the damage and the costs.
     At that moment Juancillo Trucupey arrived with a small tray and five or six small
glasses to drink tequila from a bottle from which hung very short ribbons with the colors
of the Mexican flag. On the right side there appeared a plate replete with small snacks
covered with white grated cheese and a container with very hot red sauce. Slidell could
never imagine the suffering represented, for the young man, by the need to use shoes.
     The yankee came apart with elegies on first tasting the tequila and even more when
he tasted the little chalupas made, of course, in-house. Santa Anna abstained from making
jokes at those moments so critical to the conversation. He would have plenty of time for
that. Also Mackenzie had come screened by Campbell. From past times he knew that the
North Americans supported one another...
     After learning to taste the salt placed on the back of the hand, to suck the lemon
and take various swallows of tequila, the commander was ready to continue the
conversation. He preferred to take some notes from his portfolio to read them without
leaving Polk's instructions to memory and thus committing an omission of unforeseeable
     --President Polk--Slidell read putting on some small glasses that could slide down
his nose at any moment--views with favor your restoration to maximum power in Mexico--he
read while Santa Anna already wanted an answer regarding safe conduct for disembarking in
     The Invincible Liberator chose to be quiet and listen. He had often repented of
speaking, of keeping a prudent silence, never. He preferred to gobble a whole chalupa
and wait for Mackenzie to conclude the reading of his notes. Maybe they would thereby
avoid useless discussions and circumlocutions.
     --President Polk wishes to demonstrate his good faith and, therefore, he has drawn
up the respective orders to permit you to return to your country.
     Santa Anna never thought that the meeting would develop with such ease. Apparently
there was nothing to discuss. Had something been said which would end the conversation on
such good terms?
     Mackenzie did not think of pausing or explaining. Later he would do so. --President
Polk hopes that when you return to power you suspend the hostilities for land on
immediate terms and, subsequently name a minister to reach agreements on all the existing
differences between both nations.
     Santa Anna returned to his seat. In the distance he contemplated the flag of the
Trigurante Army, the same that he led on horseback on the 27th day of September in that
historic 1821, during the parade of independence. The poor ill-fated emperor: he could
never imagine the enormous problems, pressures and difficulties that a México free
from the Spanish Crown would confront. How many times had he heard Iturbide tell him: We
are, don Antonio, the most prosperous colony of Nueva España, the most promising and
     --President Polk--continued Mackenzie looking sideways at the body language of Santa
Anna, who displayed a manifest inability to remain seated in his chair--promises to pay
generously in exchange for the establishment of a new border frontier.
     Was Santa Anna dreaming? When he tried to decipher his face, he continually found an
expression of incredulity. As opposed to Mackenzie, I knew him intimately and could
distinguish grimaces, gestures, frowns and any other movement of the facial muscles.
How was it possible that they granted him all his desires? Return to Mexico? Granted.
It was already a reality. Power? There you have it on returning. You shall return to
the Presidency of México! Money? You will have your hands full, in quantities you never
imagined. To have the opportunity to avenge the yankees...? In the moment that you
ordain! You will have sufficient arms to achieve that. Establish a new border? You will
see how to save face and honor with your countrymen without compromising your historical
image. The game corresponded to that of a professional in politics: break up, cede or
sell the territories required by the yankees without being identified as a traitor by
your compatriots, the Mexicans. Understand it as in the holy name of God: we either
deliver the northern territories or we will lose the whole country. Let us negotiate and
sell right now while we still have time... You would salvage, in any case, a dignified
place in the national history and, besides, would remain with the biggest quantity of
money possible without prolonging the war excessively. To later remove the resources,
discreetly, from the national treasury would be child's play... Later, once the sacred
interests of the nation are marked saved, you could retire to El Lencero to enjoy your
role in the defense of the nation. Difficult...? The great challenges, he said in
silence, are made for the great men...
     --President Polk, as you will see--continued Mackenzie, removing the glasses from
his face by way of a signal that he had finished reading his message--wants important
portions of Mexico's northern territory and is prepared to act immediately paying
significant quantities of money in cash.
     Mackenzie watched Santa Anna's face. We both turned to see it in his character as
host at the scene. We scrutinized his visage. At his 52 years of age he appeared very
youthful. He seemed to have returned from the Caribbean Sea after a dip. Wrinkles, those
unhideable scars of life, did not mark his skin revealing the passage of time nor
betraying the magnitude of adversities suffered. He appeared so fresh. What might help
this man to seem so vital? His cynicism? His absence of loyalty to everything around him,
his inability to compromise with something or with someone? The company of a handsome
woman? A passion for the power that he always desires and when he finally has it he
neglects in order to later return to conquer it? Is the existence of illusions
reflected in the skin? Can pains endured be read from the eyes given that this unique
being does not project any adverse emotion? Is he anyway an extraordinary actor? Look at
his invariably erect back. The weight of life or that of the years has not curved it.
Look at his captivating smile. Look at him talk with his hands. Look at his contagious
sympathy. Look at the lightness with which he contemplates existence. Look how the
betrayals have not made a dent. Look how deceptions do not dispirit him. Observe how he
looks forward without ever turning his head towards the rear...
     The Meritorious stood up. He had developed his response. Agility of movement is a
requirement in politics and in war.
     --Those notes that you kindly read me, did you take them when the president was
speaking?--questioned Santa Anna with due caution.
     --In effect, general, I did not want to fall into any error of interpretation nor
forget any of the instructions--the North American sailor innocently alleged. --I can
tell you that they are almost the words of the president.
     --Very well--said Santa Anna.
     --Is there some concern in particular...?
     --No, many thanks, none--he added stroking his chin. --We are in agreement on
everything. Above all I beg you to convey to president Polk my enormous gratitude for so
generously permitting me to return to my country to dedicate myself anew to the high
affairs of State so incumbent on me--while the head of the White House had been duly
informed by Buchanan and the latter through Black, the North American consul in Mexico
City, of the movement organized by Gómez Farías, among other politicians, to newly
install Santa Anna in the Presidency of the Republic. It was known that he had been
jailed in a capital prison, together with other leaders, for participating in a conspiracy
to overthrow president Paredes, but who would soon be liberated and that would
facilitate Santa Anna's access to power, if and when Polk would break the blockade at the
port of Veracruz. --Thank him too, Mr. Mackenzie, for his fraternal offers of peace,
those which, of course, I shall know how to honor, pausing the war and naming a personal
representative to immediately arrive at an agreement on border matters and, why not,
     Mackenzie will not interrupt his host for anything. He needed to know briefly his
position regarding the rest of the points suggested by Polk.
     --We all know that the border of Tejas with México is the Nueces river, so
then, what is the need of changing it to the Rio Bravo? Why insist so much on that
insignificant fringe when the people of México are not disposed to concede it at any
price and even more, when there are territorial subjects of much more transcendence?--
Santa Anna questioned standing up casting a patriarchal gaze. At all times he seemed to
be playing a role.
     Mackenzie came very well prepared to leave no doubt whatever with respect to the
interests and proposals of the United States. He knew how to flatter and please, yet when
he had to specify the terms of the negotiation, he knew how to act with extreme severity.
     President Polk and the people of the United States have little care for the
pretensions of the Mexicans. I am here to fulfill very specific orders and not to attend
the whims of savages: he would conclude with that pejorative expression but preferred not
to use it so as not to provoke a break and to arrive with bad news upon returning to
     Santa Anna lowered his hands to the level of his legs. He received another tequila
and after drinking it in one gulp, as if to give himself strength and spirit, he fired at
point blank: --Is this a negotiation or an imposition?
     Mackenzie, accustomed to irreversible rudenesses where honor was compromised,
and dignity saved through armaments in the finest military style, fell immediately into
the trap. The bluster was not at the height of the dignity of a well-born man. He
retreated, fearful of the failure of his negotiation. If at that moment he had stood up
and with a "we have finished" had gone toward the exit door, Santa Anna would have caught
him there limping and invoking his understanding. The Xalapan was a master in trickery
and found true delight rummaging among moral intricacies and in the temperament of his
peers with whom, after subjecting them to rigorous tests, he knew he would go to drink
tequilas or to play the owner in the cockfights. When he gave a snap of his fingers it
was clear that he had already confirmed the routes to control his interlocutor. To the
Mexicans he was known by the texture of the skin on his hands or by his glance or by the
walk or by his requests or by his way of holding his hat when he removed it upon arriving
at the church or by his way of holding his women while crossing the street or in
complaining or when grasping a fork or when combining the beans with the tortilla split
in two or on giving the lethal order to a firing squad. He knew his compatriots, by just
seeing them he knew which cord to yank at each moment, as if he were playing a guitar
and thus extracted the desired note...
     --Both nations want to avoid problems, general, I simply transmit to you the message
of my superiors. I only want to tell you that my government will keep that region and pay
abundantly for it, magnanimously if you like, but indeed, we need it at any cost.
     --Agreed, just that you can comply with your diplomatic initiative in an agreeable
or an aggressive manner. You decide which sword you bring to the duel at dawn,
commander--decreed Santa Anna as if he had risked his life at least a thousand times at
dawn at the feet of Chapultepec Castle or in the thick tropical forests of Xalapa.
     Both personages spurned distinctions and pleasantries. Santa Anna reverted to
intimidating examples and introduced into the conversations words like "sword," "duel,"
"dawn," as if at any moment he was going to challenge his guest and fight him with sabers
upon the sandy beach by the light of the moon. If Mackenzie had known what in Mexico is
known as a bravucón, he might have risen to the challenge.
     --I prefer relying on friendliness--said the commander smiling.
     --Alright, very well, if not I was thinking about having consul Campbell brought to
function like your godfather...--Santa Anna asserted also smiling without ceasing to
diminish his interlocutor with his examples. In reality, he crushed him.
     The two released a happy guffaw, certainly artificial, as if checking the number of
bullets remaining in the cartridge.
     In any event the language used by Mackenzie reminded His Excellency that Polk had
the power, ah, that he indeed had it and would not hesitate to utilize it so as to attain
his goals. The proof was in sight: México and the United States were at war and Polk
alone was responsible for that.
     The Meritorious reverted to an ingenious exit to dissimulate his intentions. It was
then when he expressed to Mackenzie that before seeing the arrival of a Spanish prince to
govern México, he would be disposed to negotiate a new border treaty. He underlined
the importance of his conversation being maintained in scrupulous secrecy.
     --By divulging what we have discussed I could be accused of treason, you understand,
no?--when His Excellency only sought the good of the nation considering that the arrival
of a European monarch would once again turn back the clock of history with all its
consequences. --With the sale of those territories México would lose nothing and, on
the contrary, we would derive important resources to grow and satisfy our population
with "the minimum which man requires to be lifted to the same height as the dignity of
being human."
     Mackenzie observed how Santa Anna insisted on searching for alternatives to save his
honor. Would don Enrique perhaps come to sit on his Mexican throne precisely when the
host country, the nation which had invited him to govern, had encountered nothing less
than war with the United States? Spain, due to its economic situation, would not be able
to support the young monarch. It had almost everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Furthermore, Paredes Arrillaga himself, followed by Lucas Alamán, had already
declared his cause lost and, nevertheless, Santa Anna tried to profit politically to
justify his goals.
     --Furthermore, you should know, commander--exclaimed Santa Anna in one of his
outbursts: --if the monarchy should come to be imposed in México I would go with
my family to Texas and petition president Polk for North American citizenship.
     Mackenzie could not understand the scope of the conversation. He did not stop taking
notes. Who would believe him in Washington that none less than the Mexican ex-president
had made an assertion of that nature? Santa Anna would go to Texas and become a North
American citizen... "Oh my goodness!"
     --Your government should understand, Mr. commander--continued Santa Anna as if he
had not said anything transcendent--that if you accept my advice and change your military
strategy, such as I hope that you do, this act should be understood as an act of
patriotism on my part and thus, and only thus, could I sign a new border treaty in
peace--he still added to ground his remarks even further. --I want to save México from
the return of a Spanish petty monarch and if the price of all that is to raise the level
of the war with the goal of signing another border agreement, I swear that I will do it:
first comes the survival of my nation. I shall not permit it to be absorbed once again as
a European colony.
     Mackenzie well knew that Santa Anna had criticized and attacked the United States
for the belligerent and complicit role it had played in the loss of Texas and
nevertheless, knew how despite detesting his neighbors to the north, he approached them
to negotiate in order to obtain help in returning to power. It was irrelevant to discuss
the terms of an arrangement with an enemy or a friend, domestic or foreign, if they could
serve as a bridge so that His Excellency might return to sit in the presidential chair.
The North American commander specifically alleged:
     --You can safely count on my government knowing how to appreciate to the degree of
value of your effort to fight for the survival of your nation.
     Those were exactly the words that Santa Anna desired to hear. Starting from that
moment, needing to believe in someone, he revealed his plans and pointed to the errors
in military strategy which the United States was incurring upon invading Mexico.
     --We need to cause my compatriots to believe that the situation is desperate,
commander. We have to frighten them, suggest a sinister scenario, convince them of the
possibility that all México might be swallowed by yourselves. There is one Mexican
who comes to feel secure in the situation and another, very different who reacts with
panic, which is where we have to wait for them with whip in hand--he argued very
enthused. --When they are drowning in the shifting sands we have to wait a few minutes
more, almost when they only have part of their face and nose with which to breathe, in
order to negotiate with them. They are very stubborn, I know them, I grew up with them,
so when the conditions are accepted, we rescue them and immediately oblige them to sign
pointing a pistol at their head before they forget what was agreed...
     Mackenzie was overcome with surprise at being with an individual with unique
characteristics, never seen in his professional experience, at the same time that a great
happiness filled him on encountering a firm ally, unconditionally trustworthy for winning
the war in short order remaining, at the least, with California and Nuevo Mexico. That
involved a great negotiation in Washington, and one in Mexico with its politicians
impossible to categorize.
     --I guarantee that you will be considered a total hero--urged Mackenzie downing the
rest of the tequila from his shot glass. --Now tell me how and where to attack...
     --Please tell president Polk--Santa Anna greedily added instinctively turning to the
sides to verify that not even Juancillo was found in the Hall of Glory--that he should
advance on Saltillo and capture that city so that, once converted into an operations
center, he might take Monterrey and from there go down toward San Luis Potosí,
which will awaken fear and provide some isolated instances of courage that will bring us
nearer to the desired negotiation.
     It was clear that His Excellency had spent a long time thinking of that solution and
thus it was not difficult for him to reveal it so punctually.
     --Hear me well, Mackenzie--said Santa Anna, obliging his interlocutor to approach
closer: --at the same time they should take Veracruz, for which it is inevitable to
bombard the port and the fort of San Juan de Ulúa from your fleet anchored in the
port. While Ulúa does not fall, Veracruz will not fall. If my countrymen resist out
of their stubbornness, your cannons should also be aimed towards the population, at the
houses, at the churches, at the markets, at the plazas: only in this way will you break
them. Tampico, yes, yes, Tampico--he added as if he were forgetting a very important part
of the conversation. --Can you explain to me why you have not captured Tampico? You
should do so shortly: the weather from October to March is very mild. That is what you
should take advantage of... But now! Why waste more time?
     Mackenzie preferred to take notes before the avalanche of idea that the Mexican
Caesar let fall, as if one dealt with one of those persistent tropical rains which are
also felt in Xalapa, the land which would see the birth of the Meritorious one happy 21st
of February in 1794.
     --Then, when the Mexicans feel that they can lose everything, when they feel as if
they are irremediably drowning, instant by instant, that is when I shall come onto the
scene with a rope in hand to save my nation from total disappearance--he concluded, again
standing up in search of the chalupas which had been lying ignored for a long time.
     Santa Anna saw himself transformed into a millionaire dictator, but he did not
consider a Polk established as de facto president of a new conquered nation. Of course in
this conversation neither of the two personages, even more, nobody, not Polk not Buchanan
or Bancroft or Walker or Marcy paused to consider the loss of civilian and military lives
nor hesitated before the battle in the homes in both countries and the destruction that
Mexico would suffer as the scene of the war, because obviously the battlefield will not
be the streets of Washington nor would there be door to door killing in the capital of
the United States invaded by foreign troops, just as Martinillo put in in the last
paragraph of his column when México also declared, as the dignified response, war
on the United States.

     How much pleasure it would give me to point the Mexican cannons in the direction of
     the White House, to be on one side of the Potomac and fire all my nation's artillery
     until exhausting the last bomb and later fling even cobblestones against that
     authentic vipers' nest where the most ferocious attacks are planned against a people
     as helpless and poor as my own, the Mexican, whose most outstanding misfortune is
     its possession of a territory coveted by that authentically damned race which can
     only survive on the basis of consuming all neighboring goods! The Cursed Race...? I
     never thought it would provide the most certain definition that would encompass
     those pirates, the most sophisticated of the 19th century.

--I think--asserted Santa Anna while Mackenzie took notes--that I have expressed myself
with sufficient clarity and, if this is not so, you proceed to relieve your doubts so as
to leave no poison in the inkwell...
     --It is so, general, I have collected your military agenda and the justifications
for your conduct. Believe me that I will know how to present them in Washington with the
deference and patriotic spirit that you have conveyed to me. For your part, do you have
some doubt or reservation about a pending point to treat?--asked the North American
completely satisfied with the arrangement and desirous of returning to the brigantine
Truxton to undertake the return, though here indeed not precisely to Washington,
as Polk himself had ordered...
     --Thank you for your courtesy, commander--responded Santa Anna to the surprise of
the sailor, who was not waiting for any addition to the conversation--but I do have an
aspect, equally delicate, to broach.
     Mackenzie stopped writing and shot a glance at the face of His Excellency. Why, he
asked himself, do the Mexicans always have a card up their sleeves? They already told
me: matters never seem to conclude, invariably the pending emerges, the problems not
tackled, the badly understood, what was said or not said...
     --I shall make it short and sweet, just as I presented it to president Polk through
my dear friend Atocha...
     --You say, general...
     --I need two million dollars for expenses...
     --Two million dollars!--Mackenzie now replied standing up and going to the tequila
bottle now seen to be half full.
     --I have to give pay guarantees to my army to ensure the access to power. If I
arrive with hands empty and only the promise of future well-being, I would not get past
my ranch in Veracruz: no one would believe me, commander, nobody would follow me and our
plans would fall down like a house of cards.
     --Very well, I shall tell president Polk at my first meeting.
     --Would it not be convenient to settle it now since you are writing everything and
leaving nothing to memory? Without two million dollars, as an advance on the 30 that you
will give us, our project will collapse by itself.
     When Mackenzie finished writing the word "millions," he carefully put away his notes
and closed his briefcase, still standing, viewing the ex-dictator face to face, in the
spirit of formally parting company. His Excellency approached his ear to say in a very
low voice while the North American thought he was dealing with the other "most delicate"
matter of late:
     --Would you not like to dine on some little hens before taking the ship back to
Washington?--questioned Santa Anna with a sly smile as if on the verge of releasing a
burst of laughter.
     --No, general, many thanks, since childhood they made me eat chicken to such an
extreme that today I hate it and cannot eat it, the mere fact of smelling it upsets me.
     --No, my commander--Santa Anna approached in a very friendly fashion and noticing
that his invitee had not understood the message--we Mexicans invite our members offering
them beautiful women to celebrate the close of a good negotiation and that is the case...
I have some little hens in the center of Havana ready to eat with your hands, my friend
Mackenzie and those big birds, believe me, do not fly over the Potomac... I assure you!
     --But are you not married?--Polk's secret agent asked confused.
     --Casado... yes; castrado no... What do you say sir...?
     --Save your little hens for me for another occasion--the yankee responded disturbed
and trying to quicken his pace towards the door to the street. Those Mexicans will never
be saved. They ignore the most elementary rules of Puritanism... They are born condemned
and will die condemned for not respecting social laws. What would his wife have thought
if she had heard his proposal, he would like to have asked the dictator, but of course,
he would have come out with a hurtful reply to justify his bad actions. Do not seek alien
pleasures, seemed to be a divine mandate.
     When they were going to the exit and after Santa Anna briefly explained the story of
some of the stuffed roosters that he had in the hallways, he suddenly paused taking the
arm of the North American sailor for the last time. The latter, of course, appeared very
surprised. Was there perhaps something remaining to discuss? I do not want little hens,
God damn it!
     --Do you have nothing for me on the part of president Polk?
     --Nnnnooo--responded the yankee lifting his eyes and head and seeking an answer on
the ceiling. Had he now forgotten something?
     --I will remind you--he exclaimed when Mackenzie had given up. --You must have lost
among your papers a safe conduct so that Conner will let me pass through the naval
blockade in Veracruz... Otherwise how could I enter México?
     --Oh! yes, yes, I had forgotten, with that of the hens anyone would become nervous.
     Mackenzie rummaged rapidly among his papers until finding the sealed and lacquered
envelope to be delivered "by hand" to Antonio López de Santa Anna himself. His
Excellency quickly opened it still in the presence of the secret agent sent by Polk. It
came signed not by Polk, but by Bancroft, the secretary of the Navy. There the much
desired instructions were given. That paper was worth gold to be able to return to
México. They would break the blockade only for him, but indeed as soon as he placed
a foot on Veracruzian terra firme he would obtain, light and burn a good puro of
the region. No one could ever know the secret. If the existence of safe conduct were
discovered, it would severely complicate the matter's good progress. How would Gómez
Farías himself explain it?
     Santa Anna smiled while he held the envelope and the letter in his hand. --So then
my commander, shall we find some little hens? I have some very tender ones for you with
white, white, white breasts...
     --Thank you, my general--said Mackenzie on boarding his sedan. Surprised to have
come to a class on military strategy instead of a meeting to consider diplomatic themes,
the commander dared to inquire: --Do you consider, general, that I should give all this
information first to Taylor or up to Polk in Washington? Reason tells me that I should
gain time with Taylor giving him instructions that sooner or later he will have to
attack. I would use that advantage.
     --Everything will depend on Taylor's level of discretion, Mr. Mackenzie, you would
know better than I.
     --Good-bye, general Santa Anna...
     --Go with God, who knows all--the dictator managed to say as if he wanted to stick a
last dagger in the neck of his invitee...
     Mackenzie's carriage had not disappeared from the grounds of Santa Anna's residence,
when lady Lola already approached curious to know the result of the negotiations. The
general embraced his woman being very careful not to wrinkle the document he held in his
hands. Without releasing it, he said in her ear:
     --I do not know why president Polk sent me an asshole of such dimensions...
     --Why an asshole?--she said, surprised because her husband very rarely recurred to
using rough words, always clarifying, "For the Veracruzian that I am."
     --Imagine: he read me his instructions dictated by Polk like a child without
noticing that on implicating the president, he himself closed doors in the negotiation. I
always confirm it: the yankees will be very good at robbing and killing with all their
saintly Puritanism, but I tell you, the big ones they have are dragging...
     --Fine, fine, but did they give you the safe conduct?
     Fanning himself with the envelope that he held in his hands and briskly tapping it
on his chin, he whispered:
     --I will give you the details right away in bed... We now have something to
celebrate. For now tell Licha, Mari and Aurora to start packing your clothes in the
trunks. We will go in less than a month... I shall return to being president, this time,
thanks to Polk...

               Third chapter
The second conquest of Mexico

                                            The essential American soul is hard,
                                            isolate, stoic, and a killer.
                                                                   D. H. LAWRENCE

                                     That damn race, the Anglo-Saxon, is not defined
                                     by their love of everything alien, but by the divine
                                     impulse they feel to steal and the blessing they
                                     feel from the beyond when they consummate the theft.

Polk's resistance was known by all to giving his instructions in writing. He never wanted
his signature at the foot of a document that could compromise him later, especially if it
dealt with a secret operation of the many which he concocted inside the White House.
Obviously he feared the political consequences that could devolve if one of his
confidential orders were to suddenly and suspiciously appear on the work table of a
legislator in the opposition or "misplaced" upon the desk of an enemy journalist. But not
only in that system of answering arguments lay the justification for his conduct, no,
Polk also feared the judgment of history in case a confidential document, signed by him,
were to fall into the hands of biographers or researchers who could "dirty" his image in
the mind of the future generations.
     Mackenzie received his verbal orders like any other functionary or agent charged
with a secret operation. His obligation consisted in abstaining from sending reports by
mail that could be intercepted or opened in the offices of the Department of State or of
the White House and to urgently sail towards Washington to inform the president, in
person, face to face, of what had occurred. The first meeting would not be with Bancroft
or with Marcy or with Buchanan: before rendering an account with anyone he should
present himself to the president of the United States and later, later, he would then
receive instructions.
     What did Alexander Slidell Mackenzie do? Valuable materials have reached historians
and novelists to reconstruct the facts as they took place between the loftiest characters
of the era. In the first place, on that same night the 8th of July he sent a letter to
secretary Buchanan telling him the details of the conversation with Santa Anna and
explaining to him how he had fulfilled, point by point, exactly, Polk's instructions. "I
read him, Mr. secretary, the orders that the president gave me so as to commit no error
whatsoever, orders which right here I have transcribed with the respective replies from
the Mexican leader." If Buchanan and Polk could not believe the indiscretions of their
"diplomatic envoy," less, much less could they conceive how Mackenzie, instead of
navigating at full speed towards Washington, had sailed in the direction of Taylor's
headquarters on the banks of the Rio Bravo, of course without any authorization, to
reveal the secret mission to the general, just like the suggestions of Santa Anna himself
for intervening militarily in Mexico.
     For a moment Taylor thought he was dreaming and even came to doubt Mackenzie's
mental equilibrium:
     --So then you want to tell me that Polk invites Santa Anna to return to his country
to head the Mexican army against us and at the same time to achieve the peace that
includes the annexation of California and Nuevo Mexico and maybe part of Chihuahua and
Sonora in exchange for 30 million dollars? I always said that the dispute about the
little strip between the Nueces and the Bravo was a mere pretext for something bigger,
much bigger...
     Mackenzie assented mechanically with his head.
     --So then I should proceed to bombard Saltillo, Monterrey and go down as far as San
Luis Potosí, Mr. commander--Taylor asked in a provocative manner knowing he would
not take a step without written instructions from Marcy or from the president and that
Mackenzie in any case was irresponsible, a child who played with the fuse of a loaded
Howitzer cannon.
     --Of course not, do not do that.
     --Why not...?
     --Because the president has not authorized it nor Marcy nor the High Command.
     --Then what sense does it make for me to try to see whether somehow, as a soldier,
I will only obey orders that I have on my campaign table?
     --Good day, general...
     --Go with God, commander...
     Mackenzie was never aware of the errors committed until he stepped into Polk's
office and the latter showed him the report sent to Buchanan and complained as much about
the note appearing in the New York Journal of Commerce as the supposedly secret
conversation he had sustained with Taylor in his general quarters on the Rio Bravo. It
was one of the few occasions when I have heard Polk address a subaltern resorting to
obscene and profane expressions. If indeed he felt that his career was somewhat shortened
by these ephemera, it is no less valid that his indiscretions became very valuable
material for knowing Polk close up, such as to discover or confirm the traps which he
wove to appropriate more than half of the Mexican territory. Welcome, commander Alexander
Slidell Mackenzie to the history of Mexico...

On the 8th day of July in 1846, as soon as the North American envoy was lost from sight,
a revolution exploded in the residence of the Santa Annas in Cuba, when their own and
others were informed, amidst shouts and hat-throwing, that the exile of more than one
year was near its end. Don Antonio, they said, would return to being president. Viva,
viva, viva...! The movement was similar to that that existed in the White House and in
the National Palace in Mexico City in those days. With an important exception in the
comparisons: in the ranch of 15 Nails everything was a celebration around the patriarch,
the invincible, the supreme. Even doña Lola, so little a friend of alcohol, had no
compunction about taking "from the spout" two good swallows of tequila, surrounded by
Mexican and Cuban domestic personnel. The Caesar and lady Lola were trotted on shoulders
through the house, the gardens and even the beach.
     The only thing lacking to charter the Arab, which would soon be arriving on
the Cuban coast, would be the liberation of don Valentín Gómez Farías from jail
in Mexico City, where he had been secluded for participating in the conspiracy to
overthrow Paredes, together with other radical liberal leaders.
     They began to hear the notes of the chuchumbé, while those nearest to the ex-
dictator began to dance the siquisirí, others to tap or express sounds directed at
the mulattas. Juancillo Trucupey quickly brought the bongo artists, the guitars and even
a marimba that so delighted the master. Not long to appear were the barrels of rum, the
jars of lemonade, the tacos with brown sauce, the moors and the Christians with ripe
plantains and the salsa of salsas, the soul, happiness, taste, the festive intensity, the
pleasure from the music and the happy indolence of releasing the legs, of letting them
go, infected with the language of a tropical rhythm.
     The party had already gone on for several hours when shouts and insults were heard
in the kiosk, the anteroom of the Glory hall, as the presidente had baptized it.
No one had noticed the ferocious brawl that had broken out in the owner's favorite
place, until a shot broke through all the revelry. Of course the dancers, singers,
boyfriends and pretenders, doña Lola and her girls and last-minute invitees ran
through the chicken coops to discover the origin and the protagonists of the fray.
Silence was imposed before one could snap their fingers so that only two voices emerged
amongst all the bystanders: an enormous North American, the size of a bear, with the
eternal beard to which no one had ever shown the existence of scissors, dressed almost in
tatters, his clothes almost in shreds, arguing, holding a bottle of rum by the neck and
using all sorts of obscene words in English or Spanish directed at Santa Anna, who had
not changed clothes after Mackenzie's visit. Maybe the moment of the duel had arrived,
above all on that so happy day which marked for the Caesar a diplomatic success in his
career and the return to the old and beloved country? A duel even if it were with fists
and this savage would destroy one's face, rescued from a thousand battles without a
single scar, with a blow that, undoubtedly, could knock down a maddened gorilla?
     --Robber--he shouted full in the face of the Invisible Instrument of God--you
are the worst thief that I have known in my life, you great fornicator.
     --You are not going to come to insult me in my own house, with my own people and in
front of my own family, you damned crap-eating yankee: you all are robbers, abusers,
scammers. Everything that you have you have gotten by taking what is ours from us. You
all will be the fornicators--said Santa Anna openly mocking the man-bear.
     --What did you say?
     --I say that you be the fornicators--replied Santa Anna imitating the
English accent of the aggressor with his Jarochan imperturbability without becoming
     --I have not played tricks.
     --Well me neither, you fornicator.
     --You have used a fighting cock with knives, all screwed up and making me bet all
my savings.
     --Me do not blame for you being such a big ox--challenged Santa Anna ready
for anything. --You can criticize the army for everything, yet the charge of cowardice on
the field of honor, I shall never tolerate. That indeed not. All his people had seen him
at the front, mounted on his white horse, The Faun, dodging bullets and even bombs.
Coward? Let them say it to my face.
     --You me tricked.
     --A lie, sir, I did not trick you, what happened is that you lost and like a coward
would do refuse to recognize your defeat.
     --Me not be coward.
     --Yes you are.
     --Why not let us come to chingadazo blows, as your people here say, right
here in the center of the kiosk, on the sand?
     --Because I am not an asshole, sir--Santa Anna replied returning the aggression with
unbridled mockery--with someone like you with insufficient...
     --Then choose the weapon that you like.
     --All right--said Santa Anna, recovering his equilibrium a little--what is going
on here is not betting one's life but instead proving who is more macho. You say
--he lowered his voice a little--that it is nothing cowardly and I say that you and all
you represent are some damn stealing cowards.
     --How you want me to show I am not coward and that you are a pile of cow
manure...? Oh, cow pile style, what a nice little verse I have composed,
     --Look little white boy: stop clowning and prove your bravery, which you say you
have, with a shot to your foot, to see if you are so manly. We shall see who resists pain
more, the Mexican or the cow-rustling cheapskate yankee...--resolved Santa Anna and
immediately placed a loaded pistol in the North American's right hand.
     A thick silence transpired. In the background only the gobbling of the cocks could
be heard. It soon felt like they were mourning the dead. Nobody laughed. Not even
isolated murmurs were heard. All present fell silent and fixed their sight on the
     Santa Anna then heard the desired response.
     --Why no you start?
     --You are giving me the opportunity to demonstrate that I am much braver than you
and than your president Polk and your Taylor, those Apache-killers?
     --Yes, glad--exclaimed the man-bear returning the pistol to the ex-president,
demonstrating a certain humility.
     The general president considered that if he shot at his left leg, it would not bleed
and the trap would be discovered. Measuring the consequences he set up his enemy so that
each would fire simultaneously against the leg of the other, which each would choose for
the sacrifice. The yankee accepted, trembling. Santa Anna exposed, obviously, his left
     His Excellency named Juancillo Trucupey as second, such that at the count of three
both would pull the trigger. Juancillo, hiding his smile the best he could and staring
fixedly at the floor, asked that each of the aggrieved advance the foot upon which they
had decided to accept the bullet.
     --Do not you move your foot when me shoot.
     --You neither, Mister, that would be villainy, improper among gentlemen who
dispute their honor.
     Juancillo called it to order:
     --Ready--responded both in unison.
     --On one...
     --On two... and
     --On three...!
     Two shots were heard fired almost at the same time. The yankee rolled on the floor
emitting screams of horror, holding the injured foot, covered with blood that marked the
ground as if 100 brave fighting cocks had combated. He turned to the right and left in
search of aid, for any possible consolation, for a doctor or perhaps a wizard who might
pity him and prevent a pain such as he had never felt, not even when he killed Comanches
and received arrows in the buttocks and the shoulders.
     For his part Santa Anna, His Excellency, remained erect, unhurt, unperturbed,
without professing the slightest lament or even a frown of pain on his face.
Dissimulating lameness as he could, he went over to the North American to throw the
pistol in his face and teach him to be a man who could resist gunshots with complaining
like a little woman.
     --Do not you from the north have a lot of balls? Very soon I will deal with
thousands of squealers like you... Take this little girl off my property and give him the
dead cock so that he can make a taco. If you see that he ever dares come near here again,
blow off the other damn foot...

