Plan of Ayutla: Meaning, History, Causes & Consequences

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Plan of Ayutla | History of the Ayutla Plan

Plan of Ayutla: Political statement made by liberal leaders against the dictatorship of Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna.

What was the Ayutla Plan?

The Plan of Ayutla (Ayutla Plan) was a political pronouncement made by liberal leaders against the dictatorship of Mexican President Antonio López de Santa Anna.

It was proclaimed on March 1, 1854 in the city of Ayutla, State of Guerrero, by Florencio Villarreal, Ignacio Comonