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History, The Early Republic

Vicente Guerrero, Iturbide, criollos, Antonio Lopez, opposing factions

Mexico was unprepared for the task of creating a new republic. Civil war had destroyed both social stability and the economy. Tax revenue fell to disastrously low levels as the economy struggled to revive. Moreover, few had the political experience to bind the nation together. Regional elites viewed with suspicion any attempt by Mexico City to establish a degree of central control. Deciding the actual role of the federal government required time and debate. The first constitution, promulgated in 1824, gave state legislators the power to elect both the president and the vice president. As a result, a series of weak presidents struggled to form an effective government.

During this time, Mexico’s political elite began to divide into two opposing factions: conservatives and liberals. The conservatives favored a highly centralized government, even a dictatorship if necessary, and wanted to maintain the Catholic Church’s power and control of educational facilities. The conservative faction was composed primarily of church leaders, rich landowners, criollos, and army officials. The liberals wanted a federation of states that was not strictly controlled by a central government. They also sought to limit the power of the Catholic Church, foster public education rather than church-controlled education, and institute social reforms.

Vicente Guerrero, who had become a leader in the liberal faction, became president in 1829, but was shot and killed in 1831 by forces led by conservative political and military leader Anastasio Bustamante. Revolt followed revolt until 1833, when Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, a military commander, was elected president. Santa Anna—who had led the military revolt that brought down Iturbide and the short-lived Mexican Empire—was a man of considerable egotism, energy, and intelligence. Shortly after he came to power, his policies involved the new republic in war over the future of Texas.

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