Beginning the 8th of July the days seemed to be five hours in length. The light of dawn
had not stopped announcing the birth of a new day, when the crickets and fireflies
comprised sympathetic heralds to signal the happy arrival of one more Havana night. Juan
Nepomuceno Almonte arrived without notice to Santa Anna's ranch. He brought fresh notices
from México, good news: Valentín Gómez Farías and several other of his followers
had been liberated from prison on the 15th day of July, only to execute the irreversible
blow against the government of Paredes. Nepomuceno indeed had the air of a José María
Morelos y Pavón. Nicolás Bravo had remained as the interim president. The steps were taken,
one after the other, in punctual and masterly fashion. In the following hours Salas, a
Santannist would assume the supreme presidential power.
     One morning Alejandro Atocha interrupted when Santa Anna breakfasted on a great
plate of bomba fruits and some huevos rancheros prepared with very hot jalapeño chiles.
After the agreeable surprise, the dictator continued the conversation alone with his
ambassador, while he dipped a pair of conchas in some Oaxaca chocolate served in a clay
jar with his initials, just as the president liked it. Atocha commented that getting
rid of Bravo was easier than taking a caramel lollipop from a child, do you not think
so, my president?
     --No one--cut in Santa Anna with great severity and earnest speed--should know
anything of our agreements with Polk, understood? The affability from other days had
disappeared. There had not even been an echo of their conversation.
     --Sir--answered Atocha surprised and feeling almost insulted--you are speaking with
a Spanish gentleman and Spanish gentlemen do not have memories of dealing with women
nor of negotiations.
     --That is alright, my friend Alejandro, that is why I chose you for this adventure
where everyone, you included, are betting their lives--he concluded firing more of his
lethal darts. --Since the United States declared war on Mexico I was sure that Paredes
would renounce the Presidency, one because he does not have the caliber to occupy that
position and two, because he knew that if he did not resign, we would overthrow him. Do
not forget that we were behind this almost from when he deposed Herrera. The bird-brain!
     Atocha had never met with such a rude Santa Anna. However, he had no reason at all
to be alarmed. His Excellency would take great care not to offend or bother his
interlocutor given that he had new plans for him... In any event he did not fail to warn
     --I know that you are a gentleman yet the presence of the ladies or the recurrence
of alcohol sometimes relaxes the will, which leads me to suggest that if you talk in your
sleep, starting with this trip begin to sleep alone if only for what remains of your
life, and if you drink much red wine, it is very advisable that you switch it for rice
water, did you understand me?--questioned Santa Anna without the slightest space for
doubt or jokes. --A single indiscretion on your part and we are all dead, plus we should
keep the White House door permanently open and you cannot fail...
     --I do not want to fail, sir...
     --Every time they serve fish think of what you are eating thanks to the animal
opening its mouth, or no...?
     Atocha simply assented with his head.
     --On that same ship--argued Santa Anna--everyone will ask the reasons why the
Americans broke the blockade to let only us pass, is that clear? Swear on your life that
no one will ever know from you how we managed to pass!--he told him gripping his
forearm like an alien force and looking as if he were about to have an attack of anger.
     --You will never repent for having confided in me. You will never see a book with
my memories, published to profit from unconfessable secrets. I am not a yankee, sir--he
answered, putting a hand on the other of Santa Anna's--you are speaking, I repeat, with a
Spanish gentleman who has another sense of dignity, of nobility and of honor.
     When Santa Anna had made the necessary arrangements to charter the Arab, a
modern English steamship, Manuel Crescencio Rejón appeared to form part of the
committee that would travel to Veracruz. At that moment they even knew the exact date
when they would embark: the 8th of August at daybreak. That same day, in the morning, one
month after Mackenzie's visit to Cuba, president Polk will ask Congress for the two
million dollars requested "to negotiate the peace agreements in Mexico." In reality it
was for "the expenses" to which Santa Anna referred. Coincidences? None. Everything
formed part of a perfectly designed plan.
     The night before the departure, a comet crossed the celestial dome leaving in its
wake a rain of stars, considered by the travelers to be an omen of good luck. The next
day, the ship did not sail until it was confirmed that all the sire's fighting cocks and
also, of course, the lady doña Lola were already on board. A short crossing of a
week began depending, clearly, on good weather, even when the captain kept on insisting
that the season of cyclones and hurricanes would even commence the next month.
     Once on the high seas, the euphoria could be detected in all the faces except that
of His Excellency. Hope inspired smiles, optimism and even dreaming. Change always
awakens enthusiasm that become frustration when neither the promises nor the expectations
are fulfilled. Nevertheless, the patriarch appeared surly, evasive and averse to
participation in any conversation. He traveled pensively and absorbed, analyzing the
political and military meaning of his trip, as if the unparalleled difficulties implied a
new elevation, more complex and compromising than the previous ones. In general he asked
to be left alone, closed up with his thoughts. Clearly Santa Anna could not ignore, nor
did ignore, that his mission, like all of them, consisted in profiting from the vacuums
of power, with their internal rivalries; to finally settle with the winning group,
whether or not one believes in their principles or in their goals or in their political
representatives. It was a matter of carrying the ideological flag the last stretch of the
road and presenting oneself as the definitive winner upon reaching the finish.
Constitutional monarchy, Federalism, Centralism, Democratic republic, dictatorship, and
even another Empire in the style of Iturbide, if the circumstances so suggested? He had
the costume in the wardrobe and the mask for every occasion, as well as several
prostheses for each event. Yes, just that the actual affair had other certainly more
delicate nuances. The situation demanded the expertise of a jeweler.
     When the Caesar heard that someone can fool a person once, but cannot always fool
all the people, he smiled from within: in effect he had always fooled everyone and this
time would do it again, from which the solitude and opportunity to carefully consider his
moves became imperative. Not for nothing did he have the spirit, the attitude and the
mental structure of a gambler. He bet everything on one draw, on one card, on one horse.
That is where he truly knew men. I owe everything to my roosters. That is the true game
of life, to crush the opponent and overcome it with pecks and slashing or cause it to
prudently withdraw before the contest. The opponents were not easy to beat yet the
obstacles not impossible to surmount. He only wanted to carefully premeditate the steps
to take, when advancing, with whom to advance and, of course, where to put his feet so as
not to fall, at the least expected moment, into the void.
     How was he going to swear once again his submission to laws in which he did not
believe or perhaps did not even know whether he accepted or not, if at root he understood
them carelessly, their existence as well as their application? The challenge was not
difficult: the Mexicans like you to lie to them because they want to believe in
everything, grasp at anything so as to have some hope...
     He knew, he also knew, that the nation was at war and that the treasury, as always,
would be found in financial crisis. Recruitment would be by force and likewise, the
"soldiers" quartered against their will through the draft would fight without
conviction, and would desert at night leaving behind half of the army at dawn, because as
many fugitives told him in intimate moments, before being shot as traitors, "you the
politicians commit the mistakes and when already stuck in a dead end then you ask the
people to pay with their lives for your treason toward the nation, since for them we want
nothing but a good plate of beans, a pot of coffee and a corral where the kids can play
and the hens can grow..."
     The United States army consisted of seasoned volunteers on wages and the salary was
paid punctually in cash. In México volunteers did not exist and the troops had not
been paid in months. The Americans had daily access to chow, abundant and diverse, while
we had food now and then, every time more rationed and rancid, until nothing was left for
us but recourse to wild herbs. They had equipment and knew how to use it. We lacked
adequate arms and furthermore, we did not have training to use them. Their generals were
good strategists with military ranks won in the academy and in a martial career; our
higher grade officials almost never had passed through the classroom, through any type of
classroom and therefore it was common to hear them say: I am a general due to my balls
and be careful about yours if you try to ignore my titles... Councils of War or military
courts, instruments to which we rarely reverted, because we almost always resolved
differences through fellowship. Yes, yes, it is true that we have more brigades of
generals than generals of brigades.
     When he sensed the nearness of the Yucatanian coast, Santa Anna experienced a deep
chill. Would I not be better in Cuba enjoying my woman and my women, my fighting cocks,
my friends, my money saved, and my peace? Why would I come out of this vocation as a
martyr if I have titles and wealth to live placidly until the end of my days? What does
Tejas or California or Nuevo Mexico or Polk or his father or the Mexicans or his
grandmother matter to me? What is the need to collect more laurel crowns placed on my
temples? What is going to satiate my desire to conquer eternity? What more can the
Yucatanians offer, Toñis? Dedicate yourself to the cocks, to the mulattas and to
diversion. Believe me you have earned it.
     Santa Anna would deceive Polk because, of course, he would not sign any new border
treaty upon arriving at the presidency and would swindle the Mexicans, also, making them
believe that unless they submitted and accepted the 30 millions offered, the North
Americans would simply absorb the whole country imposing a different religion from the
Roman Catholic and furthermore, like it or not, we would have to learn English and accept
their ways of life, their food, their music, their concept of civilization, their
customs, and their odious way of being which not only condemns us before God, but also
embitters existence not having anything to do with us. A yankee, by definition, obeys
the law whenever it exists within the borders of their nation; we wink an eye at any
disposition or at anyone who tries to make it work. It would be an eternal torture...
     The imposition of the North American system to all Mexican society, including the
educated, Sam Houston said to me, is like putting a saddle for the first time on the
flanks of a wild filly. It would perform bucks, kicks and head butts; it would crash
crazed against the corral, would launch its pain neighing in every area, would spread
bites and snapping, would scratch the floor as if held prisoner of an atrocious itching,
so it is clear, though there are many many bad customs, to tame them would be laborious,
so for this there are the grace shots, the lashing with steel whips, the exposure to the
sun without water for a week, the point blank shots meant for incurable rebels, the
firing squads, the nooses on any improvised branch, the executioners, and the sentences
to the chain gang which not even Santannism will eliminate, dear Tony... Do not worry, we
shall convert them by blows into human beings...
     It was very clear: he had to take Polk's money. From the Mexicans, his compatriots,
the authorization to sell California and Nuevo Mexico, before accepting a destiny of
horror. He would have to permit Gómez Farías to attack the ecclesiastical patrimony
as the only resource to use as an economic fund to face financing the war. No nation
would lend to México at that so dramatic juncture. Mexican contributors will not
cooperate alleging lack of capital or skepticism regarding the bloodless takings that
would occur. The only option was that specified by don Valentín: like it or not,
the only institution richer than the government itself is the Catholic Church. From it
we shall impose forced loans, my general Santa Anna, and if they refuse, the only
alternative, for now, will be to embargo and auction their copious goods. Now I ask your
help, as opposed to in 1813. If you want to win the war against the United States or at
least defend us with gallantry and achieve the signing of the peace treaties with head
held high, us only needing to dispose of the immense ecclesiastical wealth, without
losing sight that the Mexican clergy has more loyalty to the Pope than to the sitting
president and, if that were not enough, it would not matter to them if México were
absorbed by the United States if it respected their goods and their gigantic rents. Who
is first, the Pope and his interests or the nation...? Tell me, tell me, son...
     It remained clear: Santa Anna had to fool Polk and his cabinet offering them some
territories and a peace that might never be signed, yet would cause them to break the
blockade at Veracruz; he would have to fool his people frightening them into negotiating;
fool Gómez Farías making him think he was at his side in the expropriation of
ecclesiastical goods, when in reality he anticipated the clerical virulence in defense
of their material patrimony. Deceive, deceive, deceive...
     To don Valentín he owed, at bottom, his actual situation, yes, doubtless, but
he did not therefore ignore that the Catholic flock would fill the streets and kill to
defend the divine interests. His Excellency knew that the people would only take up arms
so as not to go to hell as punishment for not having respected the bloodthirsty slogans
of the cardinals. The priests were expert manipulators of the conduct of their followers
by simply insinuating of the horrors suffered in the beyond, for non-fulfillment of the
non-appealable mandates of the "representatives of God" here on the Earth. How could
someone serenely accept such a title? Their fanaticism prevents them from seeing that
the patrimony, in exchange for which they perhaps would give their life, was simply the
property of voracious, hypocritical and ruthless men, bankers, financiers, contractors,
latifundists, profiteers disguised as priests. Who was fooling who...?
     Santa Anna, as he well knew to perfection, also deceived the people of México:
no one ever in history was to know that he had had secret unconfessable agreements, with
no one less than the president of the United States, the creator of the war, the
assassin, the invader, the mutilator.
     On the afternoon of the 16th of August in 1846, Santa Anna was the first to identify
the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa. It filled him with memories from since his remote
infancy. His father had shown it to him for the first time and, with justified pride, a
long rampart with 32 bronze rings to protect the royal fleet of galleons from the winds.
He knew, thanks to that, of the Corrida de Glacis battery, a model for English cannons
in series, employed for their defense. He showed him the place where a coral reef began
which had served, in its day, as a natural defensive barrier against pirates and corsairs
like John Hawkins, Walter Raleigh, Francis Drake, and Laurenz de Graff, among many more
others. Soon he was able to distinguish the Great Plaza de Armas, the House of the
Castilian, the quarters and bastions, the portals and parapets, the abundant artillery to
defend the fort. He felt he was back home when he could almost touch with his hand the
San Pedro lighthouse, a light made of small oil lanterns that radiated light a distance
of eight leagues on the national flag waving happily and indolent. How many so beautiful
jewels! Too bad that the yankees were to destroy and bombard them... It was that much
more valuable for him to engrave them in his memory for the last time... It caused him no
sorrow to imagine the stars and stripes flag over the tower of Caballero... It was all
part of the strategy...
     Difficult moments suddenly began. Sooner of later they had to come and of course
they did not make us wait. A North American ship slowly approached towards the
Arab in search of identification and justification of their presence in a
militarily blockaded port. The Marines abstained from boarding it and much more, of
checking to verify whether or not it carried cargo, especially any type of armaments.
They had precise instructions to require only the adequate identification.
     Santa Anna asked Atocha not to give explanations in public and to go to speak
directly with Conner on the flagship.
     --Show the commodore the papers that you judge best--he said, remembering the
previous agreement which both had reached. --Furthermore, you are the one who speaks the
best English of all of us--he concluded smiling while only the Spaniard knew the level
of tension that existed within His Excellency.
     --Is something wrong?--asked lady Lola without hiding her anxiety.
     --Nothing, nothing, woman, everyday customs procedures. Routine, routine, my love...
So you now prepare whatever necessary for disembarking from one moment to another.
     Atocha departed with the safe conduct occulted in his frock coat, to show it to
Connor after the pro forma greetings.
     The commodore opened the lacquered envelope without even seeing Atocha or returning
the greeting. Perhaps he did contemptuously review his attire. He saw Bancroft's
signature. He noted that the text received from the Navy Department was the same as that
which the Spaniard exhibited. He had to allow him to pass and submit to orders having
arrived from Washington since the middle of June. He kept the instructions so that nobody
could make bad use of them and later more "Santa Annas" might arrive: a tip for rascals.
     With a movement of the hand, like someone who gives the last sweep to remove the
dirt from a home, Connor invited a bemused Atocha to leave the flagship while he told
     --I know that many cities and states have come out in favor of Santa Anna, but I
should mention to you--he warned in a very hoarse voice--that unless Santa Anna has
learned something useful from adversity and become another man, all he will do is add to
the nation's disorder and will be thrown again from power in less than three months...
Insofar as it concerns me, I should let him pass against my convictions. If it were up
to me I would hang him from the main mast of that schooner, do you see it...? The rest
would be the work of the Veracruzian vultures and buzzards...
     --Can we pass?
     --Yes, yes, adelante. It is impossible for me to prevent it. Get as soon as
possible beyond the range of my cannons...
     The sailors conducted Atocha back to the Arab. From a distance he made signs
of happiness, lifted his arms in a signal of success, messages which Santa Anna returned
with his face impassive.
     --Let us go. Let us descend. The hour has arrived.
     --Later Connor would report on the events:

     Today I permitted Santa Anna to pass without being bothered and without even
     processing his ship, given that Captain Lambert, an English official in charge of
     the steamship in which they traveled, indicated to me that he brought no cargo nor
     intended to take any on the return. I easily could have boarded the Arab, yet
     preferred not to do so, so that it might look as if it had entered without my

Mr. Valentín Gómez Farías awaited him surrounded by his three sons, an insignificant
and pitiful group of very badly uniformed infantry soldiers, and various other
stragglers who had arrived late to the encounter. From the people they had gathered
some of the curious in ultimately a very reduced number, to whom Santa Anna directed a
flamboyant and grandiloquent speech as if the whole Plaza de Armas were overflowing with
unconditional followers and fanatics.
     He told them:
     --"I swear that I will never deviate from the obligations which the law imposes on
me... I swear it"--he lied almost to the point of losing his voice. --"Be assured that
with me you will not be devoured by the fire of anarchy or oppressed by the scepter of
despotism. Never let that out of your sight..."--he shouted as if an inner rage
ferociously devoured him. --"I have often repeated that I am very far from ambitions to
power, which I consider petty, when every Mexican should aspire to nothing but to
contribute to the salvation of the nation..."--he exclaimed as if he intended to
unsheathe his golden saber given him by the king of Prussia and might wish to threaten
the heavens with it. Next he reminded them, brandishing a fist, without the majority
understanding the content of the statement: --"There has been no secret-I exercised
dictatorship through the will of the nation. I am a mere instrument..." "The only and
sacred object of my whole life has been to break the triple yoke of ignorance, of tyranny
and of vice"--he angrily claimed while his face reddened with fury. --"It has been
necessary to come to occupy a power that repels me and which I had decided to never
admit"--he confessed saddened yet convinced of the necessity of his presence. --"All the
tasks of my life will be rewarded if in the midst of peace and public prosperity, I end
my days among you..." "I, the hero of Tampico, the hero of Veracruz, the hero of
Zacatecas, the Meritorious of the Nation, promise you I shall exterminate without pity
with the blade of my sword the invaders who have dared to profane the divine national
     When the performance ends, he hears a lost cry in the crowd that causes his entire
body to resonate:
     --How did you manage to pass 15 Nails? Not much of a blockade...?
     Santa Anna feels a dagger slicing his scrotum. He closes his  eyes. He prefers not
to answer the ignorant, vulgar, insensate, and ungrateful rabble. "That is what they are,
some ingrates," he says to himself.
     The insults begin. The cold reception turns hostile. The shouts do not animate: they
offend, they marginalize, they denigrate. "You come because we have no one else." "First
he will convince us of the advantages of going to war and later he will convince us of
the reasons why we lost." "You have more faces than toes, 15 Nails." "Federation and
Santa Anna...? For how long...?"
     Gómez Farías takes him by the arm:
     --It is true Mr. president, we all have that doubt. How did you manage to break the
blockade? It captures the attention of me personally that you would arrive here, at the
port... I thought you would disembark on some portion of the Yucatanian coast and...
     --Now you see Valentín, perhaps there are diplomatic courtesies that on
occasion they grant to honor those of us who were heads of State.
     Before Gómez Farías could reply, Santa Anna said:
     --I would like to spend several days at El Lencero and then leave toward the capital.
I want to recover from the trip.
     --Sir, we know that Taylor is heading to Monterrey--argued Gómez Farías. --His
troops began to move toward the Hill of the Saddle beginning on the 6th of July. It is
more than a month since they started their move and we barely begin to organize the
defense of that arena...
     --Very soon you will have my orders--he curtly answered. Nothing would move him.
     --And the Presidency? Do not forget that we have to convene a Congress to choose a
president and vice-president. We have to do away with the organic bases and will all the
rest of Centralism. Reinstate the Constitution of 1824...
     --Tell Salas to take care of Congress and of the caucuses for the Presidency. He
should not lose time.
     --Will you affirm the Constitution of '24 and defend Federalism?--questioned
Gómez Farías knowing that it was not the opportune moment to do so, yet he was
motivated to focus on the most important.
     --I swear it--responded Santa Anna laconically, now displaying a tired satisfied
face. They seem to be minors in age considering the rules of the game.
     --Are you agreeable to imposing forced loans on the Church and auctioning their
goods, if they come to oppose us, to pay for the expenses of the war?
     --Proceed Valentín, proceed, we have no alternative. They have the resources.
It is time that they exhibit their patriotism--he concluded knowing they would never
display it.
     With the foregoing said, he boarded his stagecoach. With a grim face he sat down
and, without saying good-bye, was lost among the first streets of the port while
Gómez Farías and his group watched in confusion. The bells of a nearby church
announced four o'clock in the afternoon. While Santa Anna remembered every street corner
in Veracruz and was leaving the place where the French shrapnel had caused him to lose
his left leg only eight years previously, he said to himself: I should withdraw and allow
time to pass. Today it is clear that they need me, tomorrow I shall be indispensable and
they will come looking for me on their knees.

For his part, president Polk attempts an approach to Salas to try to reach an agreement.
He doubts Santa Anna? It fails. Salas claims the impossibility of any negotiation as
long as a new Congress to authorize his efforts is not named. His power is provisional.
He lacks a legal basis to act at all. During the Saturday meetings of the cabinet in the
White House they insist that the United States should demand the border at the 32nd
parallel, at El Paso, or at the 26th, the mouth of the Rio Bravo, including the greater
part of Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California. We will not accept one square yard less
in compensation for the damage that the Mexicans have caused us by making us enter this
war which has cost so many millions of dollars. We shall not have pity on them. Let them
pay with their territory if they do not have money even to eat and those who have they
rob from others. They keep talking about the need to bring a short war to completion. We
are certain that the enemy will deploy its troops at best in one single battle which we
will win with cannon fire and afterwards the country will remain at our disposition.
One single combat will be enough to demoralize an entire nation. Guerrilla war worries
them yet they underestimate it. It is too sophisticated for the Mexicans.
     Was it not enough for them to see how Fremont took California with 60 men? Is it not
enough to see the fresh news from Nuevo México, which tells how governor Armijo
delivered the plaza without firing a single shot, dealing with 3,000 men to defend it,
only because our James Maggofin filled his pockets with dollars, a half a cart with gold
and many bottles of champagne? An opportune bribe delivered to this Mexican governor
achieved the miracle of total surrender. Thus it is not so difficult to win the war,
right? Not even Archuleta, his second in command, put up a decent defense. Both allowed
us to hoist their flag without having unsheathed even a knife to kill a rabbit. It was
much simpler than we expected without involving tricky legal procedures. Kearny declared
before continuing his journey to California: "I declare that Nuevo Mexico, which from now
on will be written with no accent, the same as our Texas which now is written without a
"j" is one more state annexed to the United States, for which, by this act, we establish
a civil government." And the treaties of territorial transfer? And authorization by the
Congresses? Is it now ours because it is ours?

However, the supply lines to the north, up to where they meet with Taylor's troops,
increasingly experience more difficulties. Taylor was finally informed on the 10th of
June that Polk had formally declared war on Mexico and that the Congress had issued the
respective law by a majority of votes. It was irrelevant: he had already captured
Matamoros. The outbreak of hostilities was now a reality. All the licenses to kill are
widely extended. The plans to attack Saltillo and Monterrey proceed in accordance with
the joint plan, which would occur from one moment to another, yes, but such a strategy
would lengthen the war and time would run in favor of the opposition in the North
American Congress, especially for the growing economic cost of the conflict. They count
the dollars, the number of mortars, cannons, rifles, bullets, bombs, how to transport
them and how to make them in an operations center, in a foundry far from enemy espionage,
but they do not speak of the dead or of the injured or of the irreversibly mutilated.
The statistics are hidden from the press. The blood reflects discredit. The fallen are
arguments in favor of the cancellation of hostilities. They are evident signals of
savagery and of the price of greed. Keep killing to have more territory? Invade, attack
and destroy because we envy the neighbor's patrimony be it Cherokee indian or Mexican?
Beware of the eyes of the press. Perhaps to hide the reality is not a deceit of the
nation? Shut up, son, that is war. You will learn. You are very young to criticize...

Santa Anna, for his part, got up early in the morning, lazily took a custard apple from
the kitchen and withdrew to sit far, far away, beside a dike still located within
boundaries of his property, where, leaning against a ceiba, he ordered his thoughts. He
finished his eggs a la Veracruziana served upon the dining room table, his portion of
cottage cheese, his Oaxacan tamale wrapped in plantain leaves, his glass of raw milk,
his cuts of sliced papaya, his very bitter lemons split in two, his recently squeezed
orange juice, his refried beans, his tortillas, his corn fries, his favorite conchas,
those with sugar, not those with chocolate and his coffee, very strong, served with
brown sugar in the clay jar with his initials.
     When some group of mulattas dealt with him, it abruptly ignited a crazed flight
losing themselves within the rows of bananas or even into the heart of the jungle, yet
what might be their surprise when in turning, without walking faster, they noticed that
this time the owner had not followed them. Even those who dared to pass in front of him,
the boldest, barely received the generous gift of his glance. Nothing. It may be he
answered the greetings while he drew circles on the ground with a small stick or
continued looking for shamrocks among the clover. The patron no longer smoked his puro
cigar nor asked that it be lit by one of the girls so as later to put the lighter in her
cleavage. Jokes? None. My general no longer chases us or rides horseback until returning
the animal dripping with slobber and white sweat or reviews his roosters or speaks with
the foremen or organizes parties in the kiosk or bets or sings or dances or takes a
nap nor are the cries heard from doña Lola, no, no Toñis, another time no, does
not walk among the chirimoyos or cut the little night jasmine branches or gather
orange blossoms in the fist of his hand or act as if he wants to overtake you nor goes
to the well to spy on how we bathe or receives as many people from Mexico City as before
or laughs or shouts or gets angry or demands or orders and returns very early from
the dike given that, until early hours in the morning, he could be seen lighting candle
after candle to return to sit there, the light seen without seeing him... What could have
happened to Mr. don Antonio?
     Had Santa Anna gone too far? There were many whom he had to fool this time and, what
was hardest, few, very few who still would put their hand to the fire for him. It is very
easy to lie to those who distinguish us with a blind faith, yet it is almost impossible
to do so when the deception has antecedents of the moral inconsistency of the victimizer.
Confidence, like life, is only lost one time. The general-president could not ignore its
reality; nevertheless, he sought ingenious exits lost in a labyrinth from which he hoped
to emerge, like almost always, gracefully. It was difficult, if not impossible, to
convince him of his felonies. He might be a traitor, he said to himself, but not
stupid... Lie to everyone again...?
     Santa Anna and Gómez Farías agree that the 15th of September of that same
1846 would be the ideal date for the victorious arrival of the so often Meritorious to
the capital of the Republic. They would celebrate one more anniversary of the
independence of México together with the adored people. He refuses to go to the
center of Mexico City itself. He posits the necessity of remaining for a time in Tacubaya
and leaving as soon as possible towards the north, to confront, even were it with his
own hands, the invaders, with soldiers or without them, with a budget for arms or without
one, with bombs or with stones, with what he might have at hand or might find or might
throw at them like insults until his voice would be gone. He does not want to see the
rabble who extracted his mummified leg from the cenotaph. Ah, ungrateful people! Beware
of not remembering because it will kill you a thousand times over...!
     The masses toppled my statues, dismantled everything that spoke of my greatness,
damaged the theater which carried my name, and urinated to their satisfaction on the
memory of the Father of the Nation and upon my leg, that which I donated as proof of my
sacrifice for the country. O, God, help me, look what they have done with what you have
blessed! Tell me, tell me how I can go near that horde that did not understand nor
understands nor will understand nor felt nor feels nor will feel and is empty inside
because they do not accept the Aztec, yet neither the Spanish and renounce in silence
their indigenous roots. What is this, good Lord? With whom am I speaking? Who are my
interlocutors? Human beings who barely have attained the higher level that distinguishes
them from animality? Am I going to risk my life for some subject to whom the war is
irrelevant, and even amusing, for the curiosity it inspires in her? Am I going to expose
thousands of soldiers to dying by trying to recover an invaded nation that some despise
and in which very few believe? Perhaps they would not care were México to disappear
if, in the end, they could keep having pulque, whores and fireworks at the fairs, since
that is all they await from their existence? Is that what I am going to defend? Are those
who are going to confront the North Americans?
     He asks to be escorted from El Lencero to Mexico City by precisely the militia of
Xico, those who had decided to cook him as a tamale wrapped in banana leaves. They would
now have learned of their error and would be remorseful about their acts.
     Santa Anna insists upon not entering into the city.
     --How is it possible that the president rejects his people?--Gómez Farías asks him
exercising pressure. --At this point we cannot permit a break with the people and they
would not tolerate an offense of this magnitude.
     "Santa Anna has been tamed."
     Seated in the back part of the carriage, which bore a sign with the inscription
"Constitution of 1824," accompanied by don Valentín Gómez Farías sitting in the
front seat, Santa Anna makes his triumphal entrance into Mexico City without flashing
his usual smiles or raising his arms to receive ovations or returning greetings. He did
not hide the weight of his responsibility. He continued without finding the exit from
the labyrinth. Two hurriedly prepared florid arches could be seen: Welcome Santa Anna--nothing
comparable to those of the good times--and some few portraits taken from the warehouses
without hiding the tracks of dust. There is no tolling of bells nor cannon salvos or
parades or allegorical floats or children's choruses or sheets of floral arrangements.
The protocol is not military. Sober-minded. Not in evidence are the decorations and
ribbons and sashes and gold braid. The protagonists are dressed as civilians. There is
no applause or vivas or batons. It seemed to a rehearsal for a lamentable ceremony.
Or perhaps obsequies to the Meritorious. For instance, the Caesar dressed "very
democratically as a hack traveler, white pants and no crosses or trumpery." Both quiet
ones "seemed more victims than winners," although the vice-president carefully hid his
satisfaction for he felt he had recovered his confidence in 15 Nails, since the latter
had sworn to defend the Constitution of '24. It is the new Santa Anna. We believe in
him. Furthermore, he has left my hands free in my relations with the Church. This time
he will indeed support me... The Congress, a free Congress, will have to formally elect
us at the end of the year. Will it be different this time? Head and heart sent opposite
     In the carriage Santa Anna agrees not to accept the Presidency for the time being.
So that he can dedicate himself to recruiting an army. Since he has no use for being seated
in the enormous green velvet high-backed chair in the National Palace. Since his place is
in the north, on the field of honor. Since he will organize the defense of the nation.
Since Gómez Farías will take care of the finances and the budget, he will arrange
to gather an army. Since he only aspires to be general in chief of the Ejército
Libertador Republicano. Since no other title inspires in him such consideration and
commitment. So that he will install his general headquarters in San Luis Potosí. So that
he will leave in the next 15 days to fulfill his elevated charge. Since the country never,
since the remote years of Moctezuma, had been so threatened. So that with little he had
to achieve much. Which requires the concurrence of all. Since it is the moment for union.
Such that everyone should respect the person of Mariano Salas as provisional head
Executive. So that nobody should attempt or even think of deposing him. For everyone
should occupy their station without egotism or division. So viva México. And viva
Tejas. So viva California. Viva Nuevo Mexico. So viva the Virgin of Guadalupe. May the
yankees die with their damned Divine Providence.

After having taken Reynosa, Camargo, Cerralvo, and Marín, Taylor arrives with 6,500
men to the vicinity of Monterrey on the 19th of  September in 1846. Pedro de Ampudia,
the decapitator-torturer, had been charged militarily with the defense of the plaza. The
North American general knew that Monterrey had not been reinforced as had been
speculated. Mexican troops were found in that plaza who had left Matamoros plus those
sent from the capital. In total, if that, some 5,000 men. The espionage service comprised
of west Texas Rangers, mortal enemies of the Mexicans, added to local agents contracted
on salary by Taylor's assistants, following Scott's advice, reveal the fortification of
the city and indicate the fragile and weak points where the attack should be focused. A
lieutenant Meade, a Mexican, highly Mexican, one of the great traitors, supplies the
North American high command with precise data to guarantee enemy success in Monterrey.
Now you have everything to win: take advantage of it!
     The Mexican spies do their part and charge their money. They reveal the location of
Monterrey artillery, describe their range and the reserves in terms of munitions. They
inform how much the local government has spent in the defense of their city down to the
last peso. If they are going to take Monterrey it has to be over our dead bodies, repeat
the citizens, jealous and proud of their identity. The regiomontanos are disposed
to give their all for everything. They are, without class distinctions, those who carry
the packs together with the soldiers of lower rank, who arm the parapets, who place sacks
full of dirt beside our cannons to reduce the impact of the yankee shells. They are those
who blockade the streets. They supply the attack positions with water. They improvise
stations for medical attention. They raise fortifications from night to morning. They
repair redoubts connecting one with another. Only, like always, in the high command of
the army, the military debate each other. They, due to hierarchical rivalries, pettiness,
envy, and suspicions cause fortifications and redoubts to be destroyed so as to order new
ones a few yards away. It is not time for whims yet whims are imposed. Who is in charge
here, you or I? How many stripes do you have on your sleeve or how many stars are
displayed on your cap? The foreign effort is not enough, personal quarrels always
spoiling the common labor. The Chinese invariably repeat as the fruit of their
experience: the first part of the fish to go rotten is the head. The chiefs, the
generals, the various authorities, fight among themselves. Taylor will attack with more
virulence on knowing this situation. He orders his forces divided in order to attack on
two fronts.
     The North American general had privileged information, supplied by the spies, and
inexplicably ignores its benefits, despite it being so valuable. His scarce knowledge in
matters of artillery induce him to capture the plaza with fixed bayonets. He knew the
location of the Mexican cannons and, nevertheless, instead of ordering firing from a
distance with his long-range weapons, he errs and orders the infantry to challenge the
fortifications. A part of his regulars had remained as reserves in Camargo. Very soon the
fight in the interior of Monterrey is hand to hand, street by street, house to house,
door by door, corner by street corner. The park is destroyed. They call for munitions.
Why do you need them? demands Francisco Mejía: you will not need them... You have
bayonets... You have courage... You have something to defend and to fight for. Do not be
thieves... Fight for what is yours...!
     The shots of the North American artillery cannot be heard. It is already very late.
A shot can kill one of your own companions in the combat the same as a bayonet. The
streets are full of the dead from both sides. The injured of either uniform call for help
with their last breath. No one finishes off anyone. There is no time for that. Some jump
over the cadavers of others. They try to save their own life. To kill is an imperative. A
bugle orders the retreat with heroic punctuality. Monterrey has not fallen. They raise
their dying arms to celebrate the result of this first assault. The damage is enormous,
but Monterrey continues being Mexican. Viva, long live the Monterreyans a thousand
times. They provided a demonstration of honor for the present and for history!
     In Taylor's general headquarters they complain of his not having taken advantage of
the information brought by the Mexican spies and by the Rangers. The North American
general is called precipitous, injudicious, imprudent, unreflective, and hasty in his
decisions. How about a war council in Washington? In Mexico that military rigor is
unknown before the crass errors, deviations, insubordinations, or imprudences of the
captains, commanders or generals charged with the security, such as it is, of their
subordinates. As always influence, cronyism, nepotism, the established interests derail
the law with a simple pen stroke. Will you not do it again? No! Are you going to be loyal
to me from today forward? Yes! Good, then I will send a report of good conduct on your
part... Meade, the Mexican, so Mexican traitor, had the audacity and cynicism to send
word to Taylor: it seems incredible that having had all the secret information on the
Mexican positions you did not make use of them thus causing so many deaths. You are the
only one responsible. So die yourself!
     The magnificent mountains that encircle the city might have been exploited to locate
some modern artillery, just that we lack the necessary armaments because, in large part,
the money destined to acquire it had been diverted toward other necessities... On the
following day, Ampudia has to withdraw from his fortress improvised from rubble. The
North American cannons cause true ravages. They know that in hand to hand combat they
would lose. They never imagined the courage of the Mexican troops, though they always
assumed the incapacity of their high command. There are shots in the distance. The
Mexicans take refuge in the Archbishop's building. The yankee shells can reach it. Go
back, go back. Rally. They then use the cathedral as a citadel. The firepower was turning
it into a complete ruin when Ampudia whom, it is fair to say, fought with everything in
his power, solicited an honorable armistice.
     One day? Two days of battles for Monterrey? What! After a week of fierce combat in
the streets of the city, Monterrey capitulated on the 24th of September in 1846. A month
before Nuevo Mexico had fallen, already written without accent or shame. The bribes
caused more damage than the bombs. Causes? Lack of a fleet, permanent rivalries
between the generals and officials defending the plaza, the superior artillery of the
enemy and, of course, the effective espionage service provided by the Mexican agents
contracted by the yankees. The Mexican soldiers were, in the majority, recruited against
their will, indian conscripts, badly trained, half dead from hunger, badly dressed,
without pay, and on many occasions without command of Spanish. If everyone had had the
courage and the dignity of the common soldier, of the baker, of the mason, of the
tailor, of the street singer, and of the traveling salesman who hammered like giants in
the streets of Monterrey...
     We are not a warrior nation, as opposed to our Aztec forefathers. The Inquisition,
three centuries of Inquisition, of funeral pyres and secret prisons, mutilated us
forever. What must be the adult age of a youth who from age three had his feet burned
daily with an incandescent iron? What will he be, eternally tortured, now become a
captain, teacher, governor, or priest? The Mexican soul was formed on the stone of the
sacrifices and years later in the enormous pyre of the Inquisition. We renounce
extremisms, abide by the law, revert to cronyism to resolve our grievances. Let us seek
the explanations there. Now we resolve our differences and forgive offenses with a clean
tequila with whoever hurt us. Some solve their problems in the courts, we, in the
cantinas... It is more fraternal, more friendly, more human: in the United States they
are sociopaths who kill over a nickel of difference in their accounts. Here and now we do
not take the culpable to the stone or tie them atop the pyre: the responsible one pays
for the drinks or we turn to knives... What do you prefer, a lawsuit in the tribunals,
public beating or a lachrymose pardon in the cantina?
     Taylor concedes an armistice of eight weeks. Yankees and Mexicans meet face to face
when they bury their dead. They exchange defiant glances of rancor and prepotency. They
have isolated street litigation in the public central plaza. They proffer insults which
neither one nor the other party understands. The city of Monterrey is given to the North
Americans. The surrender is unconditional. The stars and stripes flag waves high over
Government Palace, over the ruins of the cathedral and the remains of the Archbishop's
building. The yankee soldiers have fought to have the privilege of raising them.
Everything has been resolved by means of wagers. Very soon those damned fabrics
proliferate throughout the city. It seems to be a big joke. Everything indicates that
each invading soldier brings in their camping equipment various hateful emblems to place
along every yard of enemy territory conquered or in the open mouth of the cadavers of
the fallen Mexicans.
     The clergy is occupied with imparting religious services. They are relieved when
Taylor does not order the substitution of Catholic priests with Protestant pastors who
accompany him during the campaign. The American general concedes religious liberty. It is
better to associate with the ecclesiastical authorities to exercise control over the
population, and resign yourselves, my sons, to the word and the will of the Lord, than to
ignite a fanatical membership imposing rituals and liturgies on them at odds with their
conceptions and beliefs. To prohibit Catholic practices in Monterrey or in any part of
the Mexican territory is equivalent to awakening the devil by poking out an eye. A theme
which is expressed: "My son, do you want to gain heaven, so then kill a yankee, poison
them, shoot them if asleep or distracted, behead or stab them so that they do not
reproduce among themselves. In this manner God will receive you in your Glorious
Sainthood and will grant eternity in paradise and not in hell, this last place reserved
for those who do not fulfill his sacred desires. Amen." Do not awaken the ire of
México imposing another religion upon them, more than three centuries later. Such an
offense will not be tolerated. Taylor will give to the clergy a reception at the level
of their deserts. They serve a banquet out of all proportion, where they render their
respects, consideration and warmth. The cassocked look on in surprise while they measure
with the tips of their fingers their pectoral gold crosses and precious stones, as if
grateful for a happy miracle. The priests begin with the churches where they can require
generous alms to reconstruct the churches, the houses of God... Give, give to the lamb
of the Lord, and thus you too will gain heaven...
     Polk explodes in an attack of rage when Taylor's report arrives announcing the eight
weeks of truce. Two months is a barbarity. I always required a short war. The opposition
will come down on me very soon with bites that I shall receive and not my idiot generals.
He goes back to talking with Winfield Scott, the most respected and accredited soldier
in the United States. The armed conflict will lengthen because there does not exist in
Mexico a stable and trustworthy interlocutor with whom to sit in dialogue at a
negotiation table. At times a president of the Republic remains only a week in the
position. That also can be an advantage. Let us exploit it. The more disorder and
political chaos in Mexico, the more opportunities for success in the war. On occasion it
is convenient to destabilize a nation before the open outbreak of hostilities. The
Mexicans are our best allies. While they dispute power, they fight among themselves,
leaving open doors for us to enter the kitchen and serve ourselves to our taste.
     Scott, an old-timer known to Santa Anna when he was a prisoner in Washington, was a
complete national institution in the United States. When Polk arrived in the White House,
Scott had had almost 40 years of successful service in the army. His life dedicated to a
martial career had brought him all sorts of honors which very few disputed. The famous
Major General was a legend, an untouchable, respected by the school which he had helped
form and through which he had gotten decorations and promotions until reaching the
maximum in military hierarchy. He had successfully served in the war against England in
1812 and afterwards had distinguished himself in the extermination of indians, imposing
new borders on them through "efficient" negotiations. Nobody better than him to besiege
Veracruz, attack it, bombard it, and capture it so as then to continue an uphill march
toward a new conquest of the past Nueva España. No one better than Winfield Scott to
follow the route of Hernán Cortés until arriving at ancient Tenochtitlán,
today the haughty Mexico City, the City of Palaces, as Humboldt had expressed it to
Jefferson. Of course they would take advantage of the maps drawn by the German researcher
himself, which, in addition to containing a detailed inventory of the wealth of Nueva
España, would be of particular importance to the distinguished officer to reach the
heart of the enemy nation.
     Every day Polk, Marcy and Scott meet in the White House to analyze the parts of the
war. Sometimes Scott himself reveals his viewpoints in the cabinet meetings. There he
explains in detail the difficulties Taylor confronts to advance, and likewise the
logistical problems of supplying the troops, above all in the matter of munitions. It
becomes known that the North Americans can buy almost all their needs for food in the
Mexican markets. The vendors sell to them and they buy their edibles paying with our
coins. For the moment I considered a massive poisoning of our boys or the negatives of
all types of transactions with us, even when we pay with gold, yet the reality has been
very different: the Mexican soul is noble and generous. They will always help us with
what we ask. That facility has saved us much time, much effort and a lot of money, since
we have not had to provide opportune supplies from the United States. Can you imagine if
we had had to bring cereals, fruits and vegetables from New Orleans or Florida?
Everything would have decomposed providing a true delicacy for the flies and the worms.
Thanks to the Mexicans this problem has not presented itself, yet indeed, we have
suffered enormous difficulties finding medical or surgical materials to attend to our
sick. Did you know, by the way, that the Mexican water is killing more North Americans
through diarrhea than from enemy bullets?
     Scott explained in detail his military angles and approaches. No one exceeded him in
knowledge. His position was verified at every meeting. On one occasion, perhaps
definitive, he added, profiting from Polk's fury about the eight-week armistice, that
Mexico City would take a long time to fall and that the campaign would extend
indefinitely if the capital of the Republic was not attacked. Hernán Cortés
understood it very well: it was no use having defeated the Tlaxcaltecans and having
allied with many tribes surrounding the capital of the Aztec Empire if Tenochtitlán
were not taken. If all the Mexican military forces very soon would be concentrated in the
north of the country, the hour would then have arrived to disembark some 10,000 men
through Veracruz and oblige the enemy to split into two. They would not know how nor
perhaps have the wherewithal to defend, for example, San Luis Potosí or Veracruz.
And we are not even talking about another landing at Mazatlán or Acapulco. We
shall give them a colossal chop in the middle of their spinal cord. "When Mexico's head
falls, when we put our adored flag in the towers of the Mexico City cathedral, in the
National Palace and even over Chapultepec Castle, military objectives which I have
studied, the whole country will overturn, while everything will reduce to threats for
signing the peace. Do not be mistaken gentlemen: we will attack Mexico City, make it a
North American bastion and our neighbor to the south will collapse at our feet. This is
no longer a diplomatic or political task. We are confronting a typically military
objective. If we want to win this war well and soon, we will give control to the
professionals of war, ourselves, the generals. We have no other way of "winning the
     The rivalries between Polk and Scott were known, above all because the latter was a
Whig and had justified presidential aspirations. However, much despite his desires, and
the prepotency, the sufficiency and the loftiness of the military, the head of the White
House names Winfield Scott as general in chief to execute the second conquest of Mexico.
He chooses Scott, in addition to being a good strategist, the best man, because he is
the only officer worthy of respect from Taylor, another arrogant untouchable who would
not have resisted naming someone different from Winfield as third in the whole North
American military hierarchy. For Scott and only for Scott will he accept becoming a
subordinate general during the Mexican campaign. He will sail towards Mexico in the
middle of November 1846. First he should tie down loose ends to guarantee success. He
thanks Polk for his naming with tears in his eyes.

During the last days of September, before Santa Anna's departure en route to the north of
the country, Valentín Gómez Farías begins to concern himself with the affairs of the
government. The Mexican Caesar has dedicated himself to recruiting an army in 15 days.
Mr. Valentín will have to gather the possible funds in the same period. Santa Anna
had heard and now confirms aghast that, in a moment of supposed national union, only
just seven of the states which comprise the nation will grant their support in the form
of money, men and foodstuffs. The problem is with the Republic: we are strangers...
     Why strangers? This nation belongs to all of us...
     We will not join the nation in this tangle. We are, ultimately, innocent.
     But they are going to invade you as well.
     We shall negotiate.
     And the future of your children and the destiny of the country?
     We already told you that we will not provide money or men or supplies. Everything
else is irrelevant.
     Sir Valentín manages to persuade the clergy in the capital of the need to
mortgage goods of the Church, the least appreciated, to supply the government with funds
through a loan. Only you have the means and the resources. The national vaults are
empty. Between bribes, commissions and diversions, of the two million obtained with so
much difficulty, an insignificant quantity reaches the army. The liberal newspapers warn
the Mexican Church that, just as the Spaniards ended the polytheistic religion of the
Aztecs, in the same fashion the North American Protestants, especially the Calvinists,
will eradicate even the last Catholic niche in the newly conquered territory, unless they
deliver a part of their immense wealth to finance a war inconvenient to the clergy.
México will be a Protestant nation thanks to Catholic avarice. Weak point,
primarily, intolerable threat. A fatal enemy.
     President Salas tries to impose forced loans onto the foreigners. Bermúdez de
Castro and Bankhead, the ministers of Spain and England, radically oppose the measure and
also threaten the use of force, as well as exercising all sorts of resistance.  Riots
begin in Mexico City. The monarchists, the aristocrats, prosperous persons, the moderates
and the conservatives view Gómez Farías sideways as the monster who had made an
attempt against the Church in 1833. They do not forget it nor lose sight of his hand.
They foresee his intentions: at the first opportunity he will try to embargo or
expropriate ecclesiastical goods supported by the economic urgency derived from the war.
Any pretext is good for taking from the other, without it mattering whether the goods are
property of God or not... Groups are formed within the groups. Division grows. It deepens
while Taylor turns his head to the right. He sets his sight on Saltillo. His next goal.
He will capture it on the 16th of November in that same year.

The plans between Polk and Santa Anna work to perfection. His Excellency has already
collected nearly 3,000 men and at any moment they will leave towards San Luis
Potosí. In the Mexican press it is concluded that the only way to defeat the United
States is through guerrilla warfare. A general-president such as the Mexican Caesar
would never combat or permit that his officers and soldiers fight hidden in the trees,
organizing ambushes or sneak attacks when the yankees least expect it. We are not girls.
The military present themselves as men and we settle our differences with bombing. But
sir, we can kill their horses at night, poison the food and the water, burn their medical
depository, or blow up their arsenals and even attack their supply lines to leave them
without ammunition. In a conventional war we will be defeated by the abundance, the
range and the quality of the enemy arms, as well as by the thin training of our soldiers.
We immolate ourselves in battles like Austerlitz, which Napoleon fought against the
Austrians. We do not play around the edges. We bet soul, honor and dignity on historic
battles that will tell about us forever. Who said that I should waste my military
knowledge as if I were a highway robber...? I am the general in chief of the Republican
Liberator Army and not a damn cow-rustler... Did it sound good...?
     In the United States, meanwhile, the news emerges, another error of Mackenzie's, of
the secret negotiations between Polk and Santa Anna. The Congress demands from the
president a copy of the text sent by Bancroft to Connor, through which the Mexican ex-
dictator is authorized to disembark in a hermetically blockaded Veracruz. An inexplicable
exception. The Congress requires the revelation of the secret plan. What role does the
United States play in this covert strategy? How much will it cost the contributors? Why
have agreements behind the back of the nation? The bomb will soon arrive in Mexico. The
detonation will be shocking. Santa Anna, a traitor? He was negotiating with the worst
enemy that Mexico ever had in her history? Polk and Santa Anna have an understanding?
     When president Salas names Gómez Farías as secretary of Finance, the clergy
knew that the notable reformist sooner or later will return to commence his old agenda
as expropriator of clerical goods. A group of ecclesiastical chiefs approach Taylor to
offer him all of the Mexican territory above the 26th parallel, or that is, Alta
California, Nuevo Mexico and part of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Sonora, and
Chihuahua as well as an indemnification of three million. They argue before Taylor
that if that is the cost to conclude the war they would pay it with great satisfaction,
because by elongating the conflict they would not only lose the territories of the north,
but the Church would be confiscated and they would spend all of their patrimony to
finance a war which is lost beforehand. We prefer, Mr. Taylor, to let go of "some" land,
thus obtaining several million pesos that would greatly assist the national coffers, yet
indeed, preserve intact the goods of the apostolic and Roman Church. Should I understand
that you prefer to mutilate your country over impoverishing your Church...? asked Taylor
to measure the patriotic convictions of his interlocutors.
     --We are practical: by pursuing the war, we will lose the northern territories as
well as the Church's goods; if right now we suspend hostilities and you pay us the
requested three million, we would only lose the plains and in that way the clerical
patrimony will have remained safe from the hands of the scoundrels. The rest is stupid
sentimentalism. It is much more dignified and honorable to leave the Lord's goods safe,
than to defend the interests of the nation... Who is more important...?
     This new clerical felony would have had little transcendence in the history of
Mexico except that Taylor communicated the offer to Leslie Cazneau and to Mirabeau
Buonaparte Lamar, the latter, ex-president of Tejas, who in turn approached Moses Beach,
the editor and owner of the famous newspaper the New York Sun, to know his opinion
and secure his support, given their excellent relations in the upper spheres of
Washington. As soon as Cazneau and Mirabeau left Beach's office he requested, through
Buchanan, an appointment with president Polk, a meeting that would unleash terrible
consequences which the majority of Mexicans ignore.  Why...?
     I do not want to interrupt the order of the narrative, yet the villainy committed
against México was of such proportions that it would be well worthwhile to recount
in a paragraph the conversation between this Moses Beach and Polk to convey an idea of
the scope of the petition coming fundamentally from the religious to Taylor and his men
and later, in its moment, describe with a wealth of details how, from a military point
of view, the role played between Beach and the Mexican clergy transpired.
     In that autumn in the Washington of 1846, on a leaden-colored morning, Beach let
Polk know of the existence of what could be a great ally to speed the end of the war in
favor of the United States.
     --What ally?--questioned Polk.
     --The Catholic Church, sir. It is known that the Mexican clergy harbors justified
fears in the sense that its goods might be confiscated in order to finance the war
against ourselves, the North Americans.
     --That is already no secret--said the president dryly.
     --Agreed--responded Beach equally curt as if he did not wish to be interrupted;
--the other fear that the clergy revealed upon asking for our intervention is inspired by
the search for agreement between the North American Protestant Church and the Catholic,
in the sense that we should never try to impose our religious beliefs, principally the
Calvinist, on the territories conquered during the war.
      Polk conceded a lack of interest in that goal without yet clearly seeing where
Moses Beach was going.
     --I believe that none of us is interested in the Mexicans stopping being Catholics
or whatever they want.
     --It is so, Mr. president, how could I deny it?--argued the journalist. --What is
interesting in this scenario consists in convincing the Mexican clergy of our religious
neutrality, extending them all the guarantees of your government, in the sense that under
the North American occupation of Mexico, we shall not touch even an Easter votive candle
nor even one of their white gladiolas, that is to say, we shall respect their religious
functions as well as their patrimony, given that their priests always, in reciprocity,
from the pulpit and the confessionals, convince their flocks, the people and the army in
general of the sacrilege it would imply to attack our troops with any type of arms. If
they want to remain right with God and with their sainted cause they will have to lay
them down, under pain of suffering a terrible punishment on Final Judgment day...
     Polk settled into his chair. Now he understood the scope of the game and the
importance of the alliance with the clergy.
     --Are you saying that certain Mexican cities might surrender without defending
themselves if and when we guarantee to the clergy that we will not touch their patrimony
at the end of the war nor prevent them from complying with their religion's commandments
at any moment?
     --It is so, sir--enthusiastically responded the journalist. --It is so...
     --And do you believe it possible?
     --So possible, Mr. president, that today I could bet you that after my having met
with several representatives of the high Mexican clergy, that cities like Xalapa or
Puebla would fall into our hands without our having to fire a single salvo of bullets.
The curates lull the Mexican people to sleep with their homilies--Beach concluded with a
perverse shine in his eyes, a faithful reflection of his satisfaction with feeling useful
and making an intelligent presentation to the president. --If the curates come to profess
during mass: whoever kills or injures a North American will be condemned to hell... They
are good and are here for our welfare... This type of intervention would be sufficient to
save hundreds of our boys' lives, of our beloved Marines, sir. We would save powder and
above all money, time and very bad times if this conflict ends briefly, sir. We will eat
our Congress's lunch, sir...
     The president's conclusion was so obvious that for Beach it was now unnecessary to
offer himself as the candidate to carry this secret operation to completion. If the
newspaperman dominated the religious reality of Mexico with such clarity, it fell to the
White House to immediately name him secretly and provide the funds necessary to guarantee
the success of his new agent. Moses Beach was the ideal person, not only for being the
owner of great economic patrimony, but also for being accustomed to keep professional
secrets thanks to his role in the press and to supply information which Polk, in
general, lacked.
     --While I listened I was thinking of selecting a good diplomat from the Department
of State, but it is evident to me that you are the best man to discharge this assignment.
When can you leave for Veracruz? Your project fascinates me.
     First I have to arrange the issuance of some British passports in Cuba. No one in
Mexico allows me to enter with a North American passport, and if they permitted it by
means of a bribe, I would be betting my life along with that of Jane Storms.
     --The news person?--asked Polk.
     --Yes, she will accompany me. Her wisdom enlightens me and her knowledge of Spanish
will be decisive...--concluded Beach with an air of tranquility and sufficiency.
     Already standing and before withdrawing from the White House, the reputed journalist
managed to say:
     --I have with me a copy of her next week end column. I beg you, Mr. president. It
will make you smile.
     When Beach left the presidential office, Polk began the reading of the text by the
famous news person, now become an agent in the service of the White House. She had been
the first to conceive the term, "Manifest Destiny." How could one forget her? Her columns
reflected the depth of her knowledge of Anglo-Saxon and Spanish culture and civilization:

     The North American colonies fought, from the beginning, to preserve English
     political institutions, such as representative government, common law, the system of
     popular juries, the supremacy of the law, the system of taxation, and the
     subordination of the army to civil authority. We enjoyed national unity,
     institutional roots, and dreamed of the idea of a new and promising nation. The
     Spanish colonies, on the contrary, in 300 years, never had a representative
     government nor had subordination of the army or of the Church to civil power because
     their charters never provided national unity or institutional roots or
     identification with the nation.
          We do not break from our past, while the Mexicans broke from theirs: the chaos
     was born from that. We become modern Anglo-Saxons, fully convinced of our
     nationality; they rejected the Spanish, but also the indigenous and, thereby, fell
     into a confusion of not knowing who they were or what they desired to be on all
     levels of their lives.
          The Spanish impasse kept them from opening their doors to the world and
     massively populating their colonies, those which today, in reality, have become free
     and progressive nations. The following chart is enough to explain our migratory
     politics, also the wealth that we can create with 20 million industrious, free,
     literate persons, endowed with a mystique of progress and desirous of constructing
     a  future in a new nation where the poor, the ignorant and the lazy, as opposed to
     Mexico, have no place:

               Growth of the population of the U.S.
                    compared with the Mexican:
                              United States              Mexico
          1790              4 million                      4.6 million
          1810              7.2                               6.1
          1820              9.6                               6.2
          1830            12.9                               7.9
          1842            17.12                             7.015
          1846            20.2                               7.5

          Our colonies considered themselves justifiably chosen by God to create an
     exemplary community charged with regenerating the world. They were businessmen,
     self-controlled, accustomed to having authority and who came to America with their
     families to glorify God through work and to live an honest and prosperous life, now
     that their professional triumph was a sign of divine selection. For us to work is
     to pray. For the Spanish work is inappropriate for their social category.
          The conquistadors were not colonists: they came alone, to enrich themselves at
     the expense of others with the hope of enjoying their fortune in Spain. After eating
     the fruit they throw away the Mexican husk. Is that what nation is? They did not
     arrive with their families and women to found a new nation. They procreate children
     everywhere. They prostitute the great Aztec family, are, in many cases, convicts who
     came against their will to the new continent. Their avidity for luxury and the
     material life is not satisfied by means of work, but instead by spoliation, by
     privilege and by influence. The rancor that they created among the aboriginal masses
     dispossessed of their religion and their goods poisoned the Mexican soul. Thus there
     is no better indian than a dead indian. The viciousness and resentments are over.
     Let us bury them with feathers and all.
          The Saxon colonization extinguished racial mixing; the Spaniards favored it.
     We, the Protestants, are not required to pay a tithe; they, the Catholics, must pay
     it coercively. We, from very early on, managed to separate the Church from the
     State; they endure a threatening fusion of the political and the religious. We
     practice free trade; they always depended on Seville, on the other side of the
     Atlantic. We open migration; they did not colonize the northern territories nor did
     they know how to work them and defend them and unify them with the rest of the country.
     Our southern ranches prospered thanks to slavery, our countryside flourished. The royal
     land grant concentrated the wealth and created abysmal social differences that today
     threaten life and the peace in Mexico. We grew by means of agriculture and commerce;
     they, through mining and when  mining collapsed, the country collapsed. We choose
     our religious and civil authorities, with the exception of the governor; they have
     never elected their political or ecclesiastical leaders, never elected anybody.
     What Mexican ever voted to elect the priest of his parish...?
          With us, the rich are saved, while the poor and the illiterate are condemned.
     For them it is easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for the rich
     to enter the kingdom of heaven. We profess religious tolerance; they accept the
     dictates of an authoritarian Church that accepts resignation and misery to better
     control the membership and charge more alms, whose amount they always hide. We
     are optimists, responsible architects of of life; according to them, God wrote, from
     the beginning, their destiny: they are fatalists, everything is irremediable. Que
     será, será. We came to regenerate the world; they want whatever God
     orders. One active, the other passive. We have the right to uncultivated land,
     whether or not of Mexico, by disposition of Providence. They retain vast territories
     not through belief in having divine right or to work them, but instead to flaunt
     them socially without repairing the social damage.
          In the United States from 1789 to 1847, over 58 years, there were 11 presidents
     without any of them having terminated their command in a violent fashion (nor were
     they overthrown by the Protestant Church in any of its modalities). There were:
     George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John
     Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler,
     and James Polk. In Mexico, from 1821 to 1846, over 25 years, the holder of the
     Executive Power changed on 33 occasions. How can a nation be constructed without
     political stability? We never dissolve a Congress or incarcerate our legislators
     or assassinate senators or torture them or disappear them or burn newspapers
     or shoot and jail journalists and destroy their presses and their type nor do we
     have secret police at the behest of our pastors nor do the latter operate
     clandestine prisons...
          Who has the better right to own the future?

While Santa Anna directed himself, at the end of that 1846, towards San Luis Potosí,
on horseback or on foot and, many other times, seated comfortably aboard his carriage, he
could not prevent the old memories of the Texian campaign, that of The Alamo and El
Goliad, from assaulting him without letup. The wound was open and bled, discharged
abundantly, even though ten years had already gone by since that catastrophic event.
How could one forget the bitterest days of his existence? He had never experienced the
terrible agony of knowing himself trapped, without a possible getaway. He had never
suffered the panic of impotence, of desperation, of enclosure. He, the magician of the
escapists, this time saw all the exit options canceled, any possibility of flight closed.
There he was found with an anguished look, cornered, against the wall, with a thousand
enemy bayonets and muskets pointed at his eyes, head and heart.
     The sensation of asphyxiation was repeated night after night, where a hangman,
hidden behind a dark mask, violently struck the ax against his neck causing his vertebra
to be crushed like old hinges, before producing an enormous stream of dark blood. In the
same manner he dreamt himself surrounded by a group of Saxons dressed in black tunics and
enormous inquisitorial hoods that covered them when removing eyes with their thumbs. He
invariably awoke with his face and chest covered with abundant sweat and with his
clothing shredded with vomit from his nightmares of horror.
     When passing through Tula he decided to wait a while for his men to advance. They
marched in front of him. They greeted him informally, without ceasing to honor the figure
of the Meritorious of Tampico and his great prestige won on the field of honor. By going
north to confront Taylor, he suffered the same cold as that terrible January of 1836 in
the Bajío. When in that cursed year he saw his army march in rows of four by four,
dragging their feet, their huaraches, shoes, or in the best case boots, he thought
of the size of the national sacrifice to prevent Tejas being dismembered from the rest of
the country. México's scarce public savings were consumed towards that goal, to the
extreme of suspending the payment of salaries to bureaucrats and pensioners.
     Santa Anna instinctively reflected a frown of annoyance on his face in remembering
the forces and equipment with which he dealt along with Vicente Filisola, the second in
command, general of the division of Army Operations in Tejas. To confront a power like
the United States with such resources was temerity in 1836, just as it is now, in 1846,
he thought without blinking or answering the salutes of the troops when he passed before
them. What is the difference, he said, between 1836 and 1846 with regard to human
resources and munitions of war? To where have we evolved?
     In order to rescue Tejas in 1836 I had to cross the Rio Bravo and do so without the
means necessary to transport 182 artillery units, 185 snipers, 4,473 infantry soldiers,
1,024 of cavalry, 95 provincial cavalry and 60 foot soldiers: a total of 6,019 men and
21 cannons. They brought 833 eight-wheel carts and 1,800 mules, of which 800 were
sequestered, in addition to 200 wagons pulled by oxen with the food and, above all, help
from the women and their children in the amount of 2,500 persons. A complete odyssey.
     There they marched, to encounter their destiny, to The Alamo, some 2,000 men from
the garrison of the capital of the Republic, duly uniformed, with white pants, blue
cassocks with scarlet colored cuffs and green epaulets. They wore a high hat topped
with a large-sized red feather, a brass breastplate, and a white blanket rolled and
placed behind the shoulders. These new contingents had, according to His Excellency, all
the appearance of Napoleon's Great Armada.
     After the elegant apparel of some reduced segment of the infantry, next there
marched an immense mass of peasants, dressed in poncho outfits, recruited against their
will, illiterate, just like a select group of Mayas sent by the government of
Yucatán, all of them thrown into the war without knowledge nor, at least, some basic
training. It gives shame, Santa Anna said to himself, when he remembered what started a
military adventure of such proportions without a body of doctors or experienced surgeons
or engineers  or experts in logistics or priests to give mass, confession or offer
extreme unction to the irreparable cases. None. What does one do with the injured without
adequate and elementary medications? An insignificant injury would not only imply one man
less for combat, but also the amputation of the wounded member or even fatality itself
due to impotence in containing the gangrene. How does one choose the terrains with the
best conditions for camping and for the battle? How to move the cannons at the best time
possible and without loss of munitions? Who would die comforted after receiving all the
spiritual services?
     Very soon it was the turn of the cavalry, a body privileged by Santa Anna, uniformed
with dark blue pants, scarlet jacket, green lapels, gilded epaulets and collars to
signify the military hierarchy. They displayed helmets decorated with large plumes and
enormous cow-skin capes that covered the rider as well as the animal. The president of
the Republic contemplated the horsemen with great sympathy. Standing on foot and without
letting go of the reins of El Fauno, he greeted the most battle-worn soldiers with
a martial air and protocol. The sound of the horses' hooves against the cobblestones had
not died down, still their isolated snorts were heard, when there appeared before the
sight of His Excellency, some 1,500 women and their children, a total of 2,500 persons
who continued the army's march without taking their eyes from the dusty road.
     The contingent comprised of these families was lost in a line that was several
kilometers long. Santa Anna despised these groups, but had no alternative to tolerating
them for the help that they volunteered. They consisted of the wives of the soldiers
recruited against their will, trapped inside a church, kneeling before a crucifix, hunted
in a market or in plain public view or upon leaving some cantina after drinking a couple
of glasses of pulque, young as an indispensable prerequisite who, once subjected and the
more resistance they offered, were chained and obliged to form a column to "defend the
threatened nation..." Then their women, equally barefoot and with youngsters wrapped in
their worn shawls, washed the clothes, cooked with what was within reach, kept the
children or prostituted themselves when their husband fell in a battle and was replaced
by another soldier in accordance with an old tradition of support and solidarity. There
they were, invariably following their men on the tortuous roads or in the battles
themselves helping them, if they could, to load the muskets. They could also be seen
hitting with a stick the flanks of a burro that carried the food or whistling at the
beast to animate it or selling it in an open locale to a livestock businessperson in
exchange for some pesos to buy food. How many men might have died of starvation had
these venturesome women not existed, who daily performed the miracle of the tortillas,
the frijoles and the salsas!
     The Caesar chose to prove once more that his men and equipment would suffice to
release the national territory from the "Texians" who demanded the independence of Tejas
and the foundation of a future Republic, free and sovereign. According to Santa Anna, the
immense majority of the Texians from that 1836 had not even been born in Tejas. They
consisted of mere fugitives from American justice, adventurers from Mississippi, corrupt
merchants from Louisiana, and farmers from Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama, as well as
soldiers disguised as smallholders, supposed immigrants in search of lands, certainly
lackeys of the White House and from the War Department...
     In fact, he remembered when he began to contemplate the Queréteran plains, the
insurrection of the colonists had begun when the Mexican government decided to re-
establish customs, the Anáhuac customs house and the military garrisons in Texas.
What colonies? They were yankee invaders, transgressors of the law, pirates camouflaged
as civilians sent by the presidents of the United States to "populate," in reality to
begin to steal the Tejas territory. Why pay taxes to the Mexican government, giant
assholes, no? The anger revived within him as if the time had not passed. The moment came
to mind when he ordered the closure of Congress and ruled as a dictator, emitting
decrees and governing however he pleased, without asking any authorization from Congress
to impose and charge taxes on foreign or domestic commerce. As dictator you are the law,
you know whether or not the customs norms apply. You incarnate the State. Thus you
exercise a monopoly of force so as to direct the nation along the most beneficial route.
You know better than anyone that which is best for the governed. You know: you are the
supreme interpreter of the popular will for a reason.
     Santa Anna showed a sardonic smile. The Congresses, he decided while he waited
seated in the shadow of a cypress with his elbows supported on his knees and his chin in
his closed fists, served to divide power, however the Mexicans have always liked someone
to concentrate all the authority and exercise it. They do not pardon tepidity. They
understand it as a lack of virility improper in a nation of machos. Balls, balls to
command and govern. If you have the sledgehammer, use it, it is not like the decorative
sword on a gala uniform... Why then play at democracy with little legislators who only
sway us from our path and slow the march of affairs that truly benefit the nation?
Better, much better, to shut their odious venues and kick the legislators out of the
     It turned out to be impossible not to remember the march for the re-conquest of
Tejas in that disastrous and dramatic 1836, a tragic year, authentically black in the
history of México. Ten years had gone by and now they aimed again to the north, to
confront the North Americans, for whom this time Texas was insufficient, of course not:
their voracity had no limits, their territorial appetites were insatiable. Those
highwaymen assassins came across the rest of the country killing and burning everything
in their path, in the style of Attila, who decided at whim what to capture, who's ever
it was, and later they destroyed it or appropriated it forever... Adios México,
adios dear country, adios nationality... Now they are coming not only for Tejas, this
time wanting the whole country...
     At that moment he perceived, in the heights, a well-fed group of buzzards in wait
for some dead meat. What a feast to devour carrion, only for those big birds it does not
taste like carrion. The noxious stench awakens their appetite and they circle and attack
each other over devouring or disputing the rotten intestines replete with excrement in
decomposition. It represents an authentic pleasure. In politics it is the same, convinced
by his metaphor, there are persons who are scandalized by our conduct because they do not
understand our rules nor comprehend that our behavior responds to a search for the best
options for the nation... You need not be surprised nor make faces...
     If the Texians rebelled against the payment of taxes, his memories on that part of
the road concluded, they were that much more opposed when we became a centralist
Republic. At that moment, those warmongers, instructed from the White House, decided to
separate from México and I, of course, was not going to consent to it. My trip to
Tejas with 6,000 men followed: I only went to prevent them from becoming independent of
our nation and to forever mutilate our territory. I ignored my usual detractors, who
logically, barricaded in their eternal cowardice, opposed the Texian military campaign
because they knew the problem was not against the odious Texians, but instead, at root,
it comprised a disguised confrontation with the United States, a colossus which worked
arduously on their expansionist strategy. How to attack, in reality, our neighbor of the
north with the treasury broke, with an army dead with hunger and with antiquated
equipment? Santa Anna should not go to Texas! Let us sell it, forget about it and we
shall reconstruct the nation with the product of the transfer of the territories. Evil
traitors: if they knew that to me Texas mattered less than a room full of manure and that
I only went in search of glory...
     One of the worst adversaries that they found in those years when they went to The
Alamo, to El Goliad, concretely to San Antonio de Bezar to go against Sam Houston and
bring him dragged by a horse into the Plaza de la Constitución, was undoubtedly the
winter, the great invincible enemy of Napoleon himself. Few imagined how the cold
tightened to the extreme of paralyzing the body, and some early flakes announced the presence
of a frightful snow storm, a spectacle of true horror, just when they found themselves a
few steps from starting to cross the Rio Bravo at the height of Laredo. The evils did
not end, on the contrary, they began. The Mayans began to smack their hands, and jump
as if a beehive or wasps' nest had fallen on their heads. Afterwards, as if they were trying
to hug each other, they patted their backs. The dense steam of their breath was the best
proof of the wintry rigor. Quite soon they were seen to call each other in their
certainly incomprehensible language and to gather with their pants and shirts for
blankets and their huaraches wet, the feet already frozen, in small groups to join
together some of the warmth of all the brown bodies. At dawn, those men comprised a
funerary monument, a small ice mausoleum, made solely from the cadavers of the
aborigines unaccustomed to such natural phenomena and who never understood what they had
come to defend however much their presence in the north of the country was explained to
them, where tall, white, bearded men desired to take power in a very important part of
the nation. The dough for the tortillas had petrified. The climate had claimed its first
victims without any of the eight-pound cannons being detonated to initiate the rescue of
     The pilgrimage appeared ever more decimated. Day after day bodies of children or of
women were found who had perished as frozen as many of the cargo mules. Many men limped
assisted by improvised canes because they had awoken with their feet darkened, swollen,
hardened, frozen, prevented from performing the slightest movement. How is the extremity
to be amputated without the presence of a doctor? Those condemned to die tried uselessly
to continue the trip towards the north until, resigned, they abandoned any effort to
stand up. They surrendered. They discarded or rejected any help. Everything is already
useless. Let me die in peace... Pneumonia became a scourge with the lack of medicines.
Between the losses and the nocturnal desertions, the Army of Operations for Tejas lost 20
percent of its men before engaging the first battle.
     Santa Anna, meanwhile, rested in his campaign tent, in whose interior was found a
bed, Persian fixtures and mats, in addition to an indeterminate number of articles and
objects indispensable for his personal cleanliness.
     Had the punishment been sufficient? Not at all! They still had to resist sudden attacks
from Comanches and Apaches before arriving in Tejas, aggressions that would cost lives
and which concluded with the theft of some part of the scarce food. And if the damage
suffered from winter had been insignificant, ay Napoleon now I understand you, a totally
foreseeable natural obstacle still presented itself that would exhaust the reserves of
patience of the Army of Operations. How will 8,500 persons cross the Rio Bravo, of
course without bridges, with carts pulled by oxen, heavy eight-wheeled wagons, artillery
pieces, foodstuffs, munitions, and powder?
     They improvised rafts after felling the trees on the periphery. The army lacks
bridge equipment. Santa Anna directs operations mounted on his lively steed. He seems
tireless. Indefatigable. I saw him help some youths to cut a tree with a worn out saw.
Here, there, with restless and furious orders while he hit the haunches of his horse with
the whip. He helps to tie the trunks. He brings ropes. He works with the hatchet.
Coordinates the activities. He proves to be a great organizer.
     The mighty current of the river overturns the first improvised boats with the
greatest speed. The intensity of the rains has produced large floods. The anguished cries
for help are heard from the soldiers-peasants who drown without knowing how to swim.
The animals desperately lift their heads from the water until being lost forever after a
brief struggle. The cargo capsizes. Everything is lost on the first attempt. The Bravo
swallows men, equipment, horses, mules, and oxen. Moments later it resumes its silent
natural flow as if nothing had happened. The second and third attempts occur. Shouts
from the officers are heard: "You can fall in, but do not wet the powder." One arrives,
later another onto the left bank. They attempt to return to the opposite side for more
passages, gaining leverage and opposing resistance with a long stick. The ferries are
very rudimentary. Impossible, the current drags them, together with the men who dare
to cross on foot, walking on the bottom, supported by the submerged rocks. Quite soon
they are lost in the current. They have to abandon munitions, powder and provisions on
the right bank. A catastrophe. The icy water complicates the operations. When they are
ready to continue the march toward San Antonio, the forces are exhausted. The cold has
destroyed their spirit. Scarce courage has disappeared. These are ominous signals which
the Caesar ignores.
     --Let us continue--harangued Santa Anna to his people. --We shall continue until we
hoist this Mexican flag that I hold in my hands atop the Capitol in the city of
     To stimulate the troops who trembled from the cold, he still proclaimed to the sky
until losing his voice that patriotic cry that motivated all of us: "I will personally
march to subject the rebels and once that end is accomplished, the dividing line between
México and the United States will be drawn at the mouth of my cannons."
     At the end Santa Anna read a decree in a high and firm voice, whose sinister content
he would be charged with executing very soon, with all its consequences:
     "The foreigners who disembark in any port of the Mexican Republic and penetrate the
land armed with the object of attacking our territory, will be treated and punished as
pirates and will be put before a firing squad as befits any invader."
     The march continued en route to The Alamo. It is decided to divide the army. A
strategically mistaken measure: one part goes with general Filisola, another with general
Urrea and the last marches beneath the command of general Ramírez y Sesma, the
famous officer who coined the phrase: "With the black hide of president Vicente Guerrero,
I will make myself a pair of boots." Yes, yes, the same Ramírez y Sesma who robbed
like nobody the silver of Zacatecas while Santa Anna attacked, and emerged with an
enormous quota of dead a few months back only to resist accepting, for Tejas, the
conversion of the Federal Republic to the Centralist Republic. The same Ramírez y
Sesma who sold war supplies to the soldiers, such as food, clothing and blankets.
     How is it possible for you to profit from the pain, the sickness and the hunger of
your own? I asked that famed soldier so recognized by Santa Anna one day. Cannot you see
that there is nothing for anyone and the little that exists, you seize for personal
enrichment? He ignored me to answer that Ricardo Dromundo, Santa Anna's brother-in-law
did the same with total impunity and no one dared to complain about his behavior.
If one obeys the law and ensures respect for superiors' orders, I, for my part, the great
cynic told me, pledge my word to guarantee to you that, of course, I shall continue doing
business with the dough, the tortillas and the brown sugar of those unfortunates dying
from hunger... I only answered: if this war for the recovery of Tejas is lost it will be
the fault of the generals like yourself. The regular army is much better than the
quality of their directives. With that said, he continued counting his coins, making
small piles and gloating with just seeing them. He did not look at me again.
     How could Santa Anna escape from so many memories of that fateful 1836 if, now, in
1846, he was traversing the same road? Pulling his horse with a halter he walked along
with the women who comprised the rear guard of his army. What army in the world would
permit the presence of the wives and the children of its soldiers in a war? he asked
while he saw various griddles protruding lost among the boxes which those women,
authentic heroines, painfully dragged. Truly we are of a different country...
     The sun burned. At night it would freeze. The difference in temperature surprised no
one in the Bajío, except for the outsiders. While His Excellency moved at the rhythm
of his people, he thought of how in April of 1835, before attacking Zacatecas to oppose
the centralized Republic, he had renounced the Presidency of the Republic to take charge
of the army, but the Congress had not accepted the resignation, rejecting the motion
amidst burning debate. Why, why was I such an imbecile to accept the presidential
investiture and the leadership of the army simultaneously? A president with license, yet
after all president of México. Yes, thus, with such a piggyback appointment, he had
gone to Tejas and with his personality would fall into the hands of Sam Houston. A
Mexican head of State prisoner of his yankee enemies. Horror! Otherwise, he said in
silence to himself, the Americans would have apprehended a Mexican general, of maximum
rank if one wants, but never the political first figure of the nation. How much
desperation about his capture!
     Santa Anna adjusted his hat. He turned restlessly to both sides. He stroked his
beard without noticing that he was subject to a great unrest. The memories had pushed him
to insomnia.
     He could not forget how, back then, he was bombarded daily with news from Tejas that
lit him like a human torch. In his character as a distinguished, proven and verified
patriot he would never tolerate that the yankees would swallow our territory in a single
gulp. The bombshells, held in lacquered envelopes, exploded daily in his face: "While the
Mexicans resolve the best form of self-government in Nacogdoches--June of '35--the
Texians rise in arms." "The yankees take advantage of the political anarchy existent in
Mexico to dismember it." In October, "The North Americans infiltrated into Tejas proclaim
its independence from Mexico. Reasons? The revocation of the Constitution of 1824..." In
November, "The Texian colonists capture The Alamo. The Mexican general, Martín
Perfecto de Cos, Santa Anna's brother-in-law, assigned to liberate Tejas, flees with 800
men and abandons the military equipment..." "Real estate companies in New York, the 
Galveston Bay and Texas Land Company, finance the conspiracy." "Recruitment of volunteers
has begun in New York, Pennsylvania and New Orleans to fight in Texas against Mexico." "A
fever for Texas is unleashed in the United States: if the Mexicans cannot govern
themselves, how are they going to govern the territories to the north, when their
politicians, as well as being wrong, take months to get here?"
     There was such an accumulation of reports, notes, intelligence that arrived daily to
Mexico City, with such clear plans that the United States would plot and execute the
robbery of our territory, that the anguish and the anger for the brazen mutilation of the
nation makes us tighten, instinctively, the fist as well as the jaw. We all demanded
     Santa Anna marched with a vacant gaze. He remembered the scope of his rage when they
notified him, still before crossing the Bravo, that "organizations proliferate to recruit
volunteers willing to fight for liberty and democracy in Texas." "Funds are being
collected to create a Texas free of despotism." It does not occur to any Texian to use
the proceeds for personal ends or to rob that money. They are untouchable resources,
destined for a specific goal. "President Jackson, in favor of the movement, secretly
orders the concentration of North American troops on the border. They will only intervene
if Houston decides to, in scrupulous secrecy." "The ex-president John Quincy Adams
publicly declares that between Jackson and Houston an annexationist war is conceived for
the first time." "From Louisiana arms are sent to Texas. Jackson's legalistic government
hides the secret assistance. He does not want to seem involved." Castillo Lanzas, the
Mexican ambassador in Washington, writes "Either Tejas will be sold or order will be
imposed." In the convention of Texian colonists of November in 1835 the separation of
Tejas from México is required until the return of Federalism." "The chief of the
White House cannot ignore the borders established by the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819.
Texas can either be bought or achieve its independence from México." "England and
France's interest in Tejas signifies a threat for the United States. Jackson becomes the
first promoter of annexation before Texas falls into the hands of another foreign power."
"Texas would establish, in accordance with their Constitution, a slave state and could
lead to the dismemberment of the United States over racial questions. This decision will
unbalance the North American Congress. The slave-owners will have more seats than the
abolitionists. One hears of civil war, a war of secession."
     For my part let them kill each other. Better, much better, that someone performs
the job in my place, said Santa Anna smiling, while he rode his horse again without
ceasing to also think of the battle he soon would join against Taylor... This time the
combat will not be against North Americans disguised as Texians like it was ten years
ago, but instead against the United States army.  Open, clear, evident: a formal
declaration of war exists between both nations.
     Slouched, seated in the saddle, he continues with his evocations performing a review
of the origin of the Texian disaster. In December of 1835, already launched on the
reconquest of Texas, there arrived to him a copy of the declaration of
independence in which it was affirmed: "...the Texians take up arms to defend our rights
and liberties threatened by the military despotism." "The Texians declare null all
relation of subordination to Mexico." "In the future the Texians will not accept any
rights of the Mexican authorities." "The Texians declare war on Mexico for refusing to
recognize our political position." "The Texians will generously award the lands of this
new Republic to those who come to the defense of our new nation." This offer produced an
enormous yankee migration toward that disputed Mexican territory.
     A thousand times assholes, assholes and still more assholes, the countries which,
like England and France, diplomatically recognized, a few years later, the nascent
Republic of Texas! How to accept Texas having its own ambassador in the Place
Vendôme in Paris...? With stones, with kicks, if I had no other recourse, those
invaders would be expelled by the Meritorious of Heroic Grade, so named after the
killings at Zacatecas. How is it possible, he asked contemplating the immense
Queréteran plain, that among 55 signers of the Texian act of independence, only one
Mexican can be found as a subscriber to the great theft? They were all North American
pirates, except Lorenzo de Zavala, ex-delegate to the Courts of Cádiz, ex-governor
of the state of México, ex-senator of the Republic, ex-minister of México to
France. An illustrious Mexican who puts himself on the side of the Texians because he is
not in agreement with the derogation of the 1824 Constitution? His life will be a devil
of a study for historians to justify his conduct and abstain from justifying it as a
great felony...
     As for Lorenzo de Zavala and all the Mexicans who had helped the Texians in one form
or another, I would hang them from an alamo poplar and later have them burned on green
wood... Unhappy traitors... The Meritorious well knew that without the economic aid, the
military support, the moral backing, the men, the military equipment and munitions
granted and secretly supplied by the United States to the colonists, they would never
have achieved their independence. To quench the rebellion would have been a simpler task
than the subjection of Zacatecas when it arose in arms for the same reason as Tejas.
Simply that in this case the problem was not against Mexicans in revolt, but against the
United States.
     Santa Anna smiled satisfied when he observed that the sun was already at the zenith.
Very soon would be the moment of rest so as not to uselessly exhaust the troops. In the
late afternoon the consumption of water lessens. One sweats less. They advance more. The
wear is less. There is a different spirit. Additional efforts can be required.
     That I swore to the Constitution of 1824 and later abolished it and for this reason
Tejas attempts to become independent? Yes, in effect, there is a parallel between
relations with women and politics: Promise, promise until access and, after access,
forget the promise... Do not politics and women represent the loveliest game in
     All troops rest! sounded an order when 1:00 pm arrived.

Antonio López de Santa Anna finally arrived in San Antonio de Béxar at the
start of 1836. There he discovered that The Alamo continued being held by 183 rebels in
the command of William Barret Travis. Among the "colonist" defenders of the old mission
were Jim Bowie, the slave trafficker, and David Crockett, the annihilator of indians, a
very close friend, the same as Houston, of president Jackson. With the departure of Cos,
the Mexican authority had disappeared in fact and in law. He knew that in the coming
days, and on the 1st of March in Washington, in Brazos, a village of 7,000 inhabitants,
Texas's Act of Independence would be signed. It is passed by 11 representatives of
Virginia, nine from Tennessee, five from North Carolina, five of Kentucky, four from
South Carolina, two of Texas, two of New York and two from Pennsylvania... Where are
the Mexican rebels who want to form a sovereign Republic? Not to be seen. The scam is
clear. The tail of the fox protrudes from the sheepskin. Its obviousness infuriates.
David Burnet will be the first president of the Republic, Lorenzo de Zavala the vice-
president, the one who deserves the fire, according to His Excellency, and Samuel
Houston, chief of the military forces of the new nation, a title to a non-existent army.
     Let us march to The Alamo! Let us do away with the invaders! Let not one remain!
Let us make them pay the price for their villainy! No one can attack the dignity of
México without paying the consequences, one by one! Let the pirates take warning!
We shall impose an exemplary measure: there can be no survivors! Thus they will never
forget the lesson! Unsheathe the swords! Muskets to shoulders! Spears at rest! Cavalry,
artillery, infantry, people of México: Are you ready...? Let us go for the robbers!
We will create justice! We will demonstrate why we won independence from Spain. We will
never fall into any other type of vassalage! We know how to defend ourselves alone! Let
us save the nation! We will be its worthy sons!
     Santa Anna's troops finally arrive at The Alamo. The hands of the Franciscans are
displayed in the sobriety of the construction. They abandoned the mission many years
previously. Today it is found converted into a fortress. Its walls are ten feet high
and three in thickness, they tell him. It is currently defended "by 14 cannons lined
up from the corners, in the doors and angles." The height of the poplars awakens the
imagination of the Mexican Caesar. Its branches resist the weight of many invaders who,
hanging, would constitute a handsome monument to justice.
     A long siege begins which the defenders inexplicably resist. Travis sends a
messenger calling for reinforcements. Everything now seems to depend on the levels of
patience of His Excellency, señor president of the Republic. The order to attack is
revealed with the interception of a letter with Houston's response: "Courage and maintain
at all costs, for I am en route to your aid with 2,000 lovely men and eight well-used
cannons." There is no time to lose. The hour to crush the cockroaches has arrived, the
Mexican Caesar says. On the night of the 5th of March in 1836 he orders those on foot to
approach the wall as much as possible. He is contradicted: "Sir, we could begin better
with the artillery and bore through the walls of the mission. We would not expose the
troops to the criminal fire of the Texians." The Meritorious replies: they are not even
Texians because they are yankees and if you know more than me, go to military college and
offer classes. Yet they still insist: we shall expose our men to an unnecessary risk. Let
us take care of them for when we meet Houston. Furthermore, tomorrow cannons of higher
caliber will arrive... So be quiet! is the response, or I will send you together to the
front. Furthermore, the life of one of these soldiers is not worth more than that of a
     The general in chief-president despairs, shouts, insults, offends, reprehends, and
damns without any justification. The urgency with taking on Sam Houston prevents him from
thinking, reflecting and measuring the danger, from judiciously evaluating his situation
and that of the troops. He even hits the soldiers, sometimes with violence, appears
wrathful, at other times mistreats his subalterns with an overt tinge of bitterness. The
intimate group of collaborators notice his difficulty with concentrating his attention
upon one matter, even over a reduced time. He seems dispersed, alien, dejected,
enervated: he only seems to pay full attention when one pronounces the name of Houston.
He acts like a fanatic. The high command mistrusts his decisions. Counter-orders are
repeated various times per day. From great exaltation he passes to apathy. From
grandiloquent discourses he falls into passivity with a vacant gaze. He wants action,
against whoever and however, but in the final end, action. He looks for "Texians" in
every corner. He pursues them in his dreams. His generals look at each other, confused.
They begin to call him "The Abnormal." He doubts his equilibrium. There are those
who maintain that in his obfuscation he is capable of going alone to combat Houston
despite the latter having an army equipped by the White House. He is not aware of the
risk. He does not have his feet on the floor. His "reality" is not shared with that of
his generals. Now they only hope that their soldiers' capacity at improvisation
transcends the erroneous instructions dictated by their maximum head. It is the same man,
the Napoleon of the West, who help upon crossing the Rio Bravo that soon the tricolor
flag would wave over the Capitol in Washington...
     Santa Anna ignores that Houston will not send the promised reinforcements. He has
planned a bloody trap. If one event is going to awaken the rage of all Texas and the
United States, it is the massacre which already can be foreseen at The Alamo. "Let them
assassinate wholesale those heroic defenders of ours, convinced of their patriotism.
Their deaths will be the flag with which we execute a massive, furious and justified
revenge," the chief of the "Texian armada" concludes in the solitude of his campaign
tent. Also Sam Houston, devoted analyst of the great battles of the past, will follow the
strategic counsels of Quintus Fabius Maximus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal:
to flee and flee by day and night from the Carthaginian troops fattened and surfeited
before the imminence of their success. I have them, I have them he shouted while he
pursued the Roman without letup and without worrying about the exhaustion of his army.
Very soon the depleted Africans required a rest in an ample spot, the same where Fabius
Maximus directed the final attack, obviously by surprise. Had not Fabius won a
distinguished place in the dictionaries of military history? To shun confrontation so as
to gain advantages until final victory.
     Houston only needs the Mexicans to exterminate the defenders of The Alamo with
gunfire and to immediately turn to the pursuit of the Texian army. He will move nervously
from one point to another. He will confuse them, tire them, leave them fatigued and
exhausted at a precise place and then, supported by his own forces and the openly North
American troops of general Gaines, quartered on the border, according to president
Jackson's instructions, he will attack at the precise moment with all the advantages to
give an unforgettable lesson to the "Savior of the Nation." Houston and Jackson had
agreed in secret that if Santa Anna pursued the former beyond the Sabina river, on the
border of Texas with Louisiana, at that moment the United States would declare war, with
full justification, for territorial violation of another power... Another very well-set
trap... Oh for Santa Anna and in the end for Mexico, if His Excellency massacres the
rebels at The Alamo and it lands on all the civil and military community of Texas and
the United States...! Oh for the Napoleon of the West if he decides to pursue Houston at
any cost until, once exhausted, meeting him...! Oh for the general-president if in his
rapture to extinguish the Texian army he were to cross the Sabina river...! What would
await him... What would await Mexico...
     --Sam, it should seem as if you are fleeing in the direction of the Sabina. If
Santa Anna crosses it, we crucify him right there. For then Gaines will help you with
"deserters..." Never lose sight that one always tries to blame the victim for every evil.
You are responsible, you say to the injured, that I have to kill you. The blame is yours
and therefore I dismember you...
     Santa Anna invites unconditional surrender. From one of the walls of The Alamo a
cannon explodes. That is the answer. The bomb makes a target of one side of the
president's general barracks. He has a red flag attached to the mission doors. The
meaning escapes no one. Starting from that moment there will be no truce or pardon or
pity or any consideration. On Sunday the 6th of March in 1836, the order is not to
hold, but "to attack." Subsequently a second instruction from the messenger is heard. It
calls for beheading. There cannot be survivors. Whoever is found alive will be beheaded,
a rusted bayonet in the trachea or their head blown off point blank.
     The first Mexicans who arrive at the foot of the walls are sprayed with bullets. Of
course they are uselessly sacrificed. The attack on the mission is from every flank. The
exterior wall falls. The artillerymen stop firing. Everyone is shot. The cannons are
silenced. The Texians take refuge in the convent, in the church. They hide behind some
sandbags; an improvised barricade. They do not resist the Mexican firing. The end is
imminent. The sacristy falls. The compound is taken. The interior hallway of the parish.
The confessionals. The crypts, chambers, habitations, patios, and gardens. The fighting
is face to face, front to front, eye for an eye, with sabers, bayonets, with fists, with
knives that hang from the belts, with small pistols hidden in the boots. A leather vendor
makes his last defense with a barber's knife, a razor given him by his father. He
receives a bullet in the throat. His contractions inspire pity. Give him a shot so he
stops suffering. Better to let him die slowly, as a thief. No one is exempted from
beheading. A flag with the three national colors, green, white and red displayed at the
compound in 1824 is detached, lowered and thrown to one side, in order to raise one with
the same colors but with an eagle devouring a snake. No to federal México. Yes, to
centralist México.
     Travis is found injured. He offers money in exchange for his life. Santa Anna,
without knowing of the offer, has him shot. The law is the law. The lesson is the lesson.
The other survivors are beheaded. There is no Christian burial. The cadavers of 183 North
Americans, perhaps some Mexicans, are incinerated in an enormous pyre so that no one
forgets nor doubts what awaits them if they dare to challenge the Meritorious of Heroic
Grade who comes to impose law and order. Quite soon it is known that only 32 were
colonists, the rest being North American soldiers or mercenaries. 400 bodies of Mexican
soldiers are found. In the last analysis, according to Santa Anna, they are cowards. The
sacrifice was enormous. Peace returns to reign.
     News arrives that general Urrea captured the plaza and took 400 prisoners, North
American invaders, pirates, at El Goliad. He asks clemency for them. The Napoleon of the
West denies it. In this war, he insists, there are no prisoners nor survivors, he
pronounces remembering the intransigence of Arredondo, his superior, now almost 25 years
ago. On that occasion, in 1813, the realist head of the army ordered 110 persons shot,
first obliging them to dig a common grave. Others were enclosed in a room until dying of
asphyxiation, thirst and hunger. A smaller groups were hung from the nearest poplars and
the rest, the most fortunate, were sent to forced labor in the construction of highways.
Santa Anna answers general Urrea in writing: "I hope that in reply you tell me that you
have satisfied public vengeance with the punishment of such detestable criminals."
     They are put before the firing squad. The detonations and the coups de grace will
only serve to ignite fury in Texas and the United States. Urrea had taken El Goliad with
400 illiterate Mayans who did not even speak Spanish. They capture nine cannons, three
flags, a thousand rifles. They do not respect the elementary rules of war. The Texians
flee terrified. They themselves destroy everything in their path. They burn their
properties, granaries, houses, and scarce pastures. They take with themselves the animals
they can and the rest they sacrifice and burn, in such a way that the Mexicans cannot use
anything. Santa Anna decides to pursue them. His irrational fury awakened by the hunting
of "Texians" does not permit him to judge the enormous risk implied in dividing his own
army. He splits his column in two. He heads toward San Felipe de Austin and later to
Harrisburg with only 600 men, all of them on enemy territory. In his fanatical eagerness
to conquer glory he disdains or does not measure the size of the North American forces.
He does not consider the possibility of a trap, of an ambush, of a sneak attack at the
most inopportune moment. Invincibility is defined by its good luck, by its guiding star.
Impossible to call him irresponsible: the president was determined to reach, and make
give way, the Texian government that was directed from Galveston.
     Houston receives the news of The Alamo and El Goliad closing both eyes in a signal
of grief. In his interior he applauds. Santa Anna is falling one by one into his
strategically placed traps. A hero for having massacred almost indefensible, and
furthermore surrounded, colonists? Everything goes in accordance with his plans much
despite the exalted demands of his forces at all levels of command. Nobody understands
his attitude or justifies his decisions. He refuses to explain them. He encloses himself
in his hermeticism in order to send two letters, one to Gaines on the border with
Louisiana: "You will enter into action very soon. It does not matter that they are North
American troops on the territory of the Republic of Texas. You will always be able to say
and justify it by alleging that they were deserters out of the control of that command
and who will receive, when located, the corresponding punishment." The other letter is
directed to his dear friend, president Jackson. In addition to narrating what happened on
that mission, he releases the following sentence before signing the missive: "With the
battle of The Alamo the road of the United States to march towards the Pacific has
definitely opened."
     The good news arrives in Mexico City on the 20th of March with meteoric speed. Santa
Anna relates his triumph as if it dealt with a notice drafted by a synod of Greek gods.
The first report appears in El Nacional in the 21st of March in 1836: "Immortal
Glory to the Illustrious General Santa Anna." "Eternal praise to invincible armed
Mexico." The Mexican Mosquito said: "Long live the Nation." "Long live the
valiant Mexican armada." "Long live the brave general Santa Anna." The Texian rebels lost
everything and general Santa Anna sent his insulting flag to the capital. Everything was
paeans to the "Invincible Liberator." "Our pen is incapable of describing his heroism.
You, general-president, are superior to Caesar and to Hannibal. We can only admire it"
The Oaxacan Santannist daily publishes panegyrics with respect to his featured
qualities and indisputable leadership. "Thanks to the Nation for having given us such a
son, such a brother." The musicians compose songs in his honor and print them for the
citizenry to memorize. The poets write spirited verses to display the hero who emerges
towards the heavens displacing the gods of Olympus in history. "You, Zeus, get off your
throne of clouds and concede it to our Santa Anna, who has won an honorable space in the
universe for his name to be written with all the stars in the firmament..." In Veracruz,
in El Censor Santa Anna is proclaimed "The Father of Anáhuac" or "The
Liberator of the Mexicans." The Scrutinizing Eye publishes an article with the
following title: "Santa Anna, unlike Iturbide, indeed merits the qualification of
Emperor of the Mexicans." Another, La Esperanza, suggests on its first page:
"Let us award him absolute powers. We will make of him our Supreme Dictator. We need
a Sultan."
     In the United States The Democrat publishes, also on its front page, a note
bordered with wide black lines, as if it announced the funeral honors of a distinguished

     The instinct between the races is never extinguished between individuals. The Anglo-
     American race is stronger and more resistant than any other. Endowed with an
     incredible and inexhaustible energy, it never surrenders nor flees before reverses
     however severe or crushing they may be. On the other side, the modern Mexicans are
     the leftovers from some inferior and degraded races. They are a mix between Africans
     and indians, given that even the old Spanish blood is mixed with the Moorish, and
     demoralized over a long period of indolence and political corruption. Both are
     physically and mentally the true antithesis of the Anglo-Americans. They are weak
     and we strong. They flee, we fight. What of the defeat at The Alamo? It is a simple
     battle. Justice is on our side. God also. What is our worry? We will wait! We will

Santa Anna directs huge activity. He frenetically continues his chain of errors, one more
frightening than the other. This time he orders a new division of the army. He will
depart, at a forced march, with 600 men en route to the Colorado river and to Brazos de
Dios. The Operations Army consists of 3,800 men, between chiefs, officers and soldiers.
The losses added to 2,200 between the dead, sick, injured, disappeared, and deserters.
The Meritorious chooses the places, dates and hours for the re-encounters. The
arrangements are administered by mail in case of a change of plans. They arrive in San
Felipe. The devastation is suffocating. The "colonists" have burned everything in their
path. They leave no trace of life, only the tracks of the fire and the ashes ofthem
desolation. They flee as they can because they fear the ire of the Mexicans. Pursue them?
Yes, to where?
     News arrives that Burnet the president of the Republic of Texas, vice-president
Zavala and the members of the convention are meeting in Harrisburg. His Excellency rides
tirelessly, or might board his carriage when he finds some woman during the march who
awakens his senses and reminds him of the pleasures of love: there is always time for
love. The rest are pretexts. He has to treat the representatives of that government like
pirates. If he manages to nail with one blow the heads of Burnet, that of Zavala and
those of the conventionists and exhibits them as war trophies throughout all Tejas, fear
would take charge of decapitating the secessionist movement. He dreams of apprehending
the leaders and giving them their deserts, the same treatment dispensed to authentic
corsairs like those at The Alamo and those at El Goliad. What Republic of Texas? What
president and vice-president of the Republic? Let us quit the stories and tales: all that
will continue being a Mexican state.
     His overheated mind hallucinates. The voracious appetite to attain glory makes him
underestimate the importance of the enemy. He really feels invincible. At that moment,
more than ever, he feels himself the Napoleon of the West. On occasion he goes forth at a
gallop leaving behind his troops and his personal escort. A sure shot from a cactus or an
abduction of the general-president would unhinge the Mexican army. The campaign would
suddenly remain without a head. Sir, with all respect, neither go ahead nor behind... We
are surrounded by enemies. An ambush can occur at the most unexpected moment. The
demands irritate him. Will slowness be a form of cowardice? Let's go, let's go! The fatigue
of his people exasperates him. He does not admit to so much weakness. A good soldier should
walk day and night during their whole existence. Whoever lacks physical resistance and
loses sight of the historical dimensions of our mission should return to the capital and
buy wool and needles to weave a little top, color pink, beside the chimney, yes indeed,
with one's slippers on. Damn...!
     Harrisburg, Harrisburg, he feverishly repeats. The quicker he arrives at that
populace, the more possibilities he will have to surprise the enemy in a lightning battle
with all the advantages on his side. He ignores the elementary rules of war and peace: he
is surveilled, stalked and watched by Houston. After arriving at this new plaza after
having risked his life to approach it, at the hour of dusk, equipped with only 15 on
horseback and noticing that "the Texian authorities" had fled aboard a steamship with its
prow aimed at Galveston, he decides to chase them until they meet. New efforts for the
troops who march among storms of water and mudflats where the eight-wheeled carts bog
down. They do it at night, perhaps sleeping in a clearing and without the elementary
nourishment required by hungry and fatigued troops. Perhaps the fanatical desire to
conquer glory will be the origin of  the Mexican Caesar's force and energy, a sentiment
not shared by the immense majority of his people, who at all times reflect on their
faces and in their movements the tracks of weariness and the need to eat something more
than moist tortillas. The soldiers despair when the Meritorious gives orders, like an
inopportune whim in poor taste, while among the cargo they transport a piano that,
undoubtedly, will permit him to return to remembering the old Jarochan melodies. The
heavy musical apparatus is raised and placed, amidst protests, upon a cart pulled by a
pair of oxen which fortunately have been able to graze thanks to the rainy season. The
grasslands on the plains are a delicacy for the beasts in the middle of that April of
     Did he now engage with the enemy? No, no, now he is informed that the Texian
government is found located in New Washington. He should arrive there in the least time
possible. When he is at the doors to the populace, Manuel Barragán, in command of a
squad of dragoons, informs Santa Anna of the exact location of Sam Houston.
     --He is located on the back of the Buffalo River, my general. If we attack them now
those invading rats will die of drowning and those who want to escape we shall shred with
bullets, my general. It will be the same as putting them before a firing squad, my
     Santa Anna instinctively puts his hand on his sword. He delicately caresses the
solid gold handle. He chews his ideas without paying attention to Barragán's
nervousness. He mentally prepared a strategic composition of the place. He imagined a
frontal attack and the yankees fleeing towards the rear only to confront the Buffalo and
thus be against the wall; it will be like killing rabbits in a box... Through no one's
mind did the idea pass that Houston's location constituted a lure, bait, so that the
Mexicans would put themselves in front of their troops little more than a kilometer away,
in conditions advantageous to the North Americans.
     --There is the enemy, let us get him--he soon unfortunately shouted. He emerges in
war regalia from the campaign tent giving orders right and left and pushing any person or
object he encounters in his path. He leaves pending for a moment the persecution of
Burnet and of Zavala. We shall dismantle the military arm of those swindlers. That is on
the 20th day of April in 1836.
     When he went on horseback in the direction of Morgan Point, a small strategic port
from which supplies were sent to Houston on boats, he met with the arrival of the select
reinforcement troops sent by Filisola under the command of general Martín Perfecto
de Cos. The soldiers came, as always, with empty stomachs and fatigued after marching,
with few rests, during almost three days the distance of 80 kilometers, in dreadful
conditions. The Meritorious invites immediate combat. Impossible to initiate it in such
conditions of exhaustion. Reason prevails after a few deliberations.
     Houston, who had made prisoner two Mexican dragoons from the Santannist brigades,
knew the number of soldiers under the orders of the president of the Republic, the tired
condition in which they were found, the equipment they possessed, just like the number
of cavalry and infantry.
     The chief of the Nation, charged with the defense of the country, also had ordered
spying behind the lines of the invader. He had discovered that Houston, in addition to
his territorially compromised situation in which he was found by having camped on the
banks of the Buffalo River, only possessed 900 men and two cannons that the yankees knew
as the "Twin Sisters" and which recently had arrived from the United States as part of
the secret military aid provided by president Jackson. They will never be able to resist
an attack of ours, thinks the Father of Anáhuac, who only controls one piece of
artillery of low caliber to lead the combat and now a total of 1,400 men, including the
troops under the orders of Cos. Santa Anna thinks he can count on an additional
advantage: the enemy is cowed because they assume their fate if they fall into Mexican
hands and, furthermore, will be weakened after so many days of exhausting march in which
the pursued tires more than the pursuer. One is moved by fear, the other by force and the
anger in the illusion. Houston would never take the offensive in these conditions.
     Afterwards, all together we crossed on various raft trips with the idea of getting
as near as possible to the Mexican army. They tried for this to be no further than a
distance of a kilometer and a half. The generals who accompanied us looked for an
adequate place to camp without committing the same strategic "error" as the North
Americans. No one even ever imagined that we would overnight that very same 20th of
April on the banks of the San Jacinto river, baptized with that name since the 18th
century, it was said, in honor of Jacinto de Jáuregui, a governor of the province of
     Never: it was neither convenient nor intelligent to spend the night with said river
on the right side, the swamps of Galveston bay in the part behind and, to the left, the
immensity of the Texian plains... Enclosed, boxed in, bounded in an alley, but this
indeed, Houston would never attack for lack of offensive capacity. "This is no small
enemy," one of the military of high rank who crossed with the troops managed to say. Yet
we shall not pre-judge. My general-president will know how to select a suitable site
where we shall be invulnerable. I myself observed the blind faith and the fear which the
subalterns exhibited in judging the decisions of their superior... We all measured the
danger and tried to guarantee ourselves success, such that aboard that barge we suddenly
became lucid and perspicacious strategists, except for the general-president of the
Republic, who, instead of weaving plans to attack the yankees, discovered a woman aboard
his boat, a mulatta, an authentic daughter of the recalcitrant tropics, a female owner of
some attributes which, it is fair to say, might lead to the perdition of a man, more,
much more, if this is, as in the case of the Liberator of the Mexicans, a truly sensitive
male vulnerable in his knowledge of feminine beauty.
     The story of that goddess of the jungle? Emily Morgan told it with a luxury of
details to His Excellency with many Castilian words and other English ones during the
crossing in that damned raft that would change the history of México and of the
entire world. While she narrated her life with much sympathy and described how she had
been a slave born in the Bermudas back in the Twenties of that same 19th century, my
general did not stop contemplating her fleshy lips or the abysmal neckline that hid the
cusps of eternity and at the same time, without permitting her to interrupt the
narration, began to caress those solid legs, of incandescent material. While a boatman
held a long pole in the rear and pushed the raft in the direction of the opposite bank,
the president, always uniformed, even though elegantly dressed in campaign garb with
some decoration or other without omitting, indeed, the tricolor sash which crossed his
chest from the left side to the right, with the index fingers and thumbs of both hands,
delicately grasped the swirling skirt, ample, generous, of a fabric imbued with many
colors that the beautiful native wore and lifted it above her knees to leave her thighs
uncovered. For some reason he had insisted greatly on crossing only accompanied by the
girl and by the ferryman, named Turner. Let the troops wait! We have time! The Houston
Crow will not attack today...
     The lovely Emily had been purchased by a slave trafficker, who had sold her in 1835,
one year previous in turn, to one James Morgan, a Philadelphia businessman dedicated to
real estate speculation in Texas lands, along with a group of associates in New York.
Emily West, as was the custom, changed her name for that of Emily Morgan, the surname of
her lover, of her owner, as she explained it to a Santa Anna dedicated to the
contemplation of those splendid legs, a recompense not given him by the nation in
exchange for his campaign burdens, but by life, because of the prize that awaited him in
his vocation as hero and his endeavors to defend the goods and the integrity of his kind.
Nothing better for him than to receive an homage such as that which this woman dispensed.
     Santa Anna thought he heard that she and the ferryman worked in Texas under 99-year
contracts because slavery was prohibited by the Mexican Constitution of 1824 and that
their boss had contracted them to take persons and merchandise across from one side to
the other in exchange for a price and that she herself had transported general Sam
Houston various times, that corpulent and violent man, bad-looking and irate, yet who
when he laughed his braying was heard to the Mississippi. The Protector of the Nation
passed in instants from contemplation to touch, before the indolent and permissive
attitude of the mulatta, who did not seem to be conscious of the powerful effect that her
garb produced in men. My general found himself so fascinated that he did not notice the
wink that Emily shot to Turner, the ferryman, another slave, when the Mexican ensign
evidently was taken aback by her inexplicable tolerance. A loud blow then shook Santa
Anna. His head whipped violently. They had run aground on the other side. The journey
through paradise had ended. The barge struck against the dirt suddenly stopping.
     Emily jumped to the ground as if involved in a trip of no transcendence. She ordered
some blacks endowed with impressive musculature to disembark the equipment and the cargo
of the barge with the maximum rapidity possible. She had to return for more journeys in
order to deliver very good accounts to Morgan. She did not imagine the class of stud that
she had before her nor much less the feelings which had awakened in him.
     Santa Anna took her by the wrist with imposing firmness while he ordered in a
tyrannical voice, one of those that leaves no room for any sort of doubt:
     --Listen carefully, queen of the mangroves--he said without her understanding his
meaning--you should know that that was your last trip for today...
     Turner witnessed the scene tugging on the guideline without ceasing to oppose
resistance to the current by sticking an enormous post in the bottom of the river. At any
moment it might tear from the floor and bury itself right in the general-president's
cranium. Emily, aware the impulsiveness of her companion, the ferryman, calmed him with
smooth movements performed with her free hand.
     The mulatta approached the ear of the head of the Nation to murmur in a low voice
that she needed some words with the boatman, the last instructions of the day, those
necessary to prevent Morgan's anger. Do not deny me a few moments with my boy, later I
will be all yours. That is what you want, no? Houston is a violent man, you do not seem
so. Or are you...?
     Santa Anna, feeling sure of his prey, let go her forearm without losing sight of
her, newly placed his hand over the handle of his sword and called for one of his
soldiers to clean the clay from his boots. A general of respect cannot have dirty shoes
because it demonstrates his shortcomings in matters of transport. Who that travels in
carriage or on horseback can soil their boots with mud? He would seem like those starving
of hunger...
     He contemplated Emily's back imagining her forms covered by the skirt. He could
imagine the generosity of the flesh which life would grant him in the evening. Before the
bath in the copper tub with which he invariably traveled while a blind musician,
contracted especially for that infirmity, interpreted some pieces on the grand piano
sequestered from Harrisburg days before. Today more than ever he will pressure his
chamber valet to expedite the arrangement of his campaign tent and put up the Persian
tapestries that made him feel as if he had never left his finca of Manga de Clavo.
     Once alone together, His Excellency will remove her blouse without requesting her
authorization. Now it was all his, of His Excellency and no one else. His slave in all
the meanings of the word. He will order a bottle of champagne uncorked that he will
order cooled in the cold waters of the San Jacinto river. Thus, with her torso naked, he
will drink his favorite cups of Bohemia, given him by the French minister accredited in
México the day he first took possession as president of the Republic. He would see
her. He would return to seeing her filling his eyes with her. Then he would commence
with the last bottle, the same moment he would totally detach her from her habits,
however humble they might be, and introduce her into the steaming bathtub to fully bathe,
cover her with kisses and, subsequently, have the water changed to accompany her in
another immersion, once total hygiene is guaranteed. At that instant he will join his
palms in a brief applause so that, as if by the art of magic, new cups appear with more,
much more champagne, that necessary to bathe a goddess of those latitudes and similar
     The general-president never would have imagined that Emily was not instructing
Turner in matters of transport of cargo, equipment and personnel of the Mexican army, but
that she had instructed him to run to the camp where Houston's quarters were found to
tell him that they had the general-president in their hands, that she would take charge
of keeping him in the campaign tent until well into the morning, that he, the North
American general, should take advantage of that opportunity to attack with all their
forces, because the Mexican reinforcement troops, recently arrived, were exhausted and
dead from hunger. Tell him that the siesta, to which the Mexicans are accustomed, will be
long, very long, the longest in history, which he will be able to verify with his
telescope, the same one he showed me to see up close what is far away. Talk about the
tube, the telescope with which he made me laugh so much when I helped him to cross the
river for the first time. He should verify, verify first and later attack, should attack
without pity because Santa Anna will not even be able to run: he will have his pants down
and that will complicate the maneuver. Right?
     --Listen--Emily took Turner by the arm--tell Houston that if he values my skin at
all not to fire in the direction of the campaign tent which has the Mexican shield,
except if he does not want to take Santa Anna alive and has decided to kill me as well...
     With that said, and caressing Turner's head, she turned to Santa Anna, who joyfully
awaited her.
     --So what did you explain to the boatman?--the president questioned with a very
spontaneous and candid smile.
     --We still have many people to bring to this side of the bank. According to what I
heard from you there are almost 4,000 men, no?
     --Yes, many more than what is necessary to massacre those scoundrels who hide behind
that grove. Miserable gunslingers contracted by Washington... It would be worthwhile for
them to notice how the light is because they are never going to see it again...
     Moments later Santa Anna conducted Emily to his campaign tent. --Make yourself
comfortable, I shall return: I have a few pending matters to arrange.
     He then met with his generals on a site from where it was possible to observe the
movements in the Houston camp. The smoke from the bonfires could be distinguished with
perfect ease. The enemy was making arrangements for the arrival of night. They could
almost perceive the roast rabbits skewered on spits. Some guarded others. In the North
American quarters they debated the necessity of attacking at that precise instant when
the troops from Cos had arrived, as the spies had punctually informed them. The Mexicans
would be tired after a march of 50 leagues. They would not have the strength to pull the
trigger or much less to brandish a sword or lift a lance. We do not expect, Sam, for
more reinforcements to arrive: it is now, the high command demanded.
     --The yankees will not attack--defended Santa Anna. --They are cowed, I know and,
furthermore, weariness will prevent them from taking a step. They also need to rest.
     The tone of the discussion rose. We are committing the same error as the yankees,
the military Mexicans of high rank insisted. Rule number one in a militia consists in
leaving the rearguard permanently open and we ourselves are closing it. That is a
suicidal position. A cadet will learn that on their first day of classes in the academy.
They will massacre us if they attack us, my general. We will not permit them. They are
extending a trap. We see it with the same clarity as the smoke from their campfires. They
will hunt us, immobilized like the spider approaches the insect trapped in its web to
devour it.
     Fatigue blurs reality for us. It makes us see fantasies and nourishes non-existent
fears. A good nap will benefit everyone, Santa Anna insists, rubbing his hands, while he
thought about Emily nude, sunk in the bathtub, lost among vapors and odors of heliotrope.
He would empty the basin completely over the hair of that woman. He would ask her to
apply soap in front of him and later, once standing up, would very slowly empty one or
two pitchers over her head so that the water would flow over her skin and would very
slowly rinse the suds from her body. At that moment, the illustrious warrior would take
off his armor and, without removing his gaze from his prey, enter into action.
     --Can the people light fires to heat tortillas?--they asked His Excellency when he
was withdrawing to his tent.
     --Of course--said Santa Anna. --They will already be tired of eating them cold
after so many days of rain. The smoke will no longer give us away. We both know where we
find ourselves. In war and in love there are also rules, boys--added the Caesar with a
wide smile that covered his whole face. Anybody would have said that he had the
expression of a naughty kid.
     Besides, he thought with satisfaction, the devil knows very well to whom she
     Anyway Santa Anna order the maximization of the guarding of the flanks. He locates
various companies on both sides with very precise instructions to sound the alarm at the
first strange movement. He doubles the service watch. He looks for an elevated spot to
place the bugler. Soldiers infiltrate the forest during the night. He directs the first
operations to oversee the construction of an enormous parapet designed to protect his
only 12-pound cannon needed to wreak havoc in the enemy columns. He asks for the
Matamoros battalion to locate in the center, in anticipation of a surprise attack. One
could vote whether Houston's forces might be equally or more fatigued than the Mexicans.
He discreetly crosses himself beneath his blouse supplicating God that nothing interrupt
that night.
     Upon closing the curtain of the campaign tent behind himself, it became dark. Emily,
seated with her hands neatly crossed over her legs, awaited the inevitable visit from the
president. Through the mind of the Meritorious fleetingly passes the image of María
Inés de la Paz García, his wife, with whom he had taken his first vows when
she was only 14 years old, in 1825. The memory of his wife and of the three living
children he had procreated should remain present on the field of battle, when he charged
at full gallop with sword unsheathed in search of the yankee hired gunmen, but no, in no
case would he accept an invasion of feelings  in these circumstances. Why does the mind
have to betray us in the critical moments of life projecting inopportune images,
certainly tortuous, when we need to devote ourselves fully to a concrete goal, as is,
undoubtedly, the seduction of that portentous slave? he said as he lay before Emily,
while one of the candles of the prisms oil lamp began to flicker.
     Once before her he confessed that he only knelt before beauty and before God our
Lord, in that order, my love, he exclaimed while he returned to lifting with thumb and
index fingers the ample skirt that covered those legs so well turned of precious tropical
woods. The image of his son Antonio, dead at five years of age, set in his mind. He
instinctively closed his eyes as if he had been stuck with a pin.
     He had had time in excess to think about him during the entire trajectory from
Mexico City to San Antonio de Béxar, until before The Alamo, but no, feelings
appeared in his head when he least desired or expected them. If I have tamed armies, have
conquered cities and rebel regions, have destroyed enemies of great caliber such as the
Spanish Empire eight years ago, have even assumed the Presidency of my nation and now it
turns out that I can deal with the whole world yet not with myself... He would give his
best effort to overcome it and concentrate on a task to which very few could dedicate
themselves body and soul.
     He kissed the thighs of that fury of the tropics without her displaying the slightest
resistance, yet without adding to the caresses or the cuddling of the president. She let
him do so perhaps lifting her head, fixing her gaze on the ostentatious oil lamp. Is a
candle not good enough to illuminate the small room? Persons who seek luxury are hollow
inside, because they always flee from reality constructing gold castles, the mulatta
said rising from the chair when the audacity of the president seemed to overflow and
please her. The yankees are very crude. They ignore the most elementary insinuations of
courtship and are unaware of the delicate manners of approach to a woman. For them it is
like closing a deal. We quickly arrive at the price that you want for that pair of mules.
Let us move on to the shortcuts. Leave courtesies aside. To the kernel. How much?
Alright! Now! I have other more important activities today in the afternoon. Time is
money. It is just that Santa Anna had his rhythms. If you want to prepare a chicken stew
very rapidly on the stove, all you will achieve is to turn it into ashes. Haste with the
tortillas and in bed guarantee the failure of the cook and of the lover.
     Santa Anna and Emily stood up, just as His Excellency had foreseen and fantasized.
Without saying anything, he undid her blouse and skirt until leaving her totally exposed
to the warm light of the lamps. Before putting her in the steaming bathtub, he withdrew,
according to his custom, a few steps with the objective of contemplating the woman at a
distance, just as the painter must separate herself from her work to measure it with an
adequate perspective. Emily kept her arms at her sides while the Liberator walked around
her in the style of an old loan shark who slowly studies the object given in pledge
before pawning it. The mulatta had some handsome buttocks, quick buttocks, gluttons,
healthful, robust, jocular, saturated, and whimsical. A delicacy, those buttocks were a
delicacy, an authentic feast of the flesh.
     Without resisting the weight of the gaze, the youth covered her dark breasts with
her  hands. The general in chief of the Operations Army removed them so that nothing
would perturb his visions and now, also, so that no memory would assault his fancy. He
conquered. He grew. The mulatta lacked the fat that the women of the aristocracy
accumulate around the waist. Her tissues are as fresh as the leaves in the jungle. He
was dealing with a female, strong, solid, good for calving healthy sons.
     Seated on the bed, Emily made an initiative that surprised the Napoleon of the West.
She asked to be the one to remove the pants from her lover. Santa Anna agreed enchanted,
imagining in advance the surprise that would illuminate the face of the mulatta until
the day of final judgment. The girl would remember until the last minute of her life
what she was about to see. The dictator removed his silk suspenders and proceeded with
some understandable timidity to rummage in the Liberator of the Mexican's fly. At the
beginning, the dim light of the lamps did not allow her to verify what her sight already
announced without the slightest margin of error. When the general-president turned
towards the left sensing the girl's doubts, no doubt now remained of her discovery...
Emily lifted her head to meet Santa Anna's gaze. She could not believe it. She felt with
the tips of her fingers to ascertain what her senses told her. His Excellency actually
used solid gold buttons with the national shield engraved on each one of them. He had
sent for them to be made in London by one of the jewelers in the Court of queen Victoria
I of England. This goldsmith, a friend of the English minister in México, had
collaborated in the making of the sovereign's crown, the same which she had utilized on
the day of her ascension to the throne.
     A mischievous wink was sufficient to appeal to the mulatta's comprehension.
Experiences with the Mexicans were always different. They never lacked the touches of
     He bathed her once and even twice, touching her, feeling her, provoking her with the
soap, causing her to twist with pleasure, getting her to smile at first and later to
openly laugh when they drained to the bottom, one after the other, the cups of champagne
which tickled her nose and later prevented them from feeling the weight of their legs
until floating among horselaughs only heard by the personal staff of the Generalissimo.
The fiesta seemed to have reached its apogee. Both bathed, played, caressed, saw,
ignited, invited, debated the most sensual touch. Everything came out according to Santa
Anna's plans. After emptying various pitchers on each other, he took her out of the tub,
rubbed her with an absorbent towel, drenched her with rosewater, and led her to the bed
carrying her, while he lost his head amidst the black hair of that mulatta who for
various reasons he would never forget.
     The bed? The bed was not a sumptuous one, large and comfortable like that which His
Excellency used when he slept in the National Palace in a room that opened onto Moneda
street, no, not at all. In reality they dealt with a tin cot, certainly modest, one
resembling that used by Napoleon in the nights before the battle of Austerlitz. There, in
such a reduced and fragile space, the pair had to lie to enjoy the excellencies of love.
You can believe it or not, but imagination avoided all the pitfalls and allowed Antonio
and Emily, Emily and Antonio to stand up at times as if they walked upon moving sands,
other times I saw one of them kneeling while the other, erect, touched the canvas roof of
the tent as if they wanted to scratch the emptiness. I also observed them seated, facing
each other or him kissing the mulatta's shoulders from behind her back. If the cot had
been in the National Palace, the squeaks produced by the old springs, the wails of
pleasure, the pleas not to lose the rhythm and to accelerate the pace, more, more, do
not stop, do not pause, no no, thanks to the Divinity, God, God, God or "O my dear Lord,"
the exaltation of being loved, the invocations launched in different directions to defer
the denouement, might have been heard in the Plaza of the Constitution and out to
Plateros street. Little smiles would have been produced among the pedestrians, among the
vendors of red cotton candy or among the boleros, street musicians or hot dog
vendors who sold their products in the plaza.
     The pair fulfilled all the rites until the president fell into a swoon on one extreme
of the cot. The music produced by some faraway marimbas seemed to caress his limp black
hair. Emily joined him in sleep, adhering to him, until well into the morning when not
even the sun, reaching its zenith, managed to wake them. The first to return to life was
the Liberator, as I myself was able to attest. As soon as he took note of his situation
and his condition, upon seeing two empty champagne bottles on the rug and confirming that
the marvelous mulatta with a panther's gaze and skin had not been a mere erotic dream,
for he had her naked beside him, still asleep on the edge of the cot, he decided to take
her again, the last, taking advantage of her still fighting, refusing with her head, to
emerge from the vapors of an exquisite somnolence. He turned her over, mounted her like
a Sevillian pony that he had at Manga de Clavo, held her firmly by the mane, twitched
his face muscles, squeezed his legs to fully motivate the animal and got on bareback, at
an unbridled gallop where His Excellency closed his eyes as if he were to jump to the
other bank crossing over a deep precipice. That was the life, the true art of existence
was about that, he said biting the fleshy moist lips of that bedeviled woman who held
the power to enervate him, until some unmistakable cannon shots, no, no it was not
diurnal lightning, herald of an imposing rain, followed by musket shots which returned
him to reality.
     The Mexican Caesar remained paralyzed, inert. He sharpened his hearing. He furrowed
his brow. He suddenly wrinkled his entire face. He remained immobile for some instants
like a little lizard that measures the danger. He confirmed in a trice what his senses
told him. There was not the slightest doubt: against all his prognostications, Houston
had decided to attack. He had been mistaken from end to end. His generals had been right,
completely right. There was no small enemy. He separated in one jump from that woman who,
surprised, demanded an explanation that she would never hear. Were not the bullets and
the cries of horror an answer? To hell with women, with champagne, bathtubs, vapors, the
heliotrope perfumes, the rosewater, and the Persian carpets! To hell with everything! My
clothes, where are my clothes?
     --My life--said Emily covering her chest.
     --The hell my life: look for my boots and do not just lie there like an idiot... My
pants, where are my pants, my suspenders, my sword...? Move your ass damn it--shouted the
general president beside himself. --Find what I ask you or I will have you shot by seven
battalions, damn it!--he thundered beside himself who before had presented himself as an
exquisite gentleman.
     Emily wrapped herself in the sheets to look for her clothes when some shots broke
through the fabric of the presidential campaign tent. The prisms of the lamp were
shattered. The chamber aides and a pair of generals came in without the slightest
hesitation, to give voice to the alarm and receive instructions. Santa Anna went out to
the clearing dressed in the pants, the suspenders attached on the sides, the boots
scarcely on, and an unbuttoned shirt. Orders? None. The only thing the Liberator and
Meritorious thought in those moments was first, saving his skin, and next that none of
the North Americans be permitted the luxury of apprehending the president of the Mexican
Republic himself. He would hide under the stones, disguised as a priest, as a mother of
charity or of vice, whatever, or try to pass as one more dead thrown onto the bank of
the river. And if they burned him alive...?
     --A horse!--he demanded of his lieutenants, once he had made a brief review of the
place and measured the possibilities of success of such a surprise attack.
     Santa Anna never supposed that while he dedicated himself to the contemplation of
that goddess of the tropics, now insulted, Houston had climbed a tree with a telescope to
spy on the Mexican camp. He peered at every movement of the enemy. He distrusted the
words of Turner, who with a smile awaited the verification of his information and, of
course, a juicy tip. The surprise of the North American military could not have been
greater. Not only had Santa Anna split his army: Filisola could be found with more than
5,000 men on the Brazos, at least 20 leagues away, however the Mexican dictator had
fallen into the trap and had camped exactly in front of the North American troops,
disguised as Texians, locating themselves in an alley without exit. They would attack
from the side of the plains. There would be no pity. They would squash the Mexicans like
cockroaches. The sun of Austerlitz shines again! said Houston full of enthusiasm. It was
decided, thought the North American general, while he jumped heavily to the floor,
giving orders for immediate attack. The happy moment had arrived for revenge, the golden
awaited possibility that his troops would satisfy their desire for vengeance.
     Houston directed his horse as hurriedly as he could. His people had been with him a
sufficient time to recuperate after a long two-day march, during which they had covered
more than 55 miles through the dense rain and interminable morasses. He calls for the
attack through his orderly. They gather the arms. It is today. Right now. Take your
musket and your cap and run to the line. Form at the previously assigned place. Count
your bullets. Measure your powder. A solitary drum accompanied by a fife intones "Come to
the Bower." Celestial music for the yankees, invaders, hired gunmen of the White House.
Sam Houston affirms right and left that his troops and the twin sisters should
only await the final order to advance or to light the fuse. The two cannons are ready to
shoot. One of them had been loaded with horseshoes by way of munitions. The effect of
firing that would have to be devastating. The head of the "Texian armada" emits a
profound, alarming cry, a savage grunt to awaken the fury of his people. The army,
standing like a single man, launches into combat. Violently lowering his hat, Houston
broke the silence of the forest: Reeemeeember the Aaaalamooooouuu...!
     The plan was executed to perfection. The Texian troops approached stealthily among
the trees of the forest.  In the center marched the colonel Burleson. On his left, the
second regiment in the command of colonel Sherman; on the right, four infantry companies
under the command of colonel Henry Millard and, on the edges, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar.
They approach crouched, in silence; they cannot waste bullets. The work for the bayonet
should be intense. The Mexicans are 1,400, the yankees almost 900. They should utilize
the surprise factor to maximum advantage. Another shout of Houston's, another "Remember
the Alamo," was enough so that in a few instants the attack could be considered lethal.
     The Mexicans defend themselves as they can, but the artillery razes them or the
cavalry reaches them or the infantry shoots them before they can return to load their
flint and powder rifles. Mí no Álamo, they shouted in reply to the
yankee onslaught. While the horse requested by Santa Anna arrives, he manages to order
that the Guerrero and Aldama battalions do not abandon the field or remain in the rear.
It is worse: they will be drowned or assassinated there, it is suicide, it will be
butchery. They ignore his instructions. There is not time to prepare or to load or to
aim when a yankee has already shot point blank or buried the bayonet in one's back in
the precipitate flight. Those who flee to the marsh or to San Jacinto are massacred in
the water. They cannot return fire because their powder becomes wet. The river is tinged
red. It is futile to hide in the oak woods. Thus, defenseless, they are sprayed by the
enemy bullets. The thicket is full of dead Mexican soldiers. The attackers communicate in
English. They do not speak Spanish. The uniform betrays them. Mexican Texians?
"Texians?" No, they are the same yankee invaders: Barrett, Bowie, David, and Dickinson,
some of the assailants at The Alamo, who captured it against every law, are now avenged
in 18 minutes. "Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliath...!"
     The balance of the attack: the North Americans register two dead and 23 wounded.
From the Mexicans is taken a wagon cannon, all the campaign equipment, utilities and
four flags, 600 rifles, 300 sabers and 200 pistols, several hundred mules and twelve
thousand pesos. The most important: 630 dead soldiers are counted, 730 prisoners,
including colonels, lieutenant colonels, also Ramón Martín Caso, the personal
secretary of president Santa Anna, the true author of his speeches, the same one who
taught him drafting techniques and patiently gave him classes in oratory... A total
disaster. The surrender is unconditional although Juan Nepomucemo Almonte tries to offer
some resistance with a group of loyalists, yet the fallen are so many, on the front and
at the sides, such the superiority by the laws of advantage, that they wisely opt to
display a white flag in a signal of peace. They are saved. They are not beheaded. They
are corralled behind some fencing designed to hold livestock. A guard is installed. And
the Guiding Angel of the Mexican Republic?
     His Excellency had fled. An assistant saved him by providing a horse at the last
minute, the same as had occurred in the battle of Tolomé just four years previously,
in which the great liar was equally beaten yet knew, as always, how to convert the error
into glory by unequivocally blaming others. He is crazed riding the beast. He knows they
are coming for him. That is one of their goals. He does not want to even think of the
fate that awaits him after The Alamo or El Goliad. The North Americans should not ignore
that we Mexicans decapitate our enemies and later we fry their head in a pan as a warning
to others. They will charge you very heavily for your beheading and firing squad orders.
He savagely spurs the animal. Audible blows on the haunches are struck. He proffers
insults against the steed and against whosoever blocks his passage... Away! Away! I am
the president of the Republic...
     He gallops as far as the Texian plains. He departs without turning to look back. He
does not want to hear one more shot or one lament or one threat to kill. He notes that
he cannot stand the thundering of the cannons. And more, he hates the cannons. He rides,
striking the animal on the flanks until after an interminable hour, the beast gives up
and turns over dead, broken, along with the rider. The latter, without turning his head
to verify whether or not he is pursued, runs to garrison himself when night arrives to
his aid and covers, hides, protects him from the yankee soldiers who will go out to look
for him on orders from Houston.
     He manages to change clothes thanks to some peasants, in whose hut he spends the
night captive of an uncontrollable agitation. If at least he could have fought with
Filisola's army. The idea becomes an obsession. He does not stop hearing hooves of horses
that approach while he is trying to get some sleep in a haystack. He hears voices in
which he distinguishes exclamations and curses in English. He hears, like fantasies
belonging to a mammoth panic, how they attach a rope to the branch of a poplar tree and
adjust the noose. He remembers not one instant of the historic moments lived beside Emily
nor does the possibility of a betrayal pass before his hallucinated mind. He accepts that
they would have camped anyway in the same place very much despite the suggestions and
even demands of his high command. He does not think about Emily or of Inés
García, how happy his wife must be enjoying the marvels of Manga de Clavo, nor does
he want to imagine her situation in México if they come to apprehend him. Where
could he find a new horse, a winged horse to fly to the moon? He would give his ranch,
his patrimony, his savings in pounds sterling in exchange for his liberty, to escape, to
flee or if perhaps finding Filisola and his thousands of men to return and give Houston
what he deserves... Filisola, Filisola, for what you want the most, where are you...?
     On the following morning, very early, he takes the road towards the south, toward
the Rio Bravo. He goes along the bank so as not to get lost. Hunger devours him. At times
he trips. Falls. Suffocates. Flees. Flees. Flees until a patrol of soldiers send by
Houston, exactly what he feared, stop him for questioning in a dreadful Spanish whether
he knew of or had seen a Mexican general, a certain Santa Anna, with a white uniform.
They did not know him. Obviously they had never seen nor imagined his guise. The
Meritorious directs them to the north after seeing them untie the strings on their
saddle horns. He trembles. They appreciate the instruction. They retire at a gallop. They
soon stop again. Houston said we should take anyone who is not just working the earth.
They return for him. They tie his hands and remove him amidst his protests and curses.
After all, if he is not the Mexican president, the assassin of The Alamo, we will
release him. Orders are orders. The Liberator resists. He is thrown to the ground. The
horses pull him. They drag him. The suspicions begin. They decide to separate. Two of
them will conduct the prisoner to the San Jacinto river. To the North American
encampment. To the same place as the debacle. They haul His Excellency as if they were
dealing with a wild beast. Upon arriving at Houston's quarters no one recognizes the
illustrious prisoner. Even more, they continue the indifferent pace after contemplating
this dead from hunger peasant.
     When passing in front of the corral where they have the Mexican prisoners enclosed,
there was no wait for either voices or surprise: "Look, there they bring my general
Santa Anna!" "It is the president in person and they are bringing him like a mad dog."
"Yes, yes, it is the jefe himself," shout the soldiers without hiding their astonishment.
     The two members of the patrol are surprised, exchange glances of stupefaction and
ask from their horses, turning in the saddles, the true identity of their now,
apparently, illustrious prisoner. He makes all kinds of signs to his people for them to
keep silent, so as not to give him away, so he might pass unperceived. He has his hands
tied. The attempt fails. When all the other soldiers had noticed, nobody could contain
the shouting. The commotion is major. Now there is no doubt: they are dealing with
Antonio López de Santa Anna in person. The scandal is not confined to the Mexicans.
The North Americans-Texians notice the situation. Sam Houston's general headquarters
explodes as if they had detonated deposits of powder. The supposed Texians want to lynch
His Excellency. "Remember the Alamo, you son of a bitch." Some reach for the pistol,
others run for their bayonet, most opt for the Texian tradition of hanging the criminals
from the first tree. Popular justice, effective justice, exemplary and efficient justice.
"Hang him! Hang him!"
     Santa Anna pales. Fear is reflected in his eyes. He sees the ropes, the nooses,
strong resistant branches, the dirt on his obligatory disguise from fleeing now shed onto
his pampered white skin, he imagines it wounded, injured, bleeding. He hears how they
sharpen the steel of the knives against the stones. He even hears the sound produced by
the round bullets slipping down the inside of the barrels of the muskets. While the
masses swirl it only occurs to him to protect himself behind his captors. He hides among
their horses. He puts his face to their haunches. He closes his eyes. He seems to raise
a prayer. At that moment he gives up his intention to go and place the tricolor Mexican
flag on the heights of the Capitol in Washington and forgets about the dividing line
between Mexico and the United States being set at the mouth of my cannons...
     He joins his hands as if raising a prayer. He hears the shouts. The angry demands.
The names of those immolated at The Alamo. His legs threaten not to support him. That
instant would translate into insomnia for many years. He forgets his high investiture.
He only thinks of saving his life. Dignity is a decorative element that is exhibited from
the heights of power. Now he only must save his skin, his skin, only his skin. At any
moment he might collapse and fall to the floor with his forehead stuck to the dust of
the field of honor. A beefy, bearded, red-head, dirty from a century, deals him a kick in
the back. Another strikes his neck. Another manages to grab the hair lengthily caressed
by Emily and buffets it from one side to the other as if intending to rip it out. The
impacts of his heart against his chest prevent him from breathing rhythmically. Passions
seem to overflow. No one is capable of imposing order. He does not return the offenses
or the insults or the blows. He tries to protect his face with his hands sinking it
behind the boots of Joel Robinson, his captor, the man who would go down in history for
having trapped him on the open Texian prairie.
     The hubbub attracts the attention of Sherman, of Burleson, of colonel Henry Millard
and, of course, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar. Sam Houston does not approach the scene of
the events. He rests in the shade of a poplar. He was injured in the ankle during the
fray. The Mexicans killed two of his horses. He lies immobilized, with the damaged leg,
without hiding his curiosity about the disturbance among the people. The wound smarts.
Accustomed to suffer physical pain he does not complain. Who could attract so much
attention? He gets the answer with little delay. Sherman approaches pulling the same hair
of a tall man with white skin, dressed almost in tatters and with hands tied. He has
saved him from a lynching. He delivers a brutal kick in the buttocks while he presents
     --"General, this son of a whore is the famous Santa Anna"--he alleges giving a
second boot kick to His Excellency, who almost falls to the floor.
     --"This is the one who killed Travis, Barrett, Bowie, David Crockett, and Dickinson,
when they were helpless at the Alamo. Will you please proceed, in the name of our dead,
to hang this piece of garbage and then burn him as he did with our brothers and friends?"
     Houston could not get over his astonishment. He would have liked to get up and take
a few steps around his prisoner, to see him, smell him, review him, recognize him, yet it
was impossible for him to move. Such a corpulent man could not walk on solely one foot,
even less if it were still bleeding from the injury.
     The Liberator said, raising his face and paying attention to the North American
general's corpulence, a man more than six foot six and who easily weighed more than
265 pounds:
     --I am general Antonio López de Santa Anna, president of México, general
in chief of the Operations Army. I place myself under the orders of the valiant general
Houston--the Meritorious affirmed flattering his enemy and without ceasing to stammer.
     Houston understood the rapidity with which Santa Anna initiated the process of
seduction. Did not his prisoner have a well-earned fame for being a professional
     --Ah! Yes, sit down, come closer, please take a seat--said the North American
general in a very accentuated English as if the Mexican president would understand it.
Upon seeing the grimaces on his face he became aware of the need for an interpreter.
     While Santa Anna sat on a chest full of medicines, Houston asked if some Mexican
subordinate could perform the role of translator. Not much time passed before Juan
Nepomuceno Almonte himself was brought in handcuffed.
     He could not believe the condition in which he found the president. A confusion of
feelings pounded in his throat. One glance between the two was enough for it to become
evident how much they lamented their luck. He had always seen him wearing very elegant
uniforms with gold epaulets, silver and silk, dark blue or red blouses with six-
pointed stars embroidered on the cuffs, the high starched collar with the national
shield embossed with golden threads and innumerable decorations pinned to his chest,
white pants and high boots of black patent leather. This time he found himself deprived of
those impressive vestments and exhibited like a fugitive from a village jail with his
face still marked by mud. His gaze, surprisingly, now revealed no distress or fear. Once
the panic about lynching had been overcome he had recovered his equilibrium and now even
displayed a certain haughtiness in his manner of being. An unjustifiable pride suddenly
accompanied his behavior.
     --My colonel--ordered Santa Anna to Nepomuceno--tell general Houston that he is a
privileged person since he has the Napoleon of the West prisoner and that now it only
remains to be generous with the vanquished--exclaimed the Meritorious while he turned to
see Houston's face to know the response. He never imagined that the answer would be given
by the North American military present at the interview. How does this wreck, general
Houston, dare to speak of generosity when he sent our brothers of Goliath for beheading
and killed all the defender of The Alamo without permitting survivors? Let us hang him!
We shall do justice! A military pair of high rank threateningly unsheathed their knives
in wait of an instruction to proceed immediately to the beheading of His Illustriousness.
     --Calm!--Houston thundered. --Put them away and leave--he ordered before perhaps
losing control of the historic encounter.
     --I deserve good treatment--Santa Anna requested while he displayed his tied hands.
--This is an offense to my personality.
     He is so insensate and insolent, said Houston seated leaning against the trunk of a
magnificent oak, that he does not notice that two words of mine, "Hang him!" will be
sufficient to end his life... Nevertheless, he proceeded with the conversation knowing
that he found himself before a singular man. He tried, then, to control his impulses and
ordered him untied not without beginning to discover the weak aspects of his prisoner.
He is not one to resist imprisonment for three days in a dungeon. The more his dignity
is punished, the more advantages we can obtain from him. In general, the insolent are
cowards, we shall see...
     --It seems very bold on your part, the fact of asking for yourself what you refused
to concede to a group of defenseless boys, most of them your compatriots, general--
declared Houston in the spirit of establishing a respectful dialog since he recognized
his rank and asked, with a snap of his fingers, that the hands of the Mexican president
be liberated. While this was happening, "the Big Drunk," as he was known since his years
of youth when he lived with the Cherokee indians, took an enormous drink from his bottle
of gin. He wanted to mitigate the pain of his injured ankle.
     Santa Anna kept a prudent silence while he rubbed his wrists. Later he answered his
     --They were neither boys, nor were they defenseless, nor much less were they my
compatriots, general, as you more than anyone know that in El Alamo there were almost no
Mexicans nor was it a cry of my countrymen for their independence from my country.
Right?--he said without measuring the range of his words. He was going to add that they
were mercenaries, gunmen, pirates, disguised colonist corsairs motivated from Washington,
invaders, señor Houston, what general or what crap, we were invaded by landholders,
real estate agents, land sales people under the protection of United States cannons. They
take some foreign territories by force and if afterwards the proprietor does not want to
sell them, then they declare war in the name of God, and that is why you are a cursed
race, were words that Santa Anna was ready to spit in the face of his interlocutor, but
saw himself two minutes later hanging from the same oak against which the North American
general was leaning.
     --You have to recognize the independence of Texas in the same way in which Spain
recognized that of Mexico. It is foolishness to impede the evolution of nations, Your
Excellency--argued Houston with diplomatic talent, trying to draw near the captive.
     While Santa Anna made space on the chest to sit more comfortably, hiding fear in
the style of a great actor, he exclaimed:
     --The one war is not comparable with the other, general Houston. You well know that
the Mexicans achieved the independence of México, while here in Tejas, it is you
the North Americans who try to mutilate our country. The native Texians had never thought
of an annexation to the United States.
     --No one has spoken of an annexation. We are talking about the birth of a sovereign
and independent Republic.
     --General Houston: you and I know that after independence will come annexation to
your nation and Texas will be a new star in the American Union.
     --That would be a majority decision of the Texians expressed through the vote, Mr.
Santa Anna. If that is to be the destiny of this Republic, let it be resolved democratically--
argued Houston taking a pronounced swallow of gin and throwing the bottle behind him
without worrying about where it was going to fall. Subsequently he requested a new bottle.
     --Of every ten Tejanos one is Mexican, the others are yankees. In 1821 there were
3,500 Texians. 15 years later, Tejas now has 35,000 inhabitants, of whom 30,000 are North
     --That is an exaggeration--responded Houston.
     --No it is not, for in El Alamo there were almost no Mexicans--Santa Anna clarified
surprised by the speed with which the chief of the "Texian armada" consumed alcohol.
--32 of the fallen in the campaign were supposedly yankee colonists, the rest of the 183
were North Americans who did not even speak Spanish nor had an interest in the land.
Where are the Mexicans?
     --You gave us the authorization to populate Texas beginning with Iturbide's
government. We have come doing that for 15 years. I myself fulfilled all the conditions
imposed on the colonists--added Houston without hiding his pronounced smile--adopting
Mexican nationality and father Michael Muldoon converted me to Catholicism so that we
are both compatriots, general, just that you overthrew the Constitution of 1824, a
liberal Constitution like our own, and we Texians are not disposed to continue linked to
you on the basis of a centralized Republic...
     --We effectively gave you authorization to populate, but not to invade or, do you
think we did not discover how in the first place you mobilized colonists, later demanded
the separation of Tejas from Coahuila so as later to arrive at independence creating a
Republic in effect and concluding the project with the annexation to the United States?
     Santa Anna felt prevented from answering according to his desires. His political
instinct invited him to express himself with the greatest caution possible. Of the
Mexican and of the Catholic you have the same as we both have as compatriots. Piddling
     --For "colonists" like yourself, the Constitution of 1824, constitutional monarchy
or no, Federal or Centralist Republic, virtuous dictatorship, materially makes no
difference to you: let us be honest, general, the only thing that interests you is our
territories and the establishment and diffusion of slavery.
     --Maybe in part: you yourself will be able to see what these abandoned territories
become in North American hands. Where I do not agree is about slavery--he said while he
read the label on some brandy. Santa Anna began to foam. --I am against slavery, in the
same manner that I oppose the killing and segregation of the indians--he concluded,
surprisingly inviting His Excellency to drink from the same bottle.
     The Mexican president took great swallows of liquor appreciating the hospitality of
his captor. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve still covered with clay and repeated the
scene as if he had not drunk water for two centuries. For he needed something strong to
recover his spirit and have a more optimistic perspective on his situation. He suddenly
imagined the headlines in the Mexican newspapers when they learn of his capture into the
hands of the North Americans. The blows from the journalists would violate his flesh
again and again until it bleeds. How does one defend themself being in Texas five weeks
of distance from the presses where the papers are printed?
     Houston enjoyed his solitude in the shade of that oak. He was interested in
approaching the Mexican president to reach agreements, even more so when Filisola might
land, at any moment, on top of the encampment with his thousands of men. Why not talk
amicably like two old colleagues and discover how he might obtain more advantages from
his adversary?
     The North American general related to Santa Anna that among the Cherokee indians,
the chieftain Oo-loo-teh-ka had named him the Raven since when he fled the
paternal household when being only 13 years old in order to take shelter for more than a
year in the heart of that tribe of good and noble people.
     --Can you imagine when my parents learned that I lived among savages being so young?
I have a weakness, as opposed to president Jackson, for the indians. I know their customs
and their rites and I feel like one more of them, to the extent of having married with a
lovely woman known as Water of Rain--commented Houston with a trace of nostalgia. He let
His Excellency, who listened amazed, know that many years later he had been a legislator
for Tennessee and that much later, already being governor of that same state, he had also
married submitting to the law of the whites, but that his marriage had only lasted three
weeks. The pain of the break-up had been so intense that Houston had had to take cover
anew with the Cherokees, where he had remained over the course of three years after
having abandoned the governorship, he alleged, emitting a horselaugh, since he had been
drinking all morning at least. For that reason the natives, his great friends, had
nicknamed him the "Big Drunk."
     Santa Anna accompanied him also taking large drinks of brandy without stopping to
think of the future that awaited him when Houston fell asleep or withdrew. Would they
lock him up or deliver him to the furies disguised as military who anxiously awaited the
conclusion of his chat?
     --No one should speak badly of the Cherokees, general Santa Anna: I have passed long
years with them and have learned to love them and understand them unlike the Comanches,
whom I have attacked--as with a great effort and making grimaces of pain he heavily
settled himself against the trunk of the tree.
     --He does not know of the discussion I had with president Jackson when, years ago,
he prohibited me from invading precisely all those Texian territories with thousands of
Cherokees because he had special plans for Tejas and did not want to complicate them with
"the presence of those so primitive, decadent and antediluvian beings." Had I not been
dealing with the president of the United States and been known as a "Jackson's man,"
undoubtedly I would have challenged him to a duel after slapping him. People talk
without knowing these miraculous men, but Jackson is Jackson so forget it...
     Both military men talked and drank until Houston offered Santa Anna a small pipe so
that the Mexican president would accompany him in smoking a little opium and become
tranquilized, at least a little. They seemed to be old acquaintances. Effectively they
came together.
     --I never thought, general Santa Anna, that you would dare to cross the Saltillo
desert in the middle of winter. We all knew you would come, that you knew about us, above
all after the first convention where we agreed to separate from Mexico, yes, just that we
expected you around the end of the summer. The truth--confessed Houston--is that we never
believed you would arrive so soon since the pastures bloom after March. It was thought
that your horses would die of hunger amidst so much snow...
     --Courage is the best stimulus, general. When one is possessed by rage, they do not
feel tiredness, do not measure danger, they multiply their force, diminish the size of
the obstacles if the future of the nation is in play--conceded Santa Anna taking a large
draw of opium smoke.
     Both characters began to bring up different subjects relative to their personal
experiences. On one occasion, with Houston battling an enormous buffalo, he had managed
to grab it by the horns and after causing it with great force to turn its head, despite
the animal's ferocious resistance, he had broken its neck while a terrible creaking was
heard that brought a stupendous ovation from the gathering. No Cherokee, none, had won at
chopping trees with an ax or crossing rivers walking upon trunks. Have you ever fought
against an enraged bear, general Santa Anna?
     They constructed a scaffolding so that they could walk and move despite the
irreconcilable difficulties. They reverted to an interchange of anecdotes to communicate
or identify themselves without paying too much attention to their abysmal differences, to
their formation, to their past, to their careers, and to their convictions. An occasion
arose when, while they continued drinking brandy and reducing distances, they could also
talk about duels. Sam Houston had often come to blows, in the street, with bare fists or
with swords or pistols in many woods and clearings in the United States.
     Santa Anna, not to be diminished, had had his own at daybreak on the skirts of
Chapultepec Castle or in Xalapa to dispute the love of a woman, for a gambling debt or
for an inadmissible offense which the sense of honor required only be cleansed with
blood. The general-president always permitted the adversary to choose the weapons, up to
even spears if that were the case. Nobody better than he in maneuvering a saber. The best
French swordsmen had taught him in the gardens of the Palais Royal the handling
of some devastating fencing techniques. The Meritorious had taken classes in the Bois
de Boulogne, in Paris, with a musketeer in the service of the French armada. There he
had studied the most modern military strategies to the extent of receiving a doctorate.
Nobody better than Santa Anna as artilleryman, sniper, dragoon, a total expert in the
arts of the bayonet: he could thread four soldiers with a simple movement. Impossible to
surpass him at the time of crossing the enemy lines of fire without being touched by a
single shard from the howitzers.
     In bugling? He, the Napoleon of the West, now a prisoner, gave classes to whoever
played the call to arms. I am a complete technician in the arts of war. I was sent to
Manchester to train in the boarding of ships on the high sea. A complete warrior. I did
not break the heads of buffalo, I broke the necks of the brave bulls and furthermore,
know how to ride at full gallop on a wild horse and tame it without a saddle or whip or
spurs or compartment or voice. I control it with the mane just like with women. A
little struggle and that is all... Houston did not emerge from his surprise while
Nepomuceno Almonte translated knowing that everything narrated was an authentic string
of lies directed at a yankee who was as candid as he was grandiose, tender, and as
absolutely asinine as all of them.
     He could not skip the subject of women. The Cherokee indians moved him. The "Big
Drunk" was known as impatient, brusque, violent, incapable of comprehending moments of
sadness which confused and angered him. When they cried he was paralyzed without knowing
how to react until opting for pulling his beard or his hair, shouting or withdrawing. I
know how to win in a duel, launch myself at the front of my army, fight with my enemies
in the street until one of the two falters spitting blood, yet this indeed, do not ask me
to understand the tears of a woman. Better to get dressed and forget about them. Now. To
the devil. To something else. Their world is inaccessible to me. I ignore their manner of
reacting, yet this for sure, I cannot live without them. His first wife, Eliza Allen, in
addition to Water of Rain, the Cherokee, never could get over that Houston had a hole in
his back caused by an arrow  which discharged abundantly and emitted a fetid odor. They
are uncomprehending... 
     Santa Anna took note of the exquisiteness and delicacy that he imposed on his
relations with the prostitutes and the brusqueness which he directed at the aristocrats.
He treated the whores like the rich and the rich like whores. Both are fascinated. I
know how to talk with them, use and reuse them. At my root is an unknown gentleman who
knows how to engage them to take them to bed. All want, at bottom, to sleep with you but
do not know how to tell you. If you know that a yes is no and a no is who knows what, you
have already won the great race. The art of seduction is the most civilized and refined
that exists, asserted Santa Anna hiding a smile after glimpsing the savage personality of
his interlocutor:
     --You cannot hit a woman on the head with an enormous mallet, in the style of
primitive man, in order to drag her and possess her in the depths of a cave.
     The American general laughed horselaughs at the examples of the Mexican president.
In good part he accepted that those fantasies accosted him when he found himself face to
face with a fickle female, yet some part of his education prevented him from attacking
his victim in this manner, however much those were his initial impulses. The technique of
the bludgeon was impeccable: it avoided many words, it saved time and one arrived at the
nub, or that is the bed, in effect, yes, it was so, only that the rules of civilization
and of the table should also be observed in bed... None of this beat, copulate and on
to something else. Forget the preambles and the sweeteners...
     Santa Anna opined, without letting go of the neck of the bottle:
     --Women are conquered through their hearing, for there the poison is slowly
introduced, the verb, the images to numb them. One should not be seen. The devil always
attacks in profile and through the ears...
     The subject of decorations arose while Houston drank and drank compulsively. They
had suddenly become great friends and the troops were surprised before such uproarious
hilarity. Houston dressed in fringed outfits made from buffalo skins, in Washington as
well, when he frequently went to visit president Jackson, during his term as legislator
or as governor of Tennessee. His clothing produced true scandals. He neither bathed nor
combed nor brushed though his teeth might fall out. To dress prettily is proper for
homosexuals, he said making fun of Mexican protocol. I, for example, posed naked as
governor of Tennessee, only covering myself with a toga in the Roman style, while you
have portraits made mounted on a horse, dressed in ridiculous gala costumes and always
raising the right hand as if ordering the right moment for the heavens to send lightning
where you command...
     Santa Anna was fascinated by gold braid, the blouses, the epaulets, the brocades,
the gilded border on the sleeves and neck, the colorful silk ribbons from which hang
decorations inaccessible to the run of mortals, the sashes that cross the chest, the
steel and gold swords encrusted with precious stones, the high patent-leather boots, the
tight pants, the white gloves, the silver and enamel insignias placed in some
buttonholes, the wide loop with tassels at the ends used as a belt, the Napoleonic frock
coat decorated with his initials on the lapels, the busts in bronze or in marble, the
monumental oil paintings immortalizing the moment of surrender of a city with the
subsequent symbolic delivery of the keys and, unlike the yankee, took baths several times
a day, giving particular attention to his personal arrangements, to his breath, the size
and cleanliness of his nails, the arrangement of his hair, the care of his skin, every
day using different types of lavender, rinses and shaves so as to invariably shine
     The Meritorious did not comprehend Houston's rejection of pomp, of luxury and the
ostentation of power. How will he reach the White House disheveled, unkempt, with the
breath of a junkyard dog, without shaving, piggish nails, dressed in Cherokee attire,
with fringes hanging everywhere and moccasins reeking of various lives? Do you want to be
recorded and passed to posterity like this? How was it possible for a politician, a big
general of your dimensions, to have spent four years, yes, four years beside the indians?
His Excellency would never coexist, not even for half an hour, with the Chiapans, the
Zapotecans or the Huichols eating their filth, without hot water, sleeping in a bag
within a smelly hut that smells to the Virgin without his chamber pot and his pitcher...
Yes, yes, why not...
     It was then when he gave this order to Nepomuceno Almonte, controlling all the
muscles of his face without expressing the slightest smile, one of his great histrionic
     --Tell general Houston that for my part, and with all respect, that what he has in
size, he also has in stupidity...
     Colonel Almonte felt an enormous fish bone in his throat which pierced his trachea.
It was one of the typical occurrences with The Liberator that could upset things, more,
much more, at a juncture so adverse and dangerous to the existence of both. The president
of the Republic captive of the North Americans and he still lent himself to jokes. Ten
million damns in one breath...!
     They spoke of politics. They could not stop talking about politics. Houston had a
marked restlessness. Why, if you copied our Constitution for yours in 1824, do they keep
overthrowing the presidential power as if disputing a cheap woman? The Cherokee indians
have more stability in their high command than you and your nine-month presidents, as was
the case with president Guerrero, among so many others. It seems that you will never be
able to survive without the Spaniards, without a dictator, without a strong hand to
govern you, preferably if they are a foreigner. At that moment Houston remembered that
Vicente Guerrero himself, being president of the Republic in 1829, had offered nothing
less than that his friend, Joel Poinsett, the United States ambassador in Mexico, should
become the second Mexican emperor to successfully assume the reins of the nation.
     Santa Anna was unfamiliar with such an offer. He arched both eyebrows and let pass
his commentary concerning the figure of his comrade. Doubt it? No, he did not doubt it.
The temptations to bring a foreign prince to govern México had always existed and
much time would pass before removing them. Also, why not in place of a European sovereign
to also think of a North American leader, like Poinsett himself whose approaches were
criticized as at least strange, improper for a man to another man, such as was the case
with president Guerrero? Better, much better, to avoid such harsh subjects...
     Houston continued wishing not to be interrupted:
     --While you, as the people, represent the public, we, in the United States, are
actors, protagonists of democracy, and we all consider and all decide what is best for
our nation. With you only one thinks and only one decides, and in general is mistaken and
nobody can ever protest as if the nation were their own, no Mr. president? The Mexicans
see politics as if they were at the theater, at a spectacle in which the audience does
not participate. They perhaps might boo or applaud. Up to there.
     Santa Anna had already requested his own bottle, this time of gin. Even when he was
not prone to alcohol, his situation lent itself well to a moment of consolation. The
blandishments of the dictator did not seem to have a major impact upon his captor. He
alleged that he knew the United States was characterized by its respect for the law and
the liberty of its people, however, the existence of slavery disqualified it, was a
shame, a disgrace, in the same way that that respect for legality only applied within the
borders, because as soon as they left their country they forgot the domestic rules and
tried to implement their proposals with bayonets, with the navy and with cannons.
     --It seems that you all tell us: I like that, now it is mine and, if you want I will
pay you, to salvage something of my conscience, yet if not, I shall keep it anyway and if
you resist I will kill you--the opium and the brandy were having their effect...
     Nepomuceno could not hide the horror on his face. He translated rapidly putting
every word on the scales. He tried to adapt his language and the meaning of his
discourse so as not to wound susceptibilities or end up lynched by that vociferous
rabble who only awaited one word to enter into action. The president, who now could not
control his tongue in any sense, because, furthermore, he tripped on it in speaking,
adding that in the international domain the politics deployed by president Monroe, the
doctrine of America for the americans dictated 15 years ago, implied an ignorance of the
sovereignty of the rest of the nations of the hemisphere, because the United States would
impose its law by force of arms and that was at variance with the thesis of respect and
liberty which they attempted to sell in the world.
     --What respect after what you did to Florida and wanted to do to Tejas? Ever since
president John Quincy Adams sent us, little more than ten years ago, that son of a whore
ambassador Joel Poinsett to buy our territories to the north and we, the Mexicans,
sharply rejected his offer of five million dollars, you have not stopped insisting and,
because of your ambitions, I am here today, captive, solely for defending our own.
If you had not wanted to rob everything I would not be seated here...--the prisoner
argued reverting to rudeness such as he tried to avoid in his everyday language.
     Since Nepomuceno now translated whatever he pleased, Houston began to be distracted.
Trying to retake the subject, he ordered:
     --Tell "Saint Anny" that it would be better for him to speak to me about Mexico.
Everything he says to me is garbage.
     The Mexican Caesar, sometimes babbling, other times recovering his composure and
gesticulating insistently with his hands, let Houston know his viewpoints in relation to
his compatriots, not without exhibiting great satisfaction in revealing to a foreigner
the keys to control his peasants.
     --The Mexicans--he commented while he deeply inhaled the opium smoke with the small
pipe--are orphans without fathers, so therefore they spend life seeking a strong figure
to teach them the road to travel and alert them to the dangers and risks that they might
confront. You promise them security, give them hope, consolation, make them feel that
they can cry on your shoulder because you understand better than anyone and everything
will have been resolved: you will be a great leader, my general. Only dissemble a great
preoccupation with them, that you understand them and share their suffering and the rest
will fall in a cascade. The Mexicans only want love, protection and tenderness: whoever
can pretend to give them that will cause the whole people to forever eat from their
     Santa Anna seemed to be delivering a lecture.
     --Do you see how democracy does not function in nations like ours where they seek
an elevated person to think and decide for everyone? We are different. You resolve in
concert, we look to the tlatoani, to the supreme priest, the wise man, the
valiant, and therefore a federal structure did not work and we reverted to centralization
with a Supreme Government... You--he continued unbridled--are accustomed to speak, to
debate, to vote in order to arrive at agreements and settle your political and social
differences; we invariably recur to a strong figure like that of a king, a viceroy, an
inquisitor, or those last two together to govern with fire and steel.
     Houston listened with delight to his distinguished prisoner. Not every general, in
every part of the world and of history, had taken prisoner the head of the enemy nation.
It was a delight to hear him and know his points of view between the two nations.
     --Who told you--His Excellency asked, sharing his conclusions from the long marches
on horseback over prairies, deserts and plains--that if something works for you, it must
also function for us? Your Constitution being the result of your political experience,
importing it into our system was an error because we negated 300 years of vassalage
imposed on a tyrannically and despotically governed colony where it was prohibited to
think, ask, protest, reflect, or oppose anything. One arrives at democracy through a
process, not by its sudden and capricious imposition--he argued, shaking bits of clay off
his pants. --You, in the presence of conflicts, revert to your institutions, we to the
person, to cronyism, to influence-peddling, that is to say, to the strong man. We do not
think of or turn to the law to settle differences, but instead to a superior who can
impose order--and was going to say that Iturbide was not that bad for having conceived a
model of constitutional monarchy, ruled by an emperor with ample powers, a sort of
substitute viceroy to give continuity to our political traditions. Of course not even
drunk would he make such a concession, he, who had experienced the abysmal first Empire
and also the first Federal Republic...
     Nepomuceno translated verbatim, confirming once more the knowledge that Santa Anna
had of his people. He had gone so far because of them. An ignorant imbecile? No way...!
No one without such an iron dominion of his compatriots could arrive where the honorable
president had arrived.
     Houston originally tried to absorb it. The pain of his hurt ankle did not recede
either with the opium or with the gin. He bled. A certain weariness appeared on his
face. He no longer responded like at the start of the conversation. Maybe because of that
he decided to lay his cards openly upon the table. The game had concluded. Tomorrow would
be another day. Today he was not going to rest without dispelling a threat that had
hovered over him and his men and which might well do away with everything gained. He did
not want to send a report similar to that which Santa Anna had to send to his government
announcing his capture.
     Houston's movements indicated to Nepomuceno the end of the conversation. Finally he
rested. There would be time to clarify with Santa Anna, in an improvised cell, his
affirmations expostulated during the talk.
     --I understand that general Filisola is nearing San Jacinto in front of more than
4,000 men of the Mexican army--Houston asserted as if making a fist. With a single blow
he ended the reigning cordiality.
     Santa Anna became serious, knowing that the hospitality would be very expensive.
The gin and the opium free? Houston's disinterested "friendship" genuine? He waited for
the rest of the North American general's arguments like one who pricks up their hearing
to listen to a very fine sound.
     --You and I want to be friends--added the North American with soapy language--no...?
     --Yes...--stated Santa Anna, awaiting the final impact--your friendship honors me,
my general, you are a professional of war and, therefore, I render my respects.
     --You value your life as much as I do mine, no?--he adduced, putting the bomb in the
cannon and lighting the fuse.
     --Of course--answered Santa Anna, draining the last swallow of brandy and preparing
himself to hear the hidden truth behind that apparently cordial language. Let us forget
stories. Let us get to the heart.
     --So then I should give you paper and pen so that you order Filisola to retreat all
his troops to south of the Rio Bravo, because, hear me well, if we find ourselves
obliged to unleash more combat, this time against the troops of that Filisola, I shall
have no alternative to first pleasing my boys, who, as you yourself observed, Mr. president,
would be very happy to dispose of your body and your entrails, your eyes and your ears
and of course, your neck, in the manner which best satisfies their appetites for
vengeance--he concluded in such severe terms as to leave not the slightest doubt with
respect to the forcefulness of his intentions. Houston did not seem like a man with whom
one could play...
     --Let us clearly understand--the North American general smilingly warned upon
noticing the effect of his words--if you stop Filisola and order that he retreat to
beyond the Bravo, I shall stop my boys and order them not to touch him because he is my
friend, or if the contrary, I would wash my hands like Pilate, indeed, with great sadness
for me because then I will not have such a nice interlocutor as you with whom to drink
brandy and smoke opium...
     Santa Anna felt himself trapped by an intense shaking. It was the end of the
cordiality. That he well knew. Nepomuceno saw it in his face imagining that the
Meritorious was going to refuse to execute such an order. For a moment he thought that
Santa Anna would answer: Believe me that, as my comrade Vicente Guerrero put it, the
Nation is First and for my part you can proceed to throw me to that pack of hounds which
waits licking itself to devour me in three bites. Not even dead would I supersede the
interests or the territorial integrity of my country, simply because wounds to my skin
have always terrified me. My hide has not price. Hang me, shoot me, stab me, behead me,
skin me, quarter me but I will not intercede with Filisola to prevent him crushing all
of you, gang of gunmen, thieves, assailants. We will lack the poplars, oaks and ilexes
to hang them, bullets to shoot them full in the face, wood to incinerate their bodies, or
Texian wolves to devour their entrails... I came, all should know, to defend the nation.
I owe my self to her and to her, and only to her will I surrender my life, my honor and
my sword. I will never stop Filisola. Proceed as you judge most convenient.
     It produced a thick silence. His Excellency focused the gazes of Houston and of
Nepomuceno Almonte. It is decisions that define a man. Those which make history. Those
that alter the destiny of a nation. Those that change the course of events and convert an
error into a thousand affirmations. Those that create an example and which demarcate a
generation. It is or it is not. The coin is in the air and the fate of a nation depends
on it, in no case that of a single person. Santa Anna could allege the useless of an
order of that nature because he, president of the Republic and general in chief of the
Operations Army, was in prison and, finally, his powers and legal faculties were
suspended until he might obtain his liberty. Filisola could not be subjected to a court
martial for flouting the instruction of a superior in rank, given that the latter was
found a prisoner of the enemy with his command curtailed. Filisola could ignore Santa
Anna without any military or political or penal responsibility. No one would be able
to form a war council with him. Then why order something that he could discard like the
headlines in an old newspaper? It does not matter, Houston would have responded. That is
Filisola's problem, you write a missive, fulfill your part and I will not deliver you to
my dogs, who salivate in front of you, Mr. general-president.
     When Santa Anna lowered his head and accepted the pen, the ink and a piece of paper,
Nepomuceno understood that the cause was lost. Houston applauded inwardly without making
the slightest fuss or any commentary. Honor the vanquished, he said to himself. From the
instant when the American general saw Sherman arrive hauling Santa Anna by the hair and
the latter appeared with his face frantic, pallid and trembling because the men were
going to lynch him, he understood, from the panic that his look projected, that he was
before a bluffer, a coward, a trickster, a malefactor, liar, cheat, an actor, a great
actor whom he had discovered backstage, amidst footlights, where he applied makeup and
dressed: I saw him in his breeches. He knew that he would sign what they put in front of
him in order to save his skin. He knew what key to touch to obtain the desired sound. He
would squeeze from his illustrious prisoner some notes never heard in the United States.
     As soon as Houston had the message in his hands, he asked a last question of his
     Why do you not simply sell us Tejas, in the same fashion by which France sold
Louisiana and Spain, Florida, that easily? Years will go by, perhaps centuries, before
you would populate Texas the way we have done in 20 years...
     The Meritorious was slow to answer. He instinctively sought the bottle of alcohol, a
very gratifying refuge, or the small pipe of euphoria. 
     No, general Houston, the Mexicans, they will never sell Tejas. It is useless.
     --And you?
     --I do not command alone. My Congress would never ratify such a sale. They are big
fools and, on another side, it is prohibited by our Constitution--and furthermore, he
was going to add, whoever sells Tejas will pass into history as an anti-patriot and
thief and neither of the two qualifiers were in agreement with his concept of honor.
     --Will you help us...?
     --We shall see, amigo Sam...
     Santa Anna wrote to Filisola for history that much as he might have liked to break
his pen in two, make shreds of the damned paper after throwing the ink at their face, yet
had no alternative but to witness, in my absolute impotence, the first step proceeding to
the mutilation of that immense México inherited from the Spanish Crown:

     I have come to be a prisoner of war between the combatants; having myself attempted
     every possible consideration; in this framework, I instruct Thy Excellence to
     prevail on general Gaona to countermarch to Béxar to await orders, the same as
     Thy Excellence will implement with the troops you have under your command and
     likewise prevailing on general Urrea to retire with his division to Guadalupe
     Victoria, because an armistice has been agreed with general Houston, and in the
     meantime some negotiations are arranged to cause the war to stop forever... I await 
     compliance without fail with these dispositions, advising me, in response, of your
     beginning to put them into practice.

When general Filisola receives the missive from the dictator-president he decides to
ignore it and proceed to attack Houston on all fronts. He knew, through the espionage
service, that the Mexican troops were very near to the enemy, perhaps two days distant at
a normal march. He knew that the North Americans did not exceed 900 soldiers in number
with everyone and officers. He knew that he at least quintupled the opposing forces. He
knew that he could hope for great possibilities to defeat the corsairs, the mercenaries
contracted by the White House. He knew that the more than 600 Santannist prisoners in
Houston's power would be unconditionally allied at the hour of battle. He knew that if
the execution of his strategy implied Santa Anna's demise that would be irrelevant in
face of the defense of the territorial sovereignty of the nation. He knew that the
captive president, for the sole fact of having lost his liberty and being in the power of
his captors, for that single reason, lacked the faculty to order even a cup of coffee
from a subordinate and, likewise, could not represent the Mexican State in anything. He
knew that the laws of the army authorized him to proceed in accord with his criterion
without any penal repercussion for having flouted the instruction of a superior. For all
these considerations, Filisola decided to crush down to the last yankee invader,
colonists or not, pirates specialized in the spoliation of foreigners' goods. Nothing
detained him. His only goal, anchored in his mind, was none other than that of fighting
unconditionally for the country. He owed that to her. In his determined attitude he
expressed the need to continue the eviction movement against our Tejas, with a "j." His
determination was evident to recover what was ours at any cost, sacrificing the life of
anyone or not, whether called head of the Executive with or without a license, general,
writer, financier, impresario, priest, cardinal, lecturer, or legislator. No difference
whatsoever existed. Nothing or nobody was more important than the destiny of the nation.
What happened in reality, as I found it at the side of the famous Mexican general, to
whom it fell at this moment to write a brilliant page of the national history?
     General Filisola and his chiefs together decided to follow Santa Anna's
instructions and retreat to the point of abandoning the future Texas until reaching
Monterrey, leaving a small garrison of 400 men in San Antonio de Béxar. Coward! a
group of us patriots shouts. Coward! Santa Anna for having asked Filisola to retreat in
exchange for saving his skin, and coward, again a thousand times coward, Filisola, for
obeying orders from an imprisoned president and evacuating the area when he well might
have crushed Houston by encountering him as near as the Brazos. At the great junctures of
life is when men are known and Santa Anna as well as Filisola took decisions made from
fear, which invariably has been the worst counselor. Were the military of high rank those
responsible for preserving the territorial integrity of México? Were they the
defenders of the country, the brave soldiers who offered their life in exchange for the
survival of the nation? And the military sense of honor? And the military dignity forged
from the same steel as the cannons? What a great subject for political speeches! What a
great example for coming generations! What a disgrace for all us Mexicans! we comment in
closed groups when we see Filisola march backwards without even asking authorization nor
authorization from the central government until the felony was already consummated.
     Filisola did not crush any invading yankee nor sanction the rebel colonists nor
fight unconditionally for the nation nor continued the eviction movement from our Tejas
nor recovered at any cost that which was ours, sacrificing or not the life of whomever,
nor did the fate of the nation matter to him... He marched to Monterrey until the
environmental conditions and hunger devastated the morale of his army. How can we fail to
transcribe here the missive sent by Filisola, in the form of a reply, to the general-
president, or that is, the justification for his treason? We read:

     I made the movements that befit me for the concentration of the army and, this
     accomplished, I marched to this flank, in order, unburdened of some useless and odd
     things, to take the initiative anew against the enemy; furthermore attending to the
     request via V. E. and the circumstances expressed there, wishing to give a show of
     my appreciation to your person, as well as to the existing prisoners of whom V. E.
     spoke, am going to cross the Colorado again.

Filisola retreats to the Colorado, with the whole Mexican army, because he wants to
provide a demonstration of his esteem for Santa Anna. We have here the justification for
betraying the nation: to esteem the figure of the tyrant. Horror! Horror! With those men,
with those raw materials, how could the great house of Mexico be constructed?
     Madam Inés García receives special mail from her husband. He narrates the
occurrences as if he were a soldier in the service of Agamemnon:

     April 26 of 1836
     On the banks of the San Jacinto river.
     My Inés. Love of my loves. Child of my eyes. Light of my life:
          I want to be the first to inform you through this letter written with my hand
     and pen, that I find myself in perfect conditions of health despite the horror of
     combat. I did not want to send a message through a third party, but preferred to
     draft this myself, so that you would have no doubt of my physical integrity or the
     state of my health.
          It is easy for me to imagine the afflictions you must have suffered for my
     cause. I lament them with profound sorrow. I swore before God that I had been born
     to make you happy and, in this instance, I have betrayed my promise. Each tear which
     you have shed is equal to a torrent shed of my blood. Believe me: my torture is
     double, one of knowing that I have afflicted you with my fate and the other, for not
     being able to ignore my captive condition in my character as president.
          I was taken prisoner by this bunch of bandits but not without before having
     killed many yankees in the face to face and hand to hand combat. You should know
     that before falling into their hands, I speared in turn, with the bayonet of a dead
     soldier, five of the invaders leaving them embedded against one of those immense
     oaks, evidence of my courage originating the the defense of the nation.
          Lamentably I did not die on the field of honor as befits every self-respecting
     soldier, yet it is important that you know so that you can recount it to our
     children, that they captured me with my sword broken and covered in enemy blood.
     When my own ammunition ran out, I took that which my officers gave me and later
     defended myself like a tiger when they knocked me from my horse. Every yankee who
     tried to attack me left with a stream of blood emanating from the throat or from
     the stomach. I never let go of the knife that I  brought hidden in my boots. I
     succumbed from the weight of a hundred mercenary soldiers.
          If at least 50 Mexican soldiers had responded as I did, we could have been
     able to defeat Houston's 900 men, who, I should confess, have granted me all the
     distinctions inherent in my elevated position.
          Know my dear, beloved and respected, that if they tell you I fell in the
     campaign, remember me as a dignified and upstanding soldier who offered his
     life for the country. That is the best example and the only inheritance which I will
     leave to my children.
          I miss your kisses, your caresses, your glances, your hands, your perfume, your
     hair, your skin. O, those who do not die lost in the love of their woman! I would
     have died blessed by your memory.
          Your husband who remembers you with the promise of this beam of light at the
     beginning of dawn. I shall return soon. Yours until far beyond eternity. Antonio

While in México the unrest grew as the news spread of the president captured by the
invaders, in Tejas general Houston had to leave his prisoner-president because the wound
on his ankle could become irreversibly infected with a grave risk of amputation of his
leg. Santa Anna trembled to hear the news. If anyone had saved his life on numerous
occasions and had rescued him from those hunting dogs the "colonists" who indubitably
were still infuriated by the massacre at The Alamo, this had been general Samuel Houston.
     His protector was leaving to receive medical treatment in New Orleans. The North
Americans had already moved from San Jacinto to Galveston to have, on the one hand,
better control of Santa Anna and, on the other, to flee from the hellish odors that the
cadavers of the Mexican soldiers emitted in an already advanced state of decomposition.
     President Burnet and his vice-president Zavala appeared on the scene of events
giving orders to Houston. Their coming was comparable to the arrival of enormous flocks
of birds of prey intent on seizing the best of the carrion. The conquering general had no
other alternative but to submit, against his will, to the instructions dictated by the
head of the Texian nation. So Houston as well as Santa Anna were shipped to Velasco, from
where the first might embark to be immediately operated on the ankle and the second,
secluded in a dark prison, without ventilation, tied and with a ball of iron chained
through a grill to his left leg, would feel obliged to sign the most shameful treaties of
which México had memory. Santa Anna, it is fair to say, refused at first. I was
myself present when Rusk, the secretary of the State of Texas, showed him the text
several times of some agreements that the general-president would have to sign. What did
they contain? The texts established the total independence of Texas from the Centralist
Republic of México.
     Before subjecting myself to such humiliation as ceding the national territory to
this gang of hired gunmen, I prefer once and a thousand times that they execute me, that
they remove my eyes alive, that they torture me, that they hang me from the nearest oak,
that they display my body to the buzzards so they notice my flesh, and that they
decapitate me and fry my head in oil, yet this indeed, I will never commit a felony of
such proportions that it takes my breath away and peace away forever. No, I will not sign
it, he said preparing himself for the worst and feeling how they would seat him on a
horse with hands tied behind his back and without the black hood that would prevent him
from seeing the details of his hanging: he was not afraid of dying. He had seen it
face to face.
     When did His Excellency sign and commit to everything that they put in front of him?
At the precise moment in which President Burnet decided to deliver him to the rabble.
They would take charge of the fate of the illustrious prisoner. Finally they would
impart justice. It was then that they entered for him, untied him, broke the grill, freed
him from the steel ball, while the Mexican Caesar asked again and again without obtaining
a reply, whether he had obtained liberty. The group of guards did not answer him. We are
going to turn him over to the people of Tejas so that they dictate his final verdict.
     Santa Anna noticed that a vociferous crowd angrily demanded his presence. They would
deliver him forthwith. One heard insults, offenses, bloody slogans, furious demands for
revenge. Threatening fists held high could be seen, knives and swords that chopped the
space, just like some isolated shots into the air. The spirits of "the Houston boys"
seemed to overflow. No one would be capable of controlling them in a few more minutes.
The general-president of the Republic tried to take steps backwards. He tried to seclude
himself. To escape from that crazed and unchained turbulence. Fear could be distinguished
in every feature of his face. The eyes, above all the eyes, denoted the size of the panic
that had taken power over him. He muttered unintelligible terms. In that house I saw him
with profound shame and contempt. The Meritorious knelt before Rusk. He held on
physically to one of his legs. He supplicated. Invoked. Prayed. Implored. Appealed. He
asked for pity while he broke into compulsive weeping. He held firmly to the secretary
of the State of Tejas as if he were the only raft of salvation in one of the floods on
the Mississippi. He wet the pants of the functionary with his tears. Nothing or no one
could detach him from that figure upright as a cypress who, if at all, lowered his sight
to contemplate his prisoner with a disgusted expression.
     Santa Anna suddenly stopped crying. He whined. Now only small spasms revealed his
affliction until completely recovering his respiration, his dignity and his equilibrium.
It seemed an act of magic. Such a radical turn in his emotions was surprising. He wiped
his tears and took two treaties in his hands that Rusk offered to console him. The
secretary of State had taken from one of the pockets of his jacket the two texts that he
had been negotiating with the general-president very much despite his initial rejection.
Thus displayed, in plain sight, The Guiding Angel of the Mexican Republic immediately
understood that he was offered a trade: his life for the signature on some treaties which
would mutilate Mexico forever. One of those was public, could be revealed to the press at
any moment; the other was secret: no one ever should know of it much less divulge it. In
the first the cessation of hostilities and the return of Santa Anna to Veracruz was
agreed. In the second, signed also in his character as president of the Republic,
recognition of the independence of Texas on the part of the Mexicans is specified. Santa
Anna was obliged to convince his compatriots of the necessity of ratifying the treaty
once he returned to México and furthermore, committed himself not to return or
revert to arms or use influence for taking measures against the people of Texas...
     --A pen, give me a pen--he demanded of those of us in that house.
     Poor México, I said to myself. Are not heroes those who sacrifice their life in
exchange for the welfare of the nation?
     As soon as Rusk had the signed treaties in his hands, he abruptly left those
present. He urgently had to inform Burnet and Zavala. Legalization of independence was a
reality. Santa Anna had subscribed in secret to the delivery of Tejas. And the
vociferous masses? And the rabid and vengeful rabble? No need to worry. The angry
turbulence was quickly dissolved while Santa Anna, instead of recovering his liberty and
returning promptly to Manga de Clavo, was enclosed and pushed into the unhealthy and fetid
dungeon of which he had complained so much. They tied him up again and chained him to
the same steel ball. Since he vociferated and cursed in Spanish and no one understood his
florid adjectives, yet indeed, perturbed the peace of Velasco with his insults, they
introduced in his mouth many pieces of fabric spotted with clots, perhaps from the few
North American dead from San Jacinto, and thus and only thus was he obliged to keep
silent for five months more.
     The bad news flies. Don José Justo Corro, interim president beginning the 27th
of February of that macabre 1836, receives the malign envelope with the information of
the apprehension of the general-president, Antonio López de Santa Anna, prisoner of
Sam Houston. The missive comes from Texas, not from Tejas. Justo Corro covers his face
upon finishing reading the letter. Shame or courage? What to do? The Mexican president
imprisoned? And Filisola and the thousands of soldiers who accompanied him? Had not Santa
Anna sworn, upon leaving toward Tejas, that he would march personally to quell the
rebellious and once this matter was consummated he would draw the dividing line between
México and the United States next to the mouth of his cannons? How to react? What
steps to take? For now to inform the nation putting every word on the scales. In the
midst of moving from Federalism to Centralism, the Executive chief, the bastion of the
Catholic Church, is apprehended abroad. Abroad? Of course not: he is sequestered on the
very same national territory by a band of land traffickers financed from New York and
     I should offer to the reader's eyes this note which Corro had published in the
nation's newspapers informing the citizenry about the captivity of His Excellency:

     Providence, whose designs are inscrutable, has permitted that a very small part of
     our army experience a reverse in Tejas, whereas the Mexican forces were victorious
     everywhere; however the most sad is that the illustrious president of the Republic,
     general Santa Anna, has fallen into the hands of the enemies of our independence.
     The government has received great reaction to this event; yet even greater is the
     confidence placed on ourselves, that they should respond to the honor of this heroic
     nation, and with the great resources put in government's hands.
          The army expresses one cry: to avenge the nation and save her honor. It is not
     probable that cases of connivance with the foreign enemies will occur, but if they
     occur, all the energy and serenity of the laws will fall upon the culpable.
          I do not doubt that the Mexicans bound by the most sacred interests will not
     fail to give proof of what the provoked valor of a great and free people is worth.
     The government will omit nothing, nor pardon any measure to suggest that he has
     acted in vain saving the nation, and maintain his august privileges.

In addition to the foregoing, Corro ordered that "while Santa Anna remains in prison,
there will be placed on the flags and on the standards of the army corps a crepe border
and that the national banner be lowered to half-mast in the forts and national ports
until the liberty of the president of the Republic is obtained."
     Upon concluding the martyrdom of the apostle the patriotic symbols are lifted to
their maximum expression. The bells of parishes, churches and cathedrals daily convened
the neighborhood, the illiterates and the people in general, to inform them of the latest
events. The priests invite the congregants to pray to ask God for the prompt liberation
of the general-president. But the press, for its part, poured onto their front pages a
series of adjectives diametrically opposed to those mentioned during the glory days, when
His Excellency captured The Alamo. The language, only a few months distant, was radically
distinct. The few newspapers no longer eulogized him nor does it seem that the experience
will be narrated by Achilles or by Leonidas or Alexander the Great or Napoleon
together. Now "Immortal glory to the illustrious general Santa Anna" is not said, nor is
viva the nation shouted nor is endless praise expressed for the Invincible Liberator nor
is his superiority in relation with Caesar and Hannibal affirmed. Now it is no longer
said: "Thanks to the Nation for having given us such a son, such a brother," neither the
musicians nor the poets compose songs in his honor, nor is the citizenry obliged to
memorize and the children to learn in the schools of him. Now he is not the god of
Olympus or the Father of Anáhuac or The Liberator of the Mexicans nor do they ask
to make him the Supreme Dictator nor do they want to make him Sultan. Now he is called
Monster, Liar, Trickster, Traitor, Perjurer, little Napoleon, Prince of Failure, the
Great Master of Humbug, the Meritorious of Excrement, and Liberator of Crap. Brazen
hoodlum. Apostate. What will he give in exchange for leaving prison? Every country
deserves the government that it has...
     I myself preserved in an old satchel the article which Martinillo published when he
learned of Santa Anna's apprehension on the San Jacinto river. To reproduce it in these
pages gives me a special satisfaction because a little later a crowd, supposedly composed
of "furious Santannists," entered the newspaper El Sol en el Cenit and destroyed
the installation, removed the type, burned the stores of paper and within imperceptible
moments dense smoke consumed the archives and the hopes for existence of media which
loves the truth. The caveman destroys with his club everything that bothers him:

     The Napoleon of the West
     By: Martinillo
     But who is this subject who dares call himself the Napoleon of the West? How much
     audacity or stupor is required to establish such a comparison? I know too well that
     I waste paper, ink, time, and space in attempting to find points of contact between
     Napoleon and our Santa Anna, an authentic professional of the lie and of popular
     manipulation, a sinister imitation of the emperor of the French, as well as an
     unequaled opportunist lacking in principles and true political convictions. Let us
          Napoleon became famous for achieving the continental expansion of France; Santa
     Anna for mutilating México and losing our beloved Tejas, which we now perhaps
     will never recover. Napoleon developed a feeling of greatness among the French;
     Santa Anna humiliated us and buried us in shame. Napoleon enjoyed military successes
     in Marengo, Ulm, in Austerlitz, in Rivoli, among many other battles; Santa Anna was
     not defeated in the Russian campaign nor at Waterloo, but instead in San Jacinto and
     not by military alliances comprised of various European powers, but by some
     improvised soldiers who surprised him sleeping, yes, yes, asleep... Napoleon drafted
     a civil code to regulate the behavior of the community; Santa Anna disturbed the
     public order and promoted civil chaos. Napoleon was respected and admired for his
     proven military talent; Santa Anna has never been recognized for general strategy on
     the battlefield. Napoleon was never made prisoner by the English nor by the Austro-
     Hungarians; Santa Anna, being general-president of the Republic, was trapped by his
     respective enemies.
          Napoleon culturally enriched France; he caused the construction of the towers
     of the Place Vendôme, the Carrousel to commemorate the battle of
     Austerlitz, began work on the Arc de Triomphe in the Champs Élisées
     and performed splendid work expanding the Louvre, founded the stock
     exchange, promoted industry, free commerce and stimulated the atmosphere for
     business in general. Santa Anna lives as if beauty did not exist. He left no
     historical track in the capital of the Republic. If he stimulated business, it was
     only those in which he was personally involved. Napoleon believed in honor, in
     discipline, in the nation, and in obedience. Santa Anna has his very peculiar sense
     of honor, of discipline, of the nation adequate to each circumstance...
          Napoleon was recognized for his sense of nobility; Santa Anna is famous for his
          Napoleon had the legal use of public funds be guaranteed; issued regulations
     to normalize the operation of public administration; founded the imperial university
     as a body exclusively charged with learning and public education in all the Empire.
     He judged that his code, for the simple fact of its simplicity, had done more good
     for France than the mass of all the laws that preceded it. Justice and equality for
     all. In México, our Napoleon of the West has embezzled the treasury, has never
     cared about education nor about justice nor fought for equality nor did fraternity
     matter to him nor academic liberty nor that of the press.
          Napoleon used the initial "N" on his luggage, on his portfolios, on his sabers
     and swords, on the lapel of his cassock and on the frock coat, on the flanks and
     haunches of his horse, on the blankets, on the walls of the buildings, on the
     facades of bridges, on the heights of arches to commemorate military triumph, in its
     place Santa Anna would have to put a sad "a," for Antonio, an "a" always being
     insignificant compared to a majestic "N" of the Emperor. The "N," the "N" everywhere
     and the "a," what about the "a"? Who cares about the letter "a"?
          If our Napoleon of the West admires Napoleon and his colossal Empire so much,
     for what reason did he cooperate with notable success in the overthrow of Iturbide
     and come out with such strength against the first Mexican Empire, a political
     structure more in accord with the viceregal tradition which might have avoided,
     perhaps, the imbalances that no one could prevent or correct in the federal
     regimen? Might Santa Anna have had the guts to yank the crown from the hands of the
     Pope to crown himself on the day of the inauguration as Santa Anna I? Please,
          What monstrous damage Santa Anna has done to our country in destroying the
     constitutional empire, then to the Federal Republic and now he proposes a Centralist
     Republic as the definitive solution, provided that it coincides with his personal
     interests... The Mexican nation for Santa Anna was never the same as La
     France for Napoleon, for which he so proudly lived.
          Our Napoleon of the West is not proud of his Mexico and of its inhabitants,
     rather, he despises them from the depths of his soul...
          Napoleon and Santa Anna are the same? We are doubtless before another big lie
     from that great rascal.

In September, Sam Houston is named president of the Republic of Texas. 6,640 persons
vote. The new nation consists of 40,000 colonists. He wins with 5,119 votes. He
declares... "we unite with the great republican family to the north..." He openly reveals
his game the day he takes over possession... One of Houston's principal preoccupations
consisted in deciding on a neutral destination for his illustrious prisoner. What to do
with him? The vice-president Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar thinks only of shooting Santa
Anna without reflection. Austin proposes that he be sent to Washington to meet with
president Jackson. Santa Anna would go in his capacity as president-prisoner to meet with
the head of the White House, with whom he had already exchanged some correspondence,
addressing His Honor in the following terms as one who, in good part, was responsible for
the Texian debacle. Santa Anna wants to travel to  Washington and convince Jackson of the
necessity for concluding the war. It is Santa Anna's golden opportunity to flee from
Texas and leave behind, without looking back, the horrors of San Jacinto and the assassin

     Very dear sir of my esteem:
          Fulfilling the duties that the nation and honor impose upon the public man...
     circumstances reduced me to the situation of prisoner. The good disposition of...
     Houston...and my knowledge, produced the covenants of which I attach copies, as
     well as the orders to the Mexican Army to retreat below the Rio Bravo...
          There being no doubt that Filisola complied religiously with what he was
     asked...they determined my movement to México...yet unfortunately some
     indiscretions...produced a riot...which reduced me again to a narrow prison.
          Such an incident obstructed my arrival in Mexico and caused the government to
     separate general Filisola from the Army...ordering general Urrea to continue
     operations...and consequently they already are found at the Nueces river.
          The continuation of the war and its disasters will be...inevitable...unless a
     powerful hand causes the voice of reason to be opportunely heard... I am jealous
     enough of the interests of my nation not to want for them what is easiest... I am
     always ready to sacrifice myself for her glory and welfare, before consenting to any
     transaction, if that conduct proves advantageous to México... Our full
     conviction is that the present question is more convenient to resolve by means of
     political negotiations. We enter into mutual relations so that your nation and the
     Mexican focus on good relations and both can occupy themselves with giving being and
     stability to a people who want to matter in the political world, and which with the
     protection of both nations can reach their goal in a few years.
          The Mexicans are generous when they are given consideration. I shall firmly
     make patent to them the reasons of convenience and humanity that require a noble and
     frank step...
          From the foregoing you may penetrate the feelings that animate me, the same
     with which I have the honor of being your most loyal and obedient servant.

Why does Santa Anna write to Jackson when the United States had declared its supposed
neutrality? Why does His Excellency embark in chains to Washington at Austin's
suggestion? Why not to Paris, to London or to Moscow? The reality, the facts, begin to
demonstrate in practice how the final decisions are taken in Washington. The masks fall.
The makeup disappears. The mask permits identifying, little by little, the face of the
true intellectual author of the independence of Texas. Its elements appear with time as
if emerging from the dense waters of a swamp. It was that of him, yes, clearly, that of
Jackson himself. The same who had sent arms, money, munitions in a secret fashion,
accelerated the march of colonists into Tejas and armed a diplomatic process. There was
Houston himself, his hand, his ears and his head a part of the new Republic, in addition
to David Crockett and other such friends and colleagues delegated to support the cause
of independence and later that of annexation. More evidential elements? Santa Anna
invites Jackson, not the king of England or the czar, to terminate the present question
by means of political negotiations... Why should the voice of reason be that of Jackson?
Yes, yes and the obligatory question: Why does the Immortal Leader, the Illustrious
Hero of Tampico, salute Jackson as his most loyal and obedient servant...? Is the
Mexican president the most loyal and obedient servant of the American? We have here
the true Santa Anna, the authentic Napoleon of the West... 

Houston decides to send Santa Anna to "converse" with president Jackson. He gives "his
friend" a heavy wool cloak. He experiences the cold of the Atlantic coast. He finally
convinces the Texian Congress of the importance of leaving Santa Anna in liberty provided
that he goes to Washington and compromises with president Jackson. It is a problem
keeping him in the new "Houston City." His Excellency embarks the 25th of November in
1836 accompanied by Nepomuceno Almonte and an escort selected by Houston in which figure
Hockley, Bee and Patton. The identity of his hell-hounds does not matter. He foresees his
liberty. He knows he is gaining space. From there they will send him on a schooner to
Veracruz. In whose name would they keep him a prisoner in chains in the White House? No
reason at all exists to detain him. He knows it. He scans the northerly winds from his
home. He perceives the aroma of the mulattas. He imagines returning to see the larks
nests, to enjoy sweet crab apples, drink wine in his cups from Aranjuez, devour the eggs
with re-fried beans and cottage cheese, wrap himself in the legs of Inés, return to
contemplate the forget-me-nots painted on the wall of his residence, delight in the view
of the Orizaba Peak and later, continue betting on his cocks, who have already waited
almost a year since he left for The Alamo to expel the rebels.
     As soon as he might be able to return to Mexico City he would eat in the restaurant,
La Gran Sociedad, his favorite, or in "The Society of Progress," that preferred by
Inés for the exquisite gathering of the dames of the high aristocracy, wives of
industrialists, businessmen or the military, where they served the best broth with rice,
avocado, chiles and cilantro, in addition to the most varied stews, entrees, desserts,
bread, and tortillas. On one occasion--how to forget it--the Liberator had won up to
6,000 pesos by having bought a lottery ticket at the entrance to the Amistad inn. The
vendor is still waiting for his recompense when the poor imbecile ignores that with me
everything is due to heaven...
    They navigate towards Louisville aboard a boat on the tame waters of the Mississippi.
The population comes out to see what the Mexican president looks like. His presence
provokes curiosity. They imagine him as an Aztec emperor. The majority want to rip a
feather from his plume. They will ask him for one of the shells used to decorate his
ankles at the time of the ritual dances. The local newspapers try to interview him. He
is surprised by their simple adulatory language. As he moves to the north, his
recognition increases for having attacked some slave holders who purport to incorporate
another state into the American Union with more discreditable servants. Jackson should
forget about the annexation: we shall not permit more slave owning representatives in theCome on
Congress. It would decompose the political balance of forces. There will be no
annexation. No. The abolitionists applaud Santa Anna. Good for The Alamo. Good for El
Goliad. Good for having defended those Mexican territories. Too bad for having lost the
campaign. In Louisville the voyage by train begins. His Excellency has heard stories on
different occasions with respect to the existence of those machines capable of moving
thousands of men and horses. For the first time he contemplates a locomotive. He thrills
before its whistles and its enormous outflows of steam. He is capitally astonished. A
marvel of human ingenuity. At the stations there is tumult to see him. There is no
hostility. The North American people are informed. They know of his existence. He arrives
in the capital of the United States on the 18th of January in 1837, in the midst of a
spectacular snow. Of course for him the freezing does not represent the slightest novelty
because he had suffered it during that sorrowful march for the reconquest of Tejas!
     Jackson receives him in his residence. He is sick. The old general makes efforts to
provide and dispense a respectful reception to the Mexican Caesar. The latter will
promise him anything in order to embark as soon as possible heading to Veracruz. We
already know: promise, promise until placement and then... The White House chief,
surrounded by advisers, listens to Santa Anna. He lets him talk. Houston had depicted him
to perfection at a distance.
     --Let him express himself, Mr. president, sooner or later, in his adulatory
eagerness and with the surprising imagination of an excellent falsifier, he will end by
getting entangled in his own words and then you shall have him in your hands.
     Jackson aims at his head and shoots:
     --I offer you 3,500,000 for the transfer of Tejas including the border up to the
Rio Bravo and then tracing a line at latitude 38 north until the Pacific, including
California and, of course Nuevo Mexico. The president of the United States well knew the
legal vulnerability of the Velasco Treaties. He tried parallel roads to ensure success.
Yes, but he also wanted to acquire more territories.
     Santa Anna hears the offer. He considers it. At that moment he understands that the
problem will not be canceled by delivering Texas. The yankees are coming for half the
country, he says to himself.
     --As you will understand, Mr. president, with all the respect which I owe, recognize
and profess to you as a superior authority, the powers are not accorded me to commit to
such a generous offer on your part. My Congress has not given me the authorization to
cede or to sell a part of the territory--he replied knowing that if he now signed a
treaty with Jackson delivering the territories of the north, which had been resisted by
Guadalupe Victoria since 1826 and by Vicente Guerrero in 1829 in his negotiations with
Poinsett, he could be labeled as a traitor to the nation. He could not be so coarse. Upon
returning he would weave a strategy, for some day returning to the presidency, of
recovering Tejas. And the siesta? Ah, the siesta... And if they knew in the Congress, in
his cabinet and in the press about Emily Morgan? What had happened to Emily? Did he never
see her again? Perfect skin and the musculature of a panther...
     President Jackson treated the Napoleon of the West to a monumental banquet. He
invites the accredited diplomatic corps in Washington. It is a gala dinner. Santa Anna
affixes all his decorations to his blue and gold sailor's blouse edged with gilded
threads, as well as his refulgent steel sword and handle decorated with precious embedded
stones. He arranges them with all dignity. He exhibits the exquisite manners of
cultivated and regal man. He does not seem surprised at the luxury nor the rich
ostentation dedicated to the table decorations nor by the luminosity of the oil lamps nor
by the elegance and refinement of the invitees nor by the fine outfits down to the
waiters. He fixes his attention on the enormous pictures that speak of the founding of
the 13 colonies and of the arrival of the "Mayflower" to Plymouth in 1620 with the first
Pilgrims on board. There are portraits of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, James Madison, Jame Monroe, and John Quincy Adams. They show, hanging on the
right side, some full-length oils of Alexander Hamilton and of Benjamin Franklin, among
others. He thinks of the National Palace in Mexico City. He only remembers pictures with
his own image. What did we Mexicans do with our Fathers of the Independence, he thinks,
while he reviews the faces of some of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Hidalgo?
Shot. Morelos? Shot. Iturbide? Shot. Guerrero? Shot. The true perfecters of the
revolutionary movement were shot. All the heroes who supposedly gave us nation and
liberty, we shoot. Yes, yes, shot, shot, shot... What sort of nation is mine that
subjects its leaders to its guns? Where is the great fabric or the great street or the
great monument to Guadalupe Victoria or to Vicente Guerrero? Did they not exist? Are they
not part of history? Why was a Jefferson or a Washington not born with their ideas and
temperament in Chihuahua? Would we have shot them as well?
     The local newspapers warn that Santa Anna will eat with his hands. That in any case
it is wise to tie a big bag full of hay to his head to feed him along with the horses.
Caution: he has never eaten anything hot. Woe to the diners who sit at his sides, because
a Kentucky mule might have better nourishment than that cannibal! Attention Mr.
ambassadors: do not take your billfolds to the ceremony. They might lack funds upon
returning home...
     On that occasion The Meritorious meets James Polk, the leader of Congress, and
Winfield Scott, enmeshed in a war council from which he would emerge absolved. It would
take them ten more years to return to find themselves on opposite terrains. When he
finally navigated on course to Veracruz aboard the "Pioneer," during the middle of
February in 1837, he confesses to Nepomuceno Almonte that he will never forget president
Jackson's generosity. I shall admire him until the last day of my life. He dreams of
seeing San Juan de Ulúa. He does not want to turn backwards. But he swears to
castigate Filisola for having followed his orders. He, Filisola, is the big culpable
one. Why the hell did he obey me if I was a prisoner? He prevented him dying as
corresponds to every patriot in the hands of their captors. Maybe he does not know what a
hero is? He needs to have hurled cavalry, infantry and artillery against the invaders
until shredding them without it mattering whether or not he was one of the fallen. We are
soldiers, no? Filisola did not retreat to obey my orders, no way, he fled to Monterrey
from fear. He is a sissy, poor man. We shall have to meet face to face. Urrea is
responsible for Fanning's demise which so much upset your friend Houston. Once again: do
they not know when to obey or disobey instructions? He is innocent of all the charges. He
is definitely surrounded by idiots or cowards. How can such a people be projected to the
     --Will you swear, my general, to the new centralist Constitution, that promulgated
in September last year?--asks Nepomuceno Almonte.
     --I do not want to remember that damned 1836. I only swore to abide by the New Magna
Carta and now I shall retire to Manga de Clavo. I shall never return to politics. I no
longer have the stomach for it.
     Jackson granted him freedom. Why detain him or send him to Texas? He will always be,
for the United States, more valuable alive than dead. Santa Anna could always be a secret
ally, a valuable informant. Also, no small thing, he perhaps could convince the Mexican
Congress to sell the Texian territory. Why not try it? "Good-bye, Santa Anny: don't
forget your North American friends. With warm regards, Andrew..."
     If the surprise was great for the Veracruzians to suddenly discover, in the middle
of their port, the figure of the Meritorious already liberated and returned to his
country, greater still was their stupor when he came accompanied by a squad of North
American soldiers under the command of lieutenant J. Tarnall to the doors of his ranch.
Fear or worry for some unknown reason...? No, of course not, you know, the roads are full
of assailants these days...
     How satisfied Santa Anna felt when, thus escorted by the North Americans in his own
land, he boarded his carriage with the destination of Manga de Clavo and his compatriots,
his own compatriots, gave him vivas, acclamations and cheers for having returned
well to the beloved nation...! Welcome, my son, come, come, draw near so I can crown your
head with gold leaves of laurel...
     Someone drops an insert through the window. It falls in the interior of the carriage
at Tarnall's feet. It consisted of a paragraph drafted by Martinillo:

     The United States is notably benefited by not having shot Santa Anna. History will
     demonstrate that. On the other side, the United States notably prejudiced
     México by not having shot him. History will also demonstrate that.

When Tarnall asked for a translation of the text, Santa Anna denied its importance and
proceeded to clean his boots with that cheap paper.
     --The clay of the wharf corrodes the leather of my boots, lieutenant--explained the
Caesar while he spit out the window...

               Fourth chapter
The robbery of the century is consummated

                                        I do not believe that there has ever been
                                                 a more unjust war than that which the
                                                 United States waged on Mexico. I am
                                                 ashamed of my country to remember that
                                                 invasion. I have never forgiven myself
                                                 for having participated in it...
                                                                   ULYSSES S. GRANT
                                                                   president of the
                                                                   United States, 1869-76

When Santa Anna emerged from his reflections, they had already let pass the 2,500 women
with their children. Where would the battle against Taylor take place at the beginning
of that 1847? That criminal had done away with Mariano Arista and Pedro de Ampudia, had
defeated them at Resaca de la Palma, in Palo Alto and in Monterrey, which had fallen with
gallantry, yet never had crossed swords nor measured forces with a great man of his
dimensions. We are speaking of a singular military talent and of an incomparable
logistical imagination. A strange haste took power over His Excellency, like that
suffered when he went to liberate The Alamo. It was the moment to accelerate the pace.
To reach San Luis Potosí. To end with recruitment and continue the march en route
to the north.
     In 1836 he had not been able to defeat Houston nor expel him to beyond the Sabina.
Now, in 1846, he saw how to defeat the United States in an open war, already declared,
originating again in the North American territorial avarice.
     He would concentrate his attention on perfecting the attack on the damned by all the
devils yankees, already infiltrated into more than half of the national territory. Now we
were dealing not with North American soldiers disguised as colonists or Texians dressed
as soldiers, this time the brutal confrontation will be against the very army of the
United States. In this country they will never speak English nor will there be any other
flag than the Mexican waving at the National Palace and in the cathedral towers.
     The armistice between Taylor and Ampudia, agreed stemming from the battle of
Monterrey, expired at the end of November. Santa Anna would take advantage of the time to
re-unite forces, recruit soldiers through the draft, seek sources of financing,
principally through the Church. He would not be able to confront the invader until well
into January of 1847. Waddy Thompson, who was the United States minister in Mexico from
1842 to 1844, declares: "A war against Mexico would be like an encounter between a weak
woman and a strong armed man." Mexico divided. Black Mexico. Sorrowful Mexico. Mutilated
     The national scenario was catastrophic "due to the complete abandonment of the laws,
the horrible disorder in the Homeland, the dilapidation of public resources, the
devouring speculation, the demoralization of the army, the complete bewilderment of the
administration, the discredit abroad, the dismembering of the territory, and the
tremendous risk to which our nationality finds itself exposed." Just that, as always,
nothing was sufficient. The rumor spreads like a prairie fire. The wind stimulates the
flame when the news finally arrives in Mexico City of an understanding between Polk and
Santa Anna that goes back to the months of His Excellency's exile in Cuba. Of course, he
had not wasted the time...
     Atocha? Who is Atocha? Where did this man come from? What role did he play in the
negotiations relative to the repatriation from Cuba of the general-president? The subject
is discussed of the safe conduct pass that allowed Santa Anna to break the blockade
imposed in Veracruz. Why did the frigates and the destroyers open his passage? What did
he give in return? The word, treason appears anew around the table covered with maps in
the meeting room where the fate of México is discussed. Remember when he was
defeated after The Alamo and they spoke of secret accords with the yankees signed in
Velasco ten years ago. Another treason? His Excellency denies all possibility. Let us not
be distracted from the truly important nor play the game of the opposition nor much less
of the enemy who comes to disunite us sowing intrigues. Let us prepare for defeating
     The storm subsides. It suddenly returns to acquire a very understandable
destructive violence beginning the moment in which the Savior of the Peace inexplicably
orders the evacuation of Tampico. General Valencia, responsible for the garrison,
resists, even coming to utter all sorts of maledictions and insults. He insists that the
Caesar is a traitor. Why did he not go to battle, who talks so much of the nation? Be
quiet! Back off! I do not have to give explanations! Cannons, boxes with rifles,
howitzers, munitions, and countless barrels of powder are hurled into the waters of the
Pánuco river. He can count on only 300 pack animals when at least 800 are required.
Impossible to transport the equipment. They cannot allow the enemy to benefits from those
arms to exterminate the Mexican army itself. The flood swallows all the gear in a single
gulp. Why the unconditional surrender when he had arms and capable soldiers? Why deliver
the plaza to the enemies when the possibilities, now not only of defense but of offense
were infinite? Why, damned cripple from hell, must we capitulate without firing a single
shot? The bad aim of the French artillery caused your left leg to be wounded instead of
the splinters of shrapnel blowing off your head... Santa Anna remembers the literal words
with which he directed Mackenzie, still in Havana, when he had him bring messages to
president Polk indicating the best alternatives for defeating Mexico with the least loss
of blood, as well as with the least economic cost possible.
     --Can you explain to me why they have not taken Tampico?--His Excellency questioned.
--They should do so shortly: the climate from October to March is very favorable. They
should take advantage of that... But now! Why lose more time...?
     Polk awaits from Santa Anna the exact fulfillment of his promises to conclude the
war: "It's a gentlemen's agreement." The surrender of Tampico calms him. Nevertheless,
the White House head wants to sign an armistice, liquidate from Mexico an agreed amount
to settle the differences and none of this is happening because Santa Anna, instead of
initiating the negotiations, has undertaken a military march to attack Taylor. His
Excellency, now confirmed by the Congress as the new holder of the Executive with
Gómez Farías as vice-president, very much despite the rumors of a secret agreement
with Polk, again dispatches Atocha toward Washington with a series of letters to deliver
to the president and to members of the cabinet. He wanted to calm down the yankees.
Like always to play his double game: charge for indemnification and attain glory among
the Mexicans. Difficult? The easy had ended a long time ago. Great enterprises are for
great men.
     Clearly he wanted to cede California and Nuevo Mexico by means of intelligent
negotiations from which he would emerge as absolute winner. The Savior of the Nation, now
not merely the Liberator. Thanks to me we rescue the most important part of the country,
before the damn yankees swallow it all down in one gulp. Thanks to me some part remains
of México, the most important. Thanks to me there is Chapultepec Castle and the
pyramids of Teotihaucán and of Chichén-Itzá. Thanks to me we recover that
most important to the nation, the part necessary to be conveniently exploited with the
indemnification money. With that money, minus the part due to me, we shall construct the
country which our children deserve. Good on both sides, he said smiling: the operation
will reflect the required glory on me, as well as the resources for a happy senescence.
Double success. Double triumph. Double happiness. A doubled bet only for specialists.
Life is risk. Letters! I bet my remainder on the red ace of hearts! This is equal to a
thousand simultaneous cockfights. How about me obtaining the historical recognition of my
compatriots and a triple entry in Manning and MacKintosh? When the yankee money
enters I shall occupy myself with conveniently distributing it in terms of the merits of
each one of the protagonists... For now, he said, with his head now lowered, with a dense
dust storm, I need to inject much more fear, maybe even panic, in this reckless society
consisting of minor in age... Which do I prefer, to be a hero and poor, or exiled and
rich? If I win the next battle glory awaits me, or if I lose, compensation, the yankee
money, awaits me. Which is better, glory or money or both...? Let fate decide: I will
fight like a tiger against Taylor, honors if I win, money if I lose. Ay! Ay! Ay...!
     In appearance everything develops according to the program: the Guiding Angel of the
Mexican Republic had arrived in Veracruz surrounded by enemies in open warfare. In
addition, he had taken control of the army and once more held the title of president of
the Republic. Very soon he would head heroic battles for his country. The chief of the
White House, for his part, had increased the military pressure to such an extreme that
now not only Matamoros, Parras, Saltillo, Monterrey, and Tampico were in North American
hands at the beginning of 1847, but also Scott was found on the high seas and very soon
would arrive at San Juan de Ulúa. The poor port of Veracruz: not one stone would
stand atop another... The plans charted between Polk and Santa Anna were executed in
accordance with what was suggested by the chief of the Mexican State himself, just that
the head of the White House, in charge of diverse initiatives, also had taken control of
Santa Fe, Nuevo Mexico, and of San Diego, Los Ángeles, Monterey, and San Francisco,
in summary of all California.
     Atocha, once in Washington, proposes to Bancroft, to Walker and to some senators the
new and promising Santannist proposal in January of 1847:
     --In exchange for the termination of the war and for ceding California, the
gentleman president of the Republic requires 20 million. The territory between the Rio
Bravo and the Nueces will remain as a reserve between both countries, gentlemen.
Furthermore--he adds with a petulant air--we desire that the meetings between the agents
or ambassadors of Mexico and the United States be carried out, with due powers, in
Havana: we choose a neutral location, far from the observers and the spies who, these
days, can even be found under a plate. These will be the "Havana Accords."
     Atocha brings letters, on this occasion, to accredit his diplomatic personality and,
last but not least, relates in detail the encounter between Mackenzie and Santa Anna in
Havana. There is no doubt. He is the man in the confidence of His Excellency.
     Alejandro Atocha makes known the need the lift the naval blockade of Veracruz. It is
the throat of my country. Through it we eat, breathe, drink, and live. Maintain your
military forces, but permit commerce. Please do not suffocate us.
     Polk refuses. He fears that the Mexicans will utilize the opening to import arms and
supply themselves with military equipment and gear. Held by the neck they will not move.
     They finally resolve to grant powers to the commissioners of both nations to lift
the blockade in accordance with the advance of the negotiations in Havana. Atocha will
have to return to México immediately to request the conformity of the Santannist
government and proceed to document the transfer of California in exchange for the 20
millions. Nuevo Mexico? On his return he will bring a concrete proposal to also turn over
that immense territory to the United States. It will be, he says smiling, like
everything in life: a question of pesos and centavos. He will sail on the Revenue
Cutter Bibb to Veracruz, and there the schooner will pick him up to transport him
back to Washington with the awaited answer.
     While Alejandro Atocha neared the Mexican coasts, Moses Beach, the prosperous editor
of the New York Sun and champion of the political expansionists, accompanied by
Janet Storms, traveled in the direction of Mexico City to begin a process of convincing
the Mexican clergy to extend religious neutrality to the armed intervention. Supposedly
they arrived to found a bank and to construct a canal on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Their labor, in reality, had a double objective. First, to commit the word of the
president of the United States in the sense that goods the property of the Mexican Church
will be respected to an extreme; second, that the army of the former nation will abstain
equally from intervening in questions pertaining to worship, and that in no case or
circumstance will it be attempted to impose Calvinism or any branch of Protestantism, in
any of its modalities. Absolute respect in exchange for renouncing armed resistance. The
Mexican clergy should influence the membership so that it does not exercise any defense.
The cities should surrender before the news of the arrival of the North American troops
for the ecclesiastical authorities to preserve all their privileges. Not only Santa Anna
had secret agreements with Polk. Now the Mexican, apostolic and Roman Church, also had
unconfessible relations with the most dangerous enemy of the nation. The Catholics,
manipulated by the clergy through the masses, would not only facilitate the foreign
occupation, but assist the invader concerning "what Christian piety counsels..." "Whoever
kills or injures a North American will be condemned to hell..."
     The financial shortages in the invaded country are discouraging. With the Veracruz
customs captured and commerce suspended, it becomes impossible to obtain more credit with
the taxes on imports offered in the form of a guarantee. Where to obtain economic aid if
exports, above all of silver, were canceled? Nothing new: only the Catholic Church held
the resources to pay the costs pertaining to the war. No other institution or enterprise 
possessed enough wealth to rescue the nation from an authentic debacle. The highest
ecclesiastical authorities would have to give proofs of their patriotism. If their
loyalty was not with Rome, but instead with Mexico, the critical and non-postponible hour
to demonstrate it had arrived. The nation is primary...?
     One of the provisions of don Valentín Gómez Farías in that January of 1847,
while Santa Anna appealed for money to be sent to finish the recruitment of troops
in San Luis Potosí, consisted in expediting a law to embargo the income captured by
the clergy derived from the leasing of rural or urban holdings. He commandeers their
rents to the Church. The military needs are enormous. No other way of satisfying them is
found. The ecclesiastical authorities respond with excommunication, with the imposition
of the most terrible sanctions in the other life. Hell would be an insufficient punishment,
child's play, for one who dares to put a hand on the horn of plenty the property of God.
The Lord's money is sacred. His savings are not of this kingdom or of this world. O for
him who touches the patrimony of God with their mortal hands! May they be damned. You
will become an old black winged frog if you apply the money of divinity to any earthly
purpose. You will spend eternity in the most recalcitrant, obscure and fetid galley of
hell if you embargo the rents of those humble sons of Christ the King, children of the
redeemer who only administer with scrupulous transparency the blessed money of which we
are only depository saints...
     --Assholes--says Gómez Farías--assholes, a thousand times assholes, resembling
the politicians who sweeten the life of the populace with only hope while they drown
them, in life, in a hell of horror! How simple to fool the congregations, above all
when you help them to resign themselves to the justice beyond, because it serves you
for them to be perfectly subject to the one here...!
     The clergy, the fanatical membership who in every incident seek eternal indulgences
and monarchists, conspire. Furthermore, the cardinals allege, any money delivered to the
army the big generals will rob. The lessees, above all the women, refuse to deliver the
rents contracted by the Church to the government. To pay it to someone excommunicated
implies the commission of a mortal sin unpardonable in this life. You will condemn it.
To obey the law of Gómez Farías implies a delinquent association with Lucifer
himself. Beware! Santa Anna requires the resources. Gómez Farías decrees the
sale of clerical assets for up to 15 million pesos. A third part of that will be taken
from the Archbishopric. An inventory of real estate holdings of the Church is implemented.
A wave of foreclosures approaches. The membership resists joining the adjudications. To
purchase a part, even however small, of the ecclesiastical patrimony is equivalent to
stealing a part of the Lord's tunic. You will condemn it! You will condemn it! You will
condemn it...!
     Moses Yale Beach visits Gómez Farías and informs him of the possibility of
constituting a central bank. The appointment is obtained through Nepomuceno Almonte, the
ex-minister of Mexico in Washington, where both had sealed a solid friendship. By
presenting himself as an English banker, he manifests his confidence in Mexico: we
think that this country will always represent an extraordinary investment opportunity
for us... The war could be not an obstacle. The United States will be very wary of
intervening in the affairs of Great Britain.  Santa Anna sends him a letter informing him
of the true identity of the North American journalist. He is neither a banker nor of
British origin: he is a secret agent sent by Polk who comes to benefit, to profit, from
the differences between the Mexican clergy and the government. How does Santa Anna know
this? The head of the White House had learned to confide in Atocha and, during the
latter's last visit to Washington, commits the imprudent misfortune of giving him a
letter for him to put in Beach's hands.North American candor?
     Beach's authentic intentions are discovered, even more so when he, already having
close relations with the highest clerical representatives, not only extends due
guarantees of North American respect for their material goods and the exercise of
worship, but also invites them to organize and finance revolts against the federal
government. The resistance to payments, to the embargoes and to the seizures is fine,
yes, yet you, sirs, have a happy and efficient way of convincing the congregation to take
arms against these arbitrary comptrollers of clerical property. Do not permit it. Very
soon Beach's suggestions become deeds of which no Mexican knows. While the nation is
invaded, trapped in a war against the United States and the president of the Republic,
charged at San Luis Potosí with the nation's defense, is desperately paralyzed by
the lack of resources to confront Taylor, in Mexico City Moses Yale Beach convinces the
clergy of the advantages of executing an armed uprising against the Santannist
government, particularly that of Gómez Farías.
     The ecclesiastical authorities and the conservatives select a group of youths of
great economic solvency, inhabitants of Mexico City, assigned to the battalions
Independencia, Hidalgo, Mina, Bravo. These are the polkos, lovers of the polka,
the best known dance of the era in the high society of the capital. These elite soldiers,
wearing uniforms of great luxury for them to shine socially and distinguish themselves
from the army masses, execute the uprising on the orders of general Marías de la
Peña. To these "soldiers of the faith" it was not difficult for them to take
control of the city because the garrison which guarded it had left to defend the country
threatened by general Taylor and his troops. José Fernando Ramírez and I saw
them pass one cold night of February in 1847. In those years he told, much better than
I, of what occurred with the rebellion of the polkos:

     The capes, the medals, the sales and the bags of relics that hung in the dozens from
     the chests of the ringleaders, especially that of the sybarite bouncy youth who form
     our elegant class, might have caused someone who does not know our things to think
     that an ample field of martyrs to the faith were found there, all of whom would be
     capable of sacrifice to the security of their religion, violated by the wicked laws
     of  occupation of ecclesiastical goods.

We shall never permit that a liberal government or of any other tendency to attempt
against the goods of the Church. If due to heresy they do not fear the vengeance of the
Lord, then we revert to arms to demonstrate our superior right to the property which we
hold. Excommunication no, then bullets, bayonets, muskets, and swords yes.
     Yet indeed the country is invaded by the yankees. It concerns the worst threat
against our nationality, even more, you yourselves might succumb before the arrival of
the Protestantism professed by our enemies. How is it possible for them to believe the
yankee agents?
     Those whom you call enemies are already on our side. They will seize not an Easter
candle nor remove our virgins from their altars... Whatever they do to the nation, we
only care for God's patrimony and that labor can also be developed in English. You, yes,
you, do you not already speak English...?
     Beach informs Polk and Buchanan in writing: "I dissuaded the bishops from sending
any money to Santa Anna, especially when Scott is about to arrive in Veracruz. The
financial abandonment on the part of the Church to which Santa Anna will be subjected
with the initiation of the North American attack along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico
is not by chance. I have linked the two events." Beach knows that his play is
magisterial, and thus smiles mockingly upon sealing the envelope addressed to the White
House. He knows that the rebellion of the polkos will cause devastating damage in
the Mexican troops who will confront Taylor and knows, because he knows, that México
can send neither military nor economic reinforcements to assist against the imminent
North American attack on Veracruz. They will need the last of their men in the capital of
the Republic. Scott will capture Veracruz with the same ease as taking a caramel from a
child. There is no doubt that the diplomatic lobbying with Mexico's enemies causes more
damage than all my howitzers together...
     The general Valentín Canalizo emits a proclamation:

     After our army faces the dangers, treason and cowardice strive to proclaim anarchy
     so that México will seek a fatal destiny. Establishing order ends and disorder
     is proclaimed... Veracruz needs to be reinforced and the miserable ones who have an
     unconfessible fear of presenting themselves before foreign enemies, have the
     audacity to provoke a fratricidal war...

Santa Anna is reached in full campaign against Taylor with a devastating letter. He heads
towards a new encounter with life and with history. He leaves San Luis Potosí in
frank bankruptcy. Only the bravery of his soldiers accompanies him:

     Mr. president: the regiment of the polkos has treacherously rebelled against our
     government. The Catholic Church refuses to financially support their own nation in
     such critical moments. Know that I will not falter in my efforts. I shall use
     resources with all the power of the law. Viva México, Gómez Farías.

In his inevitable date with destiny, Santa Anna engages in strenuous marches. He pieces
together that Tabasco has also revolted against the federal government and the
Yucatán declared itself neutral. God, what a country...! There are no roads, the
places are hostile. The mountains covered by jungles are impassable, even more so with
the weight of their cargo. The winter, like in 1836, did not stop being cruel and
insensible. He deals with precipices so deep that the echo does not return, thick mists
where it is impossible to see the steps taken in huaraches covered with clay and
boots full of mud after crossing the creeks. Storms compel an encampment. The ferocious
impacts of the raindrops against the skin produce blisters resembling the bite of an
enormous mosquito. The Napoleon of the West thinks of Hannibal crossing the Alps mounted
on the shoulders of an elephant. It is difficult to maintain the correct course between
so many ranges, all of them similar. The sun and the stars guide him, yes, yes, but
compasses are invaluable instruments. If at least they had had footpaths. Wild beasts
prowl around the bonfires at night. The roars are of horror. If the wood is not wet and
in the morning there was opportunity to hunt rabbits or hares, they might well eat
something hot with the help of the spit, lacking, the majority of times, the meal which
His Excellency should guarantee.
     As they advance to the north, the cold becomes glacial. Impossible to find brush to
prepare a fire. They sleep in clearings. Santa Anna alone cannot dispense with his
wrought silver service or with his campaign tent and all its comforts. The soldiers
huddle their bodies to warm themselves. He remembers the ice sculpture composed of dead
Mayans when he went to recover Tejas. The desert is more aggressive this time than in
'36. Will age weigh on the leader? Of course not: he is only 53 years of age. A rogue who
overnights with his wife, a woman scarcely 18, to whom he renders the required honors
daily! Water is lacking. In some cases suffocation is present. Thirst rages. The most
valued luxury becomes some shade. The fallen begin to mark the route for those who desire
to follow the steps of the Mexican army. The cadavers and heavy garb and other utensils
will be usable as landmarks. The supply of food begin to become scarce. The rations are
reduced. Trained doctors do not accompany them, but perhaps students without knowledge
nor the elementary materials. The countryside is depopulated of its natural inhabitants.
From time to time the distant presence is perceived of buzzards...
     Into Santa Anna's mind comes the last accord reached by the cabinet, headed by
Gómez Farías, when they rejected Atocha's proposal to sell California for 20 million
dollars. He was already in San Luis Potosí when the visit occurred. Buchanan went
personally to Cuba to help act as one of the high commissioners for peace on the part
of president Polk. No to the sale of California. Did the yankees not understand that
it is not a problem of money nor of more or fewer millions?
     Tell president Polk that if he does not vacate the national territory we will not
enter into any negotiations. Let them forget about 20, 50 or a thousand millions... First
comes our dignity and our sense of honor...
     Sirs: it is a position of arrogance and of intolerable false pride. Consider that
the enemy defeated England and is infinitely superior to us in armaments, in military
mystique and in offensive capacity. They will defeat us, the Spaniard alleges thinking of
the distant possibilities of charging the commission promised by His Excellency. He does
not work for free nor is his interest patriotic: he seeks money, yes, money.
     Do not say, please, that they will defeat us, because the yankees will never achieve
that and also do not say they will defeat us because you are not Mexican and, ultimately,
are not a part.
     As you wish, yet it is my duty to inform you that the longer it takes before they
sign a treaty of territorial limits with the United States, the more possibilities they
will have of losing everything and remaining, also, without a fair indemnification which
you will only obtain if Polk does not feel obliged to take Mexico City and the whole
country with a high economic and political cost. Every day the situation will complicate
more and every day you will obtain less compensation...
     Santa Anna denies it with his head while he marches to the pass in the direction of
Saltillo. He understands that the fear of losing everything has not reached the required
level. The Mexicans have not finished measuring the risk. Maybe the yankees should take
Chapultepec Castle and then his compatriots would sit down at the negotiation table when
it was already too late: everything already would be lost. Now they can still offer and
discuss; later, once the North Americans have become the masters of the country, they
will give us a tip for California and Nuevo Mexico. They did not learn from Texas. They
lost it without us winning one sorry dollar. Why will the Mexicans be so stupid and
fanatical? Quite soon we shall lose what is left of the north of the nation and what
they wish to give us from charity now will only be enough for a haircut in the Plaza del
     With his elbows resting on the saddle horn of his riding saddle, he slowly evaluated
his possibilities for success. And if he died in battle against Taylor? He would win
glory and never would any Mexican forget his name. Was he not happier in his house in
Havana just six months previously? Glory is glory. Money is money. The nation is the
nation. In a few more days he would join the troops evacuated from Tampico, very much
despite the rage, the haughty protest of general Valencia and the insults received when
he decided to surrender the plaza without firing a single shot. It does not matter,
nothing matters, he said sputtering inaudible apologies. The only fact is that Scott
required the sending of Taylor's best men to disembark in Veracruz. The North American
general is found severely weakened. Decimated. Reduced. Amputated. They are significant
advantages. His defeat of Taylor would reinforce the national morale. Scott will be more
prudent at the time of evaluating Mexican military capacity. He will learn not to
underestimate it. Polk will look at Mexico with more respect and Gómez Farías will
acquire unusual force in his negotiations with the Church. A win on all sides. Santa
Anna performs a review of his forces. Since his exit from San Luis Potosí he has
lost 4,000 of 18,000 men. Desertion, the cold, hunger have caused significant losses long
before meeting the North American artillery.
     Taylor and his army depart Saltillo on a course to the south. They have rested for
six months. "Santa Anna will not beat me, because before we meet there will be a new coup
d'etat and he will be removed from the position. Furthermore, Mackenzie, on returning
from Cuba, let me know that the generalísimo is on our side. He is in Polk's
     Everything seems to indicate that the battle will take place at La Angostura. A
successive series of hills and cliffs can be distinguished. Both armies prepare for the
fight. Taylor leaves Agua Nueva while destroying everything in his path. He does not
leave one stone atop another. He will not permit anybody to benefit from the advantages
of place. Where Attila's horse treads, grass will not come back to grow. He selects, with
every advantage, the terrain. He places, behind the few trees, his camouflaged batteries
on some strategic slopes. He directs an army accustomed to the intense cold of those
plains and relies on artillery of greater reach and explosive power. The Mexican
soldiers, the regulars of course, the professionals, not those recruited through the
draft, exceed his in number and in courage. One of our soldiers is worth more than a
thousand generals.
     The battle takes place on the 22nd of February in 1847. The Mexicans know themselves
winners. The lancers fulfill their instructions. The infantry breaks the enemy lines at
bayonet point. The Mexican artillery also meets its objectives. The invader is dislodged
from their positions. Three flags are carried away under fire. Part of the troops will no
longer have to adorn their posteriors with prickly cactus from the desert. Now they have
fabric which will be useful to them at least occasionally. The yankee emblems are
disputed. They are torn into shreds with very precise hygienic objectives. Also captured
are cannons, carts, stores, and they manage to trap a good number of prisoners. They are
neither shot nor beheaded. Their treatment is civilized. Until that point in the combat
the advantage is clearly with the Mexicans. They think of an ultimate effort, in killing
off the damned injured yankees, sons of their whoring mothers. The troops are exhausted.
They have not eaten in two days. In the midst of the dispute a storm intervenes. The
battlefield becomes drenched. Both armies retreat. At the end of the fierce downpour
Santa Anna reviews the field of honor. His troops give him an ovation. The triumph is
Mexican. There is no doubt. Viva my general! We have won! Viva! Viva! Viva!
     An official went to Taylor and told him that the battle was lost, to which Taylor
answered: "I know, but the soldiers do not know that... Battles are lost when the
generals concede defeat. I will not admit it." Tomorrow will be another day, the North
American general accepts knowing that a defeat would mean the loss of the Presidency of
the United States, to which he hopes to accede walking on the corpses of the Mexicans.
His popularity would plummet in La Angostura. It would be his Waterloo. Night falls. The
freeze is insupportable. Santa Anna's campaign tent remains with its silver fixtures lit.
His Excellency reflects. He considers the alternatives. Is there some possibility other
than attack in the morning? The candles are consumed one after another. Only the
motionless moon hears the thoughts of the Liberator. The silence is total. The wounded
are attended with what lies at hand. The wolves encircle the battlefield. It is
noteworthy that they do not devour the cadavers of Mexicans. They prefer to eat the
yankee flesh. Isolated shots are heard to drive off the beasts.
     The generalissimo emerges quickly from his tent. He lowers the awnings that comprise
the sides of the door as if cutting them with a knife. He calls his high command.
Everyone gathers immediately at the side of the general-president. Santa Anna orders,
inexplicably, the retreat.
     --Let us go, gentlemen...
     --My general, we only have to kill them off at the first light of dawn. We still
have supplies and the men can still make the ultimate effort... They are within range...
     --You should know that in Mexico City, supported by the Church, the polkos
have risen in arms. We have to hurry to return to suffocate the rebellion.
     Silence. They exchange glances. Mute maledictions. It is not possible that we might
be battling against the yankees while our own compatriots, with the help of the priests,
attempt a coup d'etat at such a crucial moment.
     Then they say: we are in agreement about returning, my general, yet first let us
attack the yankees. One more day is irrelevant. If we arrive at the capital 24 hours
later there will not be a major difference... Do you not think so...? Also you would be
presented to the people as a hero. You would receive national homage for having
vanquished the yankees... They are ours, only lacking the final blow to the neck...
     --We have neither food nor water. We are fatigued. They would do away with us--Santa
Anna still adduces.
     --Which if finally the reason, the supplies or the polkos?
     --The two.
     --Of the supplies we should not worry. Our people are used to sacrifice. Tomorrow we
shall eat the entire yankee kitchen. We will remain with their army, their weapons and
their uniforms. Now they shall see what cold is. Right now, many of our indians are
warming themselves with the boots and with the clothes of the North Americans. Let us
repeat the example; we can, my general. We shall have a parade through the streets of
Mexico City with the yankee prisoners dressed in huaraches and blanket ponchos. That
indeed will be a lesson in patriotism... Later we straighten our muskets against those
spoiled children, the polko pricks, and we will shoot them as traitors along with a large
number of priests...
     Santa Anna wanted the retreat. It is clear that he had striven against his own
people with an unknown fierceness. He had been exposed to the North American shrapnel
like the most valiant of his soldiers. He challenged mortality. He despised it. He gave
lessons of unforgettable daring, yes, but he was never injured or reached by the bullet
which would project him to glory. He doubts. He doubts again. The defeat at La Angostura
would produce in the capital the fear necessary for signing the treaties of territorial
surrender with the United States. He knows that Scott will invade Veracruz with the
support of more than 100 warships. Mexico has five. Military success is remote.
Impossible. What to do? Opt for the money, for the economic compensation. Some overgrown
and overwhelmed Mexicans will never sit down to negotiate...
     --Let us go. Prepare the people.
     --Two of Taylor's emissaries arrive. They request an armistice in which to discuss
the conditions of peace between the two governments. It is clear that they do not desire
another battle. Anyone can read between the lines with these yankee parliamentarians.
     Santa Anna refuses. Let us fight. There is no worthwhile armistice. Get going,
before I have them shot! He has reveille played. The forces form immediately. They
demonstrate the strength of his army to the yankees. His soldiers are ready to continue
the war. In reality he only wants to impress them to avoid their persecution on another
day. The goal is met. The facial expressions of the North Americans leave no room for
doubt. Their worry is justified.
     --Now more than ever we should attack them, my general. They are requesting a truce.
They are close to their mortality. Let us kill them off!
     --We are leaving, I have said. Furthermore, they tell me that Scott is about to
disembark on my homeland--he insists reverting to more arguments to manage to convince
his people. --Maybe in March, in a few more days, I will arrive in Veracruz. We shall
have to defend the port.
     --We shall never arrive in time, my general. If they bombard Veracruz in the coming
month, none of us will be able to be there to help... Now, here, at La Angostura, let us
give it to them with a closed fist.
     --I have given an order! Who wants to be judged for rebellion?
     No one shares the decision of the Meritorious. The word treason comes to occupy the
center of the conversations. In Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma they spoke of
incapacity. In Monterrey the North American artillery superiority is underlined against
the proven heroism of the Monterreyans. In Tampico and in La Angostura nobody uses any
other term distinct from treason, treason, treason: we had them on their knees, only the
coup de grace was lacking and, nevertheless, we abandoned the plaza.
     The trumpets played reveille and the mobilization began towards Agua Nueva,
vandalized by Taylor, destroyed, where His Excellency will find nothing they expected.
Impossible to stock up. Did he know it? Had yankee intelligence informed him? Santa Anna
heads the elusive shades of the night. He marches towards fatality. Resupplying is not
possible. They do not find the foodstuffs craved by the people. Less than half of the
army returns to San Luis Potosí. The decomposing foods provoke galloping dysentery.
Only rice remains to eat, and that without salt or sauces. The dead fall at every step
without the march pausing. The cold does not relent. The losses are of 10,500 soldiers.
Only 400 had fallen at La Angostura. Curses are heard among the troops. No one explains
how having the enemy with the bayonet placed on the throat down on the floor, he was let
go alive. General Miñon marches in chains alongside the troops. He has been
apprehended for having attempted an action which would have cut off the retreat of the
enemy. If he had concluded his movement they would have obtained an even more
overwhelming success...
     The Tutelary Angel of the Mexican Republic comes in front of his troops pulling his
white horse by the halter. He cannot stop thinking about La Angostura, nor also about
Veracruz or much less about the rebellion of the polkos. He knows very well that
Mexico City arose in arms as an additional reply of the clergy to abstain from
participating economically in the war. The priests, it is said, love money much more than
the gospel. A confrontation with them is equivalent to throwing oneself against a wall.
They do not only have military and political power here on Earth, but also in the beyond
their authority is incontestable. I too do not want this dog's hell which earthly
existence has become to continue into eternity. Upon arriving at the National Palace my
first decision will consist in firing Gómez Farías. I am sorry for what occurred when
he was my vice-president in 1833. I am sorry. I become sorry again, indeed every time
less, now that I will newly remove him from such an elevated position. Will he call me
traitor and ingrate? Yes, in the end it will be neither the first nor the last time that
they unjustifiably attack me with such qualifiers...
     At dawn the yankees cannot believe their luck. They throw their caps in the air.
They embrace. They take a stupefied and startled Taylor on their shoulders from his
campaign tent. They dance in the Apache style around enormous bonfires. They paint their
faces with coal. Shoot into the air. Intone the hymn. The happiness reaches to the other
side of the Potomac. The toasts, the clash of cups and glasses of whiskey are heard the
length and breadth of the United States. The Mexicans, the said, inexplicably let us
live. The only one who smiles sardonically is Taylor. He feels defeated, so defeated that
he does not dare to march en route to San Luis Potosí. He might have been a suicide.
The damage suffered was capital. Ask Mackenzie why we won this battle. He know why very
well. In Havana the history was forged which today is enacted. "Many thanks, my dear
general Santa Anny...
     The North American cities and towns are decorated with the colors of the United
States flag. The public buildings, hotels, businesses, parks, museums, universities,
hospitals, and schools celebrate the yankee military success. On all sides pavilions and
banners are identified with the stars and stripes. The revelry is total. The people are
in agreement with the war. No one rejects it. They are millions of Polks and Buchanans
and Walkers together. They carry it in their blood. There are great sheets everywhere
announcing the triumphs of the battles in Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and
La Angostura. The celebrations extend for several days. Taylor's popularity explodes to
infinity. No one will be able to oppose his candidacy for the presidency. He has become
invincible. The dead Mexicans and the destruction of the neighboring country assure him
of the necessary votes.

