|Before Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón of Alamo fame, who Mexican purist historians rank as “one who failed the nation” for ultimately losing Texas, among other military defeats, there was Jóse Santa Anna. Alongside Encarnación Rosas, he helped defeat the original aggressor, Spain, in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Mexican War of Independence.
Though buried in history, The Battle of Mezcala Island reshaped Spanish/Mexican relations for the remainder of the war, savings thousands of lives. It started with 60 enraged men from Lake Chapala outside Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. They rose up to staunch the indignities and savagery the Spaniards were unleashing on the region’s indigenous inhabitants. The year was 1812, two years into the war that would know no end. Spanish troops quickly moved in to contain the insurrection. It’s likely that neither they, nor the rebels, knew they were at the precipice of a historic standoff.
A series of Spanish miscalculations led to the steady armament of the revolutionaries. Battling back against lances, sticks and hurled rocks, Spain’s first defeat on the north shore of Mexico’s largest lake started the buildup. The next battle pitted an equal number of men against one another, 200 on each side. Defeated once more, this time the Spaniards left behind 300 firearms. Despite Spain’s upping its contingencies anew, the subsequent battle was bloodier than the one that preceded, sending the insurgents temporarily into retreat in the surrounding Sierra Madre Mountains, ones they knew all too well. From their position of strength, the rebels claimed yet another victory capturing 100 more firearms, two cannons and a full cache of ammunition.