Anastasio Bustamante was a bold and controversial leader of Mexico, serving in many capacities, including as several terms as President of Mexico and as a general in the Mexican military. He served during tumultuous times in Mexico, and although he was in conflict with many other significant Mexican leaders, he helped shape and establish Mexico as we know today, both in breaking out of the bonds of Spain and in establishing Mexico’s borders and relationships with her neighbors. He was a courageous leader who many times was willing to put his country above his own life and freedom.
Anastasio Bustamante was born to José Ruiz and Francisca Oseguera Bustamante on July 27, 1780 in Spanish controlled Mexico. His early life was spent studying medicine at the Seminary of Guadalajara and proceeding to practice medicine in Mexico City. This calm and peaceful period, however would not come to define Bustamante’s life. In 1808, he joined the Spanish military as a cavalry officer and served in the Spanish occupation of Mexico for the following decade.
When the Mexican revolutionary movement reached its peak in the early 1820s, Bustamante abandoned the Spanish to fight for his own people in the Mexican War of Independence. His participation in the Mexican War of Independence included numerous military victories against the Spanish. Following the Mexican War of Independence, Bustamante was involved with Mexican policy towards American settlers in Mexico, including Stephen Austin and his followers.
In 1928, Bustamante was named vice president of Mexico under Vicente Guerrero, assuming the office in April of 1929. Congress found Guerrero incapable of governing, however, and Bustamante assumed the role of an interim president at the beginning of 1930. This began a series of terms as President of Mexico. Perhaps out of necessity, Bustamante’s first term was marked by frequent suppression of opposition, including the exile of many of his political enemies and silencing the press. Bustamante’s harsh policies led to a political uprising against his presidency. After trying to defeat the uprising militarily, Bustamante was forced to hand the presidency to Antonio López de Santa Anna and was exiled to Europe.
Had war not broken out between Texas and Mexico, Bustamante’s exile to Europe may have been the end of his political career. However, when Texas declared independence from Mexico, Bustamante was summoned back home to serve in the Mexican military against the Texan revolutionaries. Upon arriving in the country however, Bustamante was declared president once more by the Mexican Congress. His second and third terms as president were broken only by a brief absence prompted by military action. During these two terms, Bustamante helped defend Mexico against Guatemala and France, establish Mexico’s borders with Belize, and establish diplomatic relations with the United States, Belgium and Bavaria. Like his first term as president, however, Bustamante’s second and third terms were still plagued by internal conflict and revolts and his third term was ended with another forced exile to Europe.
Despite his heavy handed tactics, Anastasio Bustamante is remembered as a bold and courageous defender of the early Mexican Republic, fighting for her birth and standing up for her independence.