While Santa Anna and his diminished host arrive exhausted and demoralized to the
surroundings of San Luis Potosí, leaving the road sown with cadavers, on the morning
of the 8th of March in 1847, general Scott appears on the clear and warn horizon of the
coasts of Veracruz with 163 warships. 13,000 marines disembark without having been
repelled by the 200 cannons existing in the forts, the majority of them useless and
heavy, for they went back to the years of the colony. They never had had the budget to
replace or repair them.
     The North American sailors established a site hermetic by land and by sea. From Juan
Morales, the Mexican general of the garrison, they demand unconditional and immediate
surrender along with the 5,000 soldiers that he has under his command. Morales refuses.
He recognizes the lack of powder, food, medicines, and coal and, even so, valiantly
rejects the ultimatum. That is the posture of the hero.
     Veracruz's defender writes to the secretary of War:

     A fistful of valiants, barefoot and poorly dressed, but with more of the affections
     that inspire true patriotism, are all my resources; the elements which might have
     cooperated for an absolute triumph have eluded me no matter how eagerly I asked for
     them. Meanwhile, in that capital the civil discord causes the shedding of blood of
     those who might spend it in defense of the nation. Veracruz has been left subject to
     its own devices, as if it did not really belong to the national union.

The sacrifice will be total. It then rains fire upon the port of Veracruz, the port of
México's invaders. The Spaniards and the French arrived through there during the
Pastry War. Now it is the turn of the United States. The North American artillery does
not aim at the military positions assigned to defense, no not at all, they open fire
against church towers, against schools, stores, businesses, public buildings, citadels,
residences, hospitals, convents, parks, and aqueducts. They try to create panic among the
population, who stoically resist the punishment. The post office building is converted
into rubble. The celebration is major. Congratulations are soon to come. The caps fly
through the air with the insignias of the artillerymen. Something has to result from the
investment of so many millions of dollars in military academies founded to train the
cadets in the sophisticated science of mass assassination, no...? The Santa Gertrudis
bastion falls. The Howitzer and Paixhan cannons function perfectly. The wind expands the
blaze. The bombs come from the ships and from the already unloaded mortars. Now almost no
structures stand out. The Santiago fortress, a powder laboratory, flies through the air
together with the experts dedicated to the manufacture of the explosives. Veracruz is
converted into mere smoking debris.
     Over six days and their nights, shells of great explosive and incendiary power
destroy the city. The North American military industry could be proud of the quality of
its products. Its stockholders have the market and its dividends assured. Bravo! The West
Point graduates celebrate the punctual and precise launching of 6,700 projectiles without
pausing to consider whether the designees were children, women, artists, thinkers,
ballerinas, musicians, and poets. Who said that in wars the innocent should not die? What
is an innocent? There is no time to discern them. Fire...! Fire...! Fire...! Why
deprive the life of someone who can create a work of art from a piece of coal and a sheet
of paper. Why kill someone who loves a musical instrument and dedicates her existence to
plucking shocking notes from it? Why assassinate one who can cure with their hands and
with their science? With shouts they celebrate the collapse of a tower or the burning of
the Municipal Palace.
     The marimbas, the mandolins, the guitars are converted to shards and the foursquare
hats, the white costumes and colorful scarves are shredded. The teachers of
siquisirí die, the interpreters of rhythms, the tap dancers, and the
mulattas. Ay, the mulattas...! They improvise a blood hospital. The women bring sheets
and scarce bandages to attend to the wounded. Many enlist as nurses beside the doctors of
the port. One cannot count on the support of troops from the capital of the Republic,
because they are dedicated to extinguishing the uprising of the polkos. Moses
Beach smiles along with Janet Storms, who in a short while will travel to the port of
Veracruz for a round of conversations with Scott. The meeting will be crucial. The
mission of the journalist consists of informing Scott of the agreements reached between
Beach and the Catholic Church, provided that the patrimony and the right to worship of
the Mexican clergy be respected. The encounter with Scott is critical. Much time, money
and many lives can be saved, in that order...
     Veracruz is reduced to ashes, deaths, desolation, and weeping, simply because
Polk has resolved that "After repeated threats, Mexico has trespassed the border of the
United States, has invaded our territory and has shed North American blood on North
American soil." Bastard!
     I call them sons of whores: we never trespassed the frontier of their country. We
defended our Tamaulipan territory, Mexican territory, which rested in the agreements and
treaties that that damned criminal, the president of the United States, refused to
recognize. He violated them, he deceived his nation and the world in his zeal to find a
pretext to declare war on a defenseless nation and territorially mutilate it. An
unlimited cowardice. You bombard innocent persons only to seize a clearly foreign
patrimony. The gold, the gold, miserable criminal, gold is the only thing which moves you
and your equally asinine democracy. With black robes and berets you legalize the thefts
of the majority... We have the legal right because we are stronger. With what enjoyment I
would fire my cannons on the Capitol, the historic venue that democratically authorizes
the budget to kill! What pleasure would fill me if I could let fall a thousand bombs on
the White House, that disgusting burrow where the mass assassinations are incubated and
from where the stupid explanations emerge to justify the chain of crimes executed in
order to fill their treasuries with stolen money! You are the most prominent
representatives of the cursed race of our time, the Attilas of the 19th century...
     The general Juan Morales, through the consuls of England, France, Spain, and
Prussia, asks Scott for a truce to permit the exit of children and women. The North
American general rejects such a possibility. He does not accede to the petitions of the
diplomats and continues firing day and night. He has precise instructions to kill those
who inhabit the territories to be occupied. Exceptions? None! Scott had been an
extraordinary student in the military academy and later teacher of the arts of mass
annihilation. Where to apply his knowledge if not here, in Veracruz, attacking
defenseless civil targets, without distinctions of sex, age or professional activity?
The artillerymen celebrate every target that they hit in the "Cherokee" style. They make
bets. No one fights the firing. It is child's play: they can fire at will without running
the risk of a single loss. Amusing, no...? It is marvelous to pass to reality from
practice, and not solely on the testing range with moving targets, but instead with human
beings. There is where one should demonstrate their knowledge and their true manhood...
     On the 29th of March Veracruz capitulates. It surrenders before the North American
fire without having received a single soldier from the capital or a kilo of powder or
tortillas, even just pasta to alleviate hunger. One of the collateral objectives of the
rebellion of the polkos is attained. I saw many Mexican soldiers throw their guns onto
small mounds while they produced tears of impotence and of anger. The yankees lower the
national flag from the San Juan de Ulúa fort and hoist the stars and stripes flag,
which already waved in California, in Nuevo Mexico, in Saltillo, and in Monterrey.
Veracruz is left full of odious North American tents. They seem a mockery while they
waver within the remains of some public buildings. Who will dare to light a fire during
the nights? Who would not pay recompense in exchange for the hand or an eye or the scalp,
in the "Sioux" style, of any of the invading soldiers? How much to pay for Scott's head
or that of Taylor? It is a problem of daring, of audacity, yes, but whoever gets involved
with México will be decapitated, mutilated, amputated. There will be no pity: an
armed intervention against the legitimate heirs of the Aztec Empire will be like taking
a sharpened machete by the blade. You will cut your fingers, extremities, nose, or
testicles. Do not play with México. I will prove it to you. You will see what
losing is. Everything is legal and valid.
     If God does not exist, since it does not exist, with abundant evidence to
demonstrate that, then everything is permitted. Nothing can be called treason or a
felony. It is ethical and moral to poison, to contaminate the water or the food, ambush,
stab upon rounding a corner, shoot from a building or a house, surprise the invaders in
a brothel avid for women and slash them until there is no trace of their wickedness nor
of their existence. Nothing is prohibited: enemies can be surprised on the outskirts of a
temple, after completing their religious services, and be killed, strangled, hung with
six or ten people. Treachery, premeditation and the advantage are not condemnable, as
similarly it is not reprehensible to attack them by force when they acquire vegetables
or bread or food in our markets nor can it be criticized to dispatch them to another
world together with the businesspersons who permit them to survive in the national
territory from the moment when they accept the money, the gold coins, of the assassins.
Any Mexican merchant who sells one single papaya to a North American will be considered a
traitor to the nation, and ultimately should be subjected to a summary popular judgment
from which they would come out to be stoned in full public view. I, I placed the stones,
but no one ever used them. The projectiles became wet and slimy after the first season
of rains.

The Mexicans, buried in confusion, anguish and fear, do not take due notice of the
difficulties that confront Polk in his Congress. The criticism of the bombardment of
Veracruz, the duration and the cost of the war, threaten cancellation of the military
activities in Mexico. The opposition of the northern states is ever more prickly and
difficult. They refuse to continue with the armed conflict. They do not want more slave
states. California and Nuevo Mexico might come to be such. They insist on abolitionism.
The tensions between the north and the south can flow into a civil war. The political
project of the 13 colonies would fly into a thousand pieces with expansionism of the
slave-holding type. The more time, the more political attrition for the president, the
fewer possibilities of obtaining resources. In any vote one could expect a drastic
reduction in the military budget. To begin the withdrawal. By winning the war and
annexing more territories, racial violence could explode in the United States. The
generalization of a guerrilla war would have eternalized the armed conflict and would
have made the political position of the president unsustainable. The nocturnal ambushes
executed by Mexicans to kill North American soldiers and horses and to burn their
depositories of powder and food would have driven Scott, Taylor, Marcy, and Polk crazy.
Thus it was imperative to break their lines of supply from the rear and avoid the cannon
against cannon, artillery against artillery confrontations... Rifles against stones.
     Mexican espionage and intrigue in the high political circles of the United States
would have notably benefited Santa Anna, provided that he had been willing to break with
the traditional patrons of the war and take advantage of whatever resource might be
within his reach. To do whatever so as to win. Why was it effeminate to fight a guerrilla
war in place of fighting face to face, battalion after battalion, regiment by regiment,
division by division, and brigade by brigade against an army equipped with the most
modern weapons? Why play by the rules of a superior enemy, above all when they account
for more experience, training and incomparable firepower?
     Upon Veracruz surrendering, the North American general names the authorities to
administer the city and the port. Of course, the Mexican functionaries are excluded from
the Palace of Government. William J. Worth is imposed with the title of governor and
general commander of the plaza and of the San Juan de Ulúa castle. Yes, yes, the
same one who functioned as a spy under Taylor's orders in the capture of Matamoros, who
headed the bloody taking of Monterrey and who, at the end of the contest, called his
superior a "giant without a head." He, Worth, a natural specialist in the recruitment of
Mexican spies, an organizer born to matters of secret activity, occupied the Veracruzian
administration. His first decision was to adopt the customs current in the United States;
the second, which would irritate Santa Anna on principle, had as its goal to install
himself in Manga de Clavo, nothing more and nothing less than the ranch of His
Excellency. Lola, Lolita, Lola remained at El Lencero awaiting word.
     Once the port had fallen the blockade is lifted. Commercial operations resume. Worth
drastically elevates import taxes into Mexico. The amount of total income is kept hidden
from the Mexicans. The amounts and their fate form part of a military secret. The customs
views imposed by the invader provide the tribute collected on account of the
indemnification for war expenses that Mexico already owed the United States "for having
driven a peaceful nation to an armed conflict for which it is totally innocent." Yankee
tellers work with the face covered in the style of bank robbers. The mask is not white:
it is made from pieces of stars and stripes flags. The thieves cannot be mistaken.
     The instructions that Worth receives are very clear: "every peso, dollar or pound
sterling which is charged in the Mexican customs house will be deposited in the coffers
of the United States for ends deemed appropriate..." Robbery! Robbery! Robbery!
Blatant robbery, the foreigners shout from the other side of the Atlantic, principally
Europeans, holders of Mexican goods guaranteed through the customs import taxes. The
United States represents nothing but a cabal of pirates, worthy heirs to Francis Drake,
their first cousin. México's international creditors who had their investments and
payments guaranteed in an arrangement with the customs income, of course not only are
not paid, but can attest to how the yankees subtract at will and without telling anybody
about the amounts nor the purpose of that collected: they simply note the future which
awaits them in the hands of this greedy, thieving, giant assassin...

When Scott walks among the ashes of Veracruz, he can see the damage caused. For some
reason the battle of 1812 against the English comes to his mind, in which he was wounded
twice. On that occasion he lost 700 men out of 1,300. He is satisfied that accounts are
balanced after the bombardment of the Mexican port. Not one stone is found atop another.
The artillery erased the entire city. Military of the first rank were forged at West
Point. His knowledge could be verified with a simple glance. How can a respectable Empire
be maintained without a great military academy and without the support of an imposing
navy? He accepts that "the Veracruzian people resisted more than what could be expected
with an admirable resolution." He manifests his respect and affection for the people of
Mexico. The commiseration reaches the extreme that he solicits his troops to give up
their meals, from their war rations, to divide them among the helpless population. They
are dying of hunger, can you not see...?
     Those burned by the fire walk along the roads in search of nothing. Smudged
countenances and faces of desolation can be distinguished on many Veracruzians with
clothes torn to shreds trying to find their loved ones, while they project curses and
explode in attacks of wailing. The attack on the civil population had been definitive.
The control is total. Scott knows that when Conner blockades the port of Alvarado, the
scarce Mexican fleet will be enclosed, imprisoned: then they will not be able to navigate
throughout the whole war. A grave error of Paredes Arrillaga. For all the effect, the
very few national warships now do not exist. The last two ships were sent to Cuba so that
the North American navy would not sink them, but on docking are embargoed for debts
pending with a naval company in Havana. Matthew Perry was already found in Tabasco
studying the possibilities of an inter-oceanic canal. He wanted to connect the Gulf with
the Pacific and thus find a passage to liberate North American commerce and industry.
What was Perry's concern with the Nueces river? That which is evident does not require
proofs. Carricitos was the pretext. The Nueces river...? Come on man!

The news of the fall of Veracruz shakes Mexican society. The giant advances and crushes
everything in his path. Now there can be no doubt that they are directed towards the
head, to the capital of the Republic, to execute the second conquest of México.
While on the 30th of March the fall of Veracruz into Scott's hands is announced, Janet
Storms requests an audience before the North American general. He resists having dealings
with a woman who brags of being president Polk's envoy. A woman meddling in elevated
matters of State?
     How to refuse her passage? He decides to receive her on land. A woman never traveled
on a Phoenician's or on corsair's ship. Any sailor knows that they bring bad luck on the
high seas or even in the ports, when found aboard. She simply informs him that Beach, her
boss, has already reached agreement with the Catholic Church so that Xalapa, Perote,
Puebla, and Mexico City itself would abstain for opposing resistance to the North
     --They surrender without defending themselves, general... In exchange you should
promise to respect the property as well as the religious liberty of the Catholic Church.
     Scott furrows his brow. With hesitation and skepticism he listens to an offer as
peculiar as it was unexpected. This possibility could speed the outcome of the war,
inclining the pointer on the scale towards the United States. Welcome to the allies who
fight against a common enemy...
     --The reception in Puebla could be so generous--adds the most distinguished and
recognized newspaperman of the New York Sun--that the city bishop himself will put
his luxurious palace at your disposal for the necessary time and, furthermore, will offer
you a mass of thanks, a Te Deum in honor of our boys, general. As Moses says, a
good cabal like ours can save much in lives, time and money...
     Scott stares fixedly into Janet's face. He is not accustomed to dealing with women;
less, much less when the subject deals with armed strategies.
     --And where is Beach? Why did he not come personally to inform me of that situation?
I, with all respect, ask myself, why should I believe you? Imagine if I enter Puebla with
my contingents and they begin to fire at me from the many windows, rooftops, doors, and
street corners of the city...
     What could this handsome, certainly intelligent, woman know of the tricks, of the
wiles of war. To him, an old fox, conceived beside the cannons' roar, nobody could come
now to teach him anything. Perhaps in the elegant salons of Washington, in the official
clubs, they were going to justify a defeat by alleging that Janet Storms had been to
blame? At that precise moment he would become the laughingstock of the High Command...
     --General Scott--the journalist responded without shrinking back--Moses Beach could
not be here, though such were his desires, because he is organizing another rebellion in
Mexico City against Santa Anna.
     Scott thought he was dreaming. With a grimacing gesture and without wasting words,
he let her continue:
     --The federal government tried to expropriate goods of the Catholic Church, which
you should know is the richest institution or business in this nation, including the
State itself--exclaimed Ms. Storms knowing she would have to reach deeply to convince the
soldier--so then we, after having had long discussions with the high clergy, advised 
them not only to not lend money to Gómez Farías or to Santa Anna, but also to rise
in arms financing armed movements between the troops in the capital so as to divide the
Mexican army and precipitate the country's defeat.
     --And did it work?
     --It worked so well that you took Veracruz without resistance thanks to the garrison
in Mexico City having felt obliged to suppress the uprising so that Juan Morales remained
without reinforcements. Can you explain it? And one more proof: Santa Anna left the
battlefield at La Angostura because he had to quickly return to the capital, before
being overthrown and replaced in the army command.
     --And all these services in exchange for what?--asked Scott, exchanging the absence
of a Mexican response during the capture of Veracruz. --There is nothing free in life...
     --The treaty, as I already indicated to you, consists in that the Mexican clergy,
fearful of the imposition of our religion, offers the unconditional surrender of cities
in exchange for the liberty of officiating Catholic worship without restrictions and of
maintaining their patrimony intact. The masses will be convinced during the masses and
the confessions, general.
     --Is it not a trap?--questioned Scott, gradually abandoning his skepticism.
     --Impossible--Janet responded very much in control of herself. --We can prove it
through our work in Mexico City, of which president Polk has already been duly informed,
and by means of the surrender of cities before arriving in Puebla. Believe me that the
priests know how to keep their word...
     --For me it would make me ashamed to belong to a religion that sets its economic
interests, however important they may be, above the salvation of the nation and not only
betrays it, but also delivers it to the enemy. It disgusts me, Ms. Storms.
     --It produces the same revulsion in me, general, yet we are here to win this war.
The enemies of my enemies are my friends...
     --I shall take it very much into account--replied Scott with his accustomed
     --They have not been able to forget that general Taylor's cavalry entered the
Monterrey temples and amidst horselaughs destroyed what they found in their path. They
said they were fetishes and witchcraft, proofs of Mexican backwardness. It was like
entering, they said, the cave of a witch who burns incense...
     --As soon as you near Xalapa a small group of priests will come to visit you to
ratify the agreement which I have just expounded. On the next day you can enter
completely calmly...

The 30th of March in 1847, upon finishing his meeting with Janet Storms, general Winfield
Scott sends a message to the White House announcing the fall of Veracruz. The pin will
work a thousand miracles. Taylor in the north. Scott through Veracruz, preparing to
undertake the route towards the capital of the Republic. Kearny in Nuevo Mexico, Stockton
and Fremont in California. The strategy of the bandits becomes unquestionable.
     When the communication reaches the desk of the president of the United States, Polk
stands up and lifts his arms in a sign of triumph. Those displays are very typical of
his personality, above all when he feels he is not being observed. Buchanan solicits an
interview moments later. They convene a cabinet meeting with the objective of
communicating the occurrences. They deal with a piece of the war. Veracruz, an
impregnable spot, has fallen. North American losses? None! Total success! The majority
bets on an unconditional surrender of the nation. Any halfway conscious nation would lay
down their arms. It it enough. It is sufficient. Let us sit down to talk. What do you
want...? Will it be necessary to capture the capital of the Republic? Have the Mexicans
not understood the destruction and the deaths which await them? More? Do they want more
punishment? Do they perhaps want the whole Republic to remain in the state in which
Veracruz is found today? Does it not matter to them that the entire country will be
converted into a smoking mountain of ruins and into mountains of cadavers? They will
surrender, yes, yes, they will surrender...
     To the surprise of everyone, México does not give up. No one will surrender!
As long as the odious flag of the stars and stripes does not fly at the National Palace,
México will continue in the battle. While there is one live bullet in the musket or one
bombshell placed in a single cannon or it is possible to land a blow, a bayonet or an
injured man can land a kick thrown from the floor, the war will continue. If Santa Anna
were to offer the sale of one square yard of land, he would be hung from an
ahehuete in Chapultepec and the next act would argue His Excellency's lack of
powers to sign any document, treaty or convention in the name of México. No, there
will be no surrender...
     In the United States so much suicidal stupidity seems unacceptable. After the fall
of Veracruz, Polk names Nicholas Trist as the commissioner for peace. He should accompany
the American army with a treaty eraser in his pocket to negotiate the new borders
whenever the Mexican government so requires. Of course the discussion will not verge on
the origin of the war nor will attention center on the definition of the Texan border as
the Nueces river or on the Rio Bravo. Those subjects will be broached, yes, but they are
irrelevant. Polk did not declare war for a stream or to have a fringe of truly
unimportant terrain: he goes, as he told Jackson, to his most intimate cabinet, to Sarah,
his wife, when they occasionally managed to share the campfire, in Alta and Baja
California, Nuevo Mexico, part of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Sonora, and Chihuahua.
     Of course Trist is the man to negotiate the peace with Mexico! Polk's Undersecretary
of State, with fine manners for dialog with the Mexican emissaries in a delicate and
respectful tone, he had exchanged nuptials with the niece of Thomas Jefferson and briefly
lent his services in the administration of president Andrew Jackson as his personal
secretary. A complete democrat, Spanish-speaking, knowledgeable of the Spanish
temperament, with eight years of consular experience in Cuba and two as head of personnel
for the State Department. A scholar of international relations. Defects? Too gullible,
possessed of great pride, occasionally indiscreet, a compulsive letter writer and,
finally, he could be obsessive, foolish and explosive to the point of blindness...
Agreed, he is not perfect, yet above all a distinguished negotiator, imaginative and
capable of discovering along the way diverse possibilities of approach to convince his
interlocutors. This alternative, no...? And this one...? Or this one...? And this
other...? What do you say? Trist would take the next boat with his presidential
representation. He will travel with the passport of a plenipotentiary ambassador. A
diplomatic distinction. His credentials were overwhelming.
     Trist will carry in his diplomatic valise a projected "peace" treaty which Mexico
should sign to immediately conclude hostilities. The document, sanctioned by Polk's
cabinet itself in session on Tuesday the 13th of April in 1847, contained the future
borders between Mexico and the United States. That was the supreme decision of the head
of the White House. The incontestable word. The new line between the neighbors would
begin at the mouth of the Rio Bravo and run until a point of intersection with the
boundary south of Nuevo Mexico, a state that should be ceded just like Alta and Baja
California. And if the foregoing were not sufficient, in the name of indemnification or
of the conqueror's privilege, the president of the United States demanded the right of
passage from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. In exchange, the North American
government would take over the amount of reclamations owed by Mexico and also would pay
15 million dollars for the aforementioned territories by way of three million annually
with an interest rate of six percent until the amortization of the principal.
     The secret instructions, the insistence of the president on handling the
"negotiating mission" with the utmost discretion, are newly frustrated: the New York
Herald publishes, on the front page, two letters with the the chief of the White
House's plans. The new leak disquiets Polk. Am I perhaps surrounded by spies or by
     Polk, however, cannot avoid resentments against Santa Anna and Atocha. We should
have signed the promised assignations committed by word of honor long ago...! If I had
known that that execrable louse was going to betray me I would have arrested him and shot
him for trying to break the blockade at Veracruz. I took him out of the miasma in Cuba, I
fed him by hand and now he bites me. I contracted with him to shorten the war: I never
supposed I would face such a long, expensive and wasteful conflict. Someday we shall
arrest him again, like Houston did, and I will have him at my feet just like Jackson did
in 1836. What Mexican is trustworthy?

After the fall of Veracruz, the war between México and the United States developed
suspiciously without the invaded country being able to win one single battle. Nothing.
Zero. We were defeated in fields, ravines, cities, towns, and plazas. National arms were
never covered with glory.
     Puente Nacional? It was abandoned by Valentín Canalizo, His Excellency's
godfather on the day of his wedding with Dolores Tosta, do you remember? This general
evacuated the plaza in a precipitate flight separating from valuable cannons that later
Santa Anna made him recover, not without dealing him a severe reprimand.
     --Do you not know that valor is what most distinguishes a soldier?
     --Yes sir, but the yankees are sons of bitches...
     --Then I more than them: shoot him--the Meritorious furiously shouted knowing that
he gave one of many instructions that never would be fulfilled. Before the battle of
Cerro Gordo the interim government, under the control of general Pedro María Anaya,
began to prepare the defense of Mexico City. The Catholic Church responded, curiously
and suspiciously, with great slowness before the call of the authorities. They spread the
rumor: things will go better with the yankees than with Santa Anna or with that devil
Gómez Farías. Cerro Gordo? For Scott it was vital to leave Veracruz as soon as possible
and camp in the mountains, en route to Mexico City, before the arrival of the deadly
fever season. He could not permit, according to him, the mosquitoes to cause more
losses than the Mexican soldiers. He well knew: smallpox finally defeated the Aztecs, by
no means was it the Spaniards. He would move his people into safety. He was informed
about the disastrous aggressiveness of the tropical diseases, and that Santa Anna was
rapidly approaching their encounter with the remains of their troops fatigued and sick
after marching over 1,000 kilometers from La Angostura. They will finally measure the
sharpness of the steel and the power of the cannons. "Whoever traps him like Houston did
in San Jacinto, I will make a general," he smilingly offers as a prize. The two armies
comprised 9,000 men. The plans inside the North American camp were methodically carried
out. I was present within the campaign tents when, day by day, they mounted their
strategy in detail.
     In the Mexican high command they sought the best formulas for attack and defense.
The lieutenant colonel Manuel Robles Pezuela, a brilliant military engineer, made it
known in an opinion that Cerro Gordo was a good point to hinder the enemy's passage but
not to defeat him. The road could be cut, he warned, and we run the risk of being
surrounded and massacred, just as general Juan Cano had already indicated with complete
certainty. Both agree. They will riddle us against the mountains or on the edge of steep
cliffs, my general; furthermore we lack water in the area.
     --What do you recommend?--questioned Santa Anna without turning to see the face of
a lieutenant colonel who dared to opine.
     --The best would be--responded Robles Pezuela enthused because he was taken into
account--for us to confront the North Americans at Corral Falso, where the topography is
on our side.
     --We will wait for them here, in Cerro Gordo--responded Santa Anna almost without
letting him finish.
     Indignant, Robles Pezuela said:
     --If that is the decision then fortify the hills of The Watchtower and The
Telegraph, because they can attack us there.
     --Are you giving orders to me--furiously asked the Liberator, while he placed the
pins to one side of the map extended on the table.
     --No, sir. I am a soldier and I fulfill my obligations to inform of the dangers
which we might confront. That is why I am a military engineer and that is why the
Mexican army contracted with me--he said still making an impression.
     --If you are military, and you are, do not talk back and obey the orders of your
superior--replied Santa Anna. They would also have to haul the cannons with ropes up
those cliffs and those labors not even Hercules himself could perform.
     --Sir, I myself climbed The Watchtower and The Telegraph and believe me that they
can. They could attack us on the left flanks and...
     --You are mistaken, Robles Pezuela: not even a rabbit could get through there...
     --Pardon me, my general, I myself made an inspection and...
     --Are you through, lieutenant?
     --No, sir...
     --Well it is done by me. You will occupy yourself with the defense as I order,
     --Yes my general-president, or I order you locked in a dungeon--responded Santa Anna
thinking that a defeat at Cerro Gordo, if it happened, would inject sufficient fear among
the citizenry, the Congress, the press, and the government so as to sign the so much
desired peace treaty. He would immediately send Atocha to meet once more with president
Polk in the White House. The agreements were the agreements. It did not matter, in his
judgment, that it might have taken much more time than what Polk expected. Would he
accept offers regarding a lesser price? Yes, he would do so: Everything will be a
question of listening...
     --Yes, my general-president...
     While the strategic discussions rose in level among the Mexicans, Scott ordered the
captain Robert E. Lee to study the flanks in detail to discover whether some were left
open or disregarded. He found the sought for pass. On the 18th of April the enemy
attacked where few expected, through where, curiously, a rabbit could not pass. Those
defending the left flank fled, the howitzers rained precisely from The Watchtower and The
Telegraph with all the destructive power of the yankee artillery, Scott's troops closing
the roads and waiting for the fugitives who tried to flee towards the rear. He killed
them off there. I myself verified that it seemed like a practice firing range at West
Point. The target were also mobile, just that they dealt with human beings. In three and
a half hours the cannons were silent. The balance? 3,000 Mexican prisoners. Santa Anna
miraculously managed to flee. The reward offered by Scott could not be collected. The
troops of the Father of Anáhuac registered 1,200 losses, while on the North American
side there were 400 dead soldiers.
     --What to do with so many prisoners?--Scott asked. He would send them to the front
and free them the next day during a parade to commemorate the fall of Xalapa and of
     Xalapa? It surrendered without firing a single shot.
     Perote? They surrendered the 22nd of April in 1847 without opposing resistance,
except for a brief scuffle without significance. The plaza was abandoned the previous day
by the Mexican forces. Scott smiled. General Castillo delivered, in the Perote fortress,
"54 iron and bronze cannons and mortars of various calibers, plus 11,000 cannon rounds
and balls totaling some 14,000, in addition to several hundred rifles." Horror! The
number of enemy dead or prisoners that we might have been able to create with those
     Puebla? Just as had been accorded, they put up no fight whatsoever. They capitulated
from the beginning. You and I know the reasons all too well. The Pueblans in their
defense alleged they were tired of so much defeat. That they hated Santa Anna. That it
was useless to defend themselves. That in his slow pace, very slow indeed, through
Puebla, coming from Cerro Gordo on the way to Mexico City, he had been spat upon from the
balconies and they had called him traitor in chorus. Go away! Bandit! For shame! Sell-
out! Damned lame whore! shouts a leper from the door of a bar. If they had blown off your
head instead of your leg, you would not be here, giant asshole... Not lacking were those
who threw stones from the rooftops. Impossible to organize a resistance, a defense of
Puebla. This city is full of traitors, the Protector of the Nation said with a contrite
expression, especially when some Pueblans offer a lunch during that he explains the
number of errors committed by his subalterns and which had led to such a catastrophic
defeat. He, Santa Anna, was never culpable of anything. Having chosen Cerro Gordo instead
of Corral Falso, as Robles Pezuela suggested, of course is not a subject of
conversation. He shrinks from the truth like vampires from light. He dreams of the demise
of Robles Pezuela. He could expose him. Hope that the yankees had done away with him...
     Three weeks before arriving in Puebla, Scott sees the need to free the volunteers in
his army contracted at a fixed rate. The labor relation is given as finished. Impossible
to retain them. He knew that in the Mexican army volunteers did not exist. The
recruitment was done through the draft, and thus they often lacked enthusiasm so
necessary on the battlefield. The conviction to fight. The honor of having participated
in the combat. The defense of the nation. Scott cannot retain them. The contracts should
be respected. He is left with only 7,113 men. He grants the right to return to the United
States to more than 3,000 soldiers. He brags in private that with a squad of seven
loyalists he could take Mexico City. Have you not seen how those shrimps flee when I set
off a cannon?
     Even so he divides his army into two sections: 4,000 enter Puebla with Worth on May
15th. He remains with the others until the 18th of May, when he will proudly parade
amidst sonorous cheers through the streets of Puebla. The 3,113 soldiers under his charge
are a mere precaution: if the priests betray their own country, why would they not
betray me, ultimately an invader...? Such a decision frightened and was criticized by his
high command--why split his forces in two at such a critical moment--yet is taken upon
having been able to confirm the words and the acts of Moses Beach and of Janet Storms
in regard to the Pueblan Catholic clergy. The road to glory is free. He will take a long
bath. He will put on his best uniform. He will have his horse brushed. He will dust off
his gala hat. He will wear white gloves. He will shine his sword so that it sparkles
brilliantly. Will it be an anticipation of his return to Washington as a triumphant
general, worthy of being anointed with the Presidency of the United States? Who has dealt
with arms better than myself? Who enjoys more military prestige? Nobody, right?
Therefore, clear my desk at the White House. I am going there...
     Worth arrives in Puebla with 4,000 men in accordance with what is agreed. The total
population of the city is about 80,000 inhabitants. Bishop Francisco Pablo Vásquez,
the same who days previously had denied resources to Santa Anna and had hidden so as not
to speak with him, comes to the doors of the city with his cape to receive the North
American general. They sing the promised Te Deum. Janet Storms witnesses the
events. Very soon she will narrate it in the New York Sun. The North American
general, the cassocked one very well knows, will not ask him for money or for economic
support of any type. It is a guarantee. In that sense a Scott, a Worth, a Taylor, or a
Quitman is better than a Santa Anna or a Gómez Farías and his expropriatory
necessities. The clerical patrimony is not a goal of the United States in the war.
Totally the contrary. It is a capital party. No soldier unsheathes his sword or lays
hands on the resting bayonet or grasps the pistol. The women attend the parade from the
balconies. The army washes at a fountain of basaltic stone with clear, fresh, gurgling
water. Everything is fraternity, blessings, welcome to the invading troops who now rest
in the Plaza de Armas. The lepers approach the North Americans with bottles of
pulque. At the beginning the reject the invitation to drink that viscous, white
liquid. Soon one takes heart, and then another. The example spreads. The laughter begins.
The groups seem to be comprised of lifelong acquaintances. War...? "Freddy, please try
this shitty stuff..."
     The Pueblans imagined very tall men, almost giants, who with one sword thrust could
split any mortal in two. They learn what they can in the open public plaza. It is not a
sin, proceed, love one another, the lord bishop had said. All of us, ultimately, are
sons of the Lord... Do not permit hate or rancor to nest in your soul. Receive them
like good men of God... The Americans show their rifles to the populace. The people
admire them with curiosity. Too bad they cannot demonstrate at that time its powers nor
its range... "Hey you, Charlie, cheers!" they toast from one bench to the other. Those
Pueblans are like they were described, right?
     Few soldiers pay attention to the architectural richness of Puebla. They do not
notice the towers of its churches nor the stonework on the cathedral facade nor do they
observe, by and large, the thousand existing belfries nor the tree-flanked avenues nor
do they pause to contemplate the schools and their marvelous arcades nor their convents.
Worth writes to Scott:

     Janet Storms was right. This is not a trick. Some Pueblans have received us, it is
     fair to say, with coldness. The majority have treated us like tourists, and in no
     instance as enemies. Not one shot. Not one threat to fire. No signal of protest.
     Come. There is no danger. You yourself will be able to note. The city will astound
     you. It is completely different from what we know in the United States.

Scott entered Puebla on the 28th of May in 1847. The reception had very little to
distinguish it from that of Worth. He arrived accompanied by 3,000 men. Bishop
Vásquez returned in his cape and sang another Te Deum. Afterwards he offered
hospitality in the Palace of the Bishopric. You be my guest. Do not deprive me of this
very signal honor... There the North American general will have all the comforts
necessary to fulfill his elevated office. The clergy fulfills their promises. Evidently
they have a word of honor. The yankees can attest to it...
     After settling himself and taking a bit of cold wine, proper for the season's heat
and before the meal, bishop Vásquez asked Scott, in the middle of the garden and to
one side of a tiled niche with the image of Saint Francis, to please help him resolve a
matter of grave popular concern.
     --What is that?--said Scott smiling and gratified, while general Worth approached
with a chair to take part in the conversation.
     Before the two from the military, I heard bishop Vásquez requesting the
apprehension of a thief, a true scourge on the population, a low-life named Manuel
Domínguez, who had been at the point of killing Santa Anna himself years before
threatening to eat him with tamales if he did not accede to the former's pretensions.
     --And why is he not in jail?--questioned Worth, showing a surprising interest.
     --He escapes because he has a net of accomplices, likewise bandits, only interested
in robbing, in crime and in stealing from whatever citizen is found in the city or on the
highways, or he manages to get out of prison through the enormous bribes that he
delivers. No policeman can resist his economic offerings.
     Whereas Scott tried to give due tranquility to his affable host, Worth advanced with
more questions. The subject seemed to matter to him in a very significant way.
     --How many bandits comprise the net, Your Lordship?
     Flattered by the recognition of his high ecclesiastical investiture, Vásquez
responded that perhaps they might be talking about some 500 evildoers, despicable vandals
who molested men and women, children and the aged equally.
     --May the Lord forgive me, but I would like to see him hanging from any tree in my
     --And where does he principally operate, to engage him sooner?--continued Worth in
his interrogation while Scott did not hide his surprise at such a sudden interest from
his subaltern.
     --This drone, a black sheep of Jesus, works throughout the length of the road from
Veracruz to Puebla and to Mexico City--he answered without slowing. --He has robbed the
ministers of England, of the United States, of France, of Spain, as well as bankers,
dukes and duchesses, aristocrats, politicians, businesspersons, priests. O my God, and we
only possess the humble goods that God gives us in blessed custody...! I know that some
understand them like the masons, general, and among the poor people they begin to receive
sympathy because they share some quantity of the loot. This cynic calls himself the
people's Robin Hood... Have you ever seen such an insect?
     --Does he kill them...?--Worth insisted while Scott already divined the meaning of
and  justification for his subordinate's questions. Nothing exceeds the pleasure of
working with intelligent persons, he said satisfied and smiling.
     --No--Vásquez responded in a resigned tone. --They are just petty thieves,
although Domínguez has already been sentenced three times to capital
punishment for murder. Yet that has not been nor is his style, and I tell you--he
confessed with a trace of sadness--that I hate him though the Lord would punish me for
having such lowly feelings. I cannot lie...
     Worth did not need to know more. He had the required information. He would search
even under the stones for this Manuel Domínguez, of whom he had elsewhere heard
various tales of his wanderings in the Mexican sierras. He knew that Domínguez might
head what he had called "The Mexican Spy Company" A net of local spies, all of them
Mexican, who would inform him in detail of Santa Anna's plans, the number of his cavalry
and infantry forces, the amount of munitions, the locations selected for attack, the
composition of the vanguard and the rear guard, the size of the artillery, the caliber
of the howitzers, the food available, the morale of the troops. He as well as Hitchcock,
who had been with Taylor at the battle of Resaca de la Palma, wished to know, in detail,
every movement of Santa Anna. These men of the Mexican Spy Company introduced
themselves even into the general quarters of the Mexican army. The rest would be a breeze.
     Very soon Worth and Hitchcock had Domínguez at their feet in an improvised camp
to the south of the city of Puebla. The well-known thief refused to talk or to answer
anything until his hands were untied. He simply shook his head while saying:
     "Mi hands, mi hands..."
     When they complied with his requirement, now standing up, the first thing that he
did was to scold the two North American officers.
     --I may be a professional thief, gentlemen, yet I have my dignity--he clarified
through an interpreter. Spooner, the official translator had been assaulted by
Domínguez a month before arriving in Perote. They only left his underwear. Worth and
Hitchcock released a horselaugh before such cynicism.
     --If you want to get the best from a Mexican, respect them, speak to them nicely,
chingador, make them feel comfortable and honored. Spit on him, kick him and
chain him and you will never find a more stubborn and suicidal being in all your marches
throughout the world. Never chain me up again, gentlemen! Promise it!
     --We promise you--alleged the foreign military.
     --Fine, now, what am I good for? How may I serve you gentlemen?
     --We know you are a robber.
     --In effect and very honorably. I redistribute the booty among the poor, whenever I
do not keep it all.
     Worth and Hitchcock had never encountered a cynic of such dimensions. Domínguez
never complained of the invasion nor spoke of the war nor attacked the foreigners for
being in his country.
     --Do you want me to attack general Scott in the Bis