General José Joaquín de Herrera
José Joaquían de Herrera, a native of Jalapa, made his reputation as a Mexican nationalist, political moderate and reasonable alternative to the more reckless caudillos (military strongmen) active during the chaotic first three decades of the Republic of Mexico. Born in 1794, he joined the Spanish army as a young man but took up the cause of independence by 1820. Herrera emerged as a leading figure of the new republic and eventually served as minister of war from 1832-1834. He held other government posts until 1844, ably navigating the roiling feud between Federalist and Centralist ideologies.
With the exile of President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Cuba, Herrera earned election to the nation’s highest office just in time to face a crisis with the United States. His diplomatic overtures and attempts to avoid war angered his citizens, and a coup led by General Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga ousted Herrera. The new dictator failed to defeat the U.S., and Santa Anna returned to Mexico only to face a similar calamity. With the nation defeated and demoralized after the U.S.-Mexican War, the Mexican public once again clamored for the more moderate Herrera to restore order. The Congress elected him for the job in 1848.
Using the $15 million settlement provided by the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Herrera successfully suppressed rebellions in the Yucatan, Guanajuato, Vera Cruz, Misantla, and the Huasteca. Having stabilized his nation, Herrera turned over power to his elected successor, Mariano Arista, in 1850. Herrera remained an interested political observer of the national drama until his death in 1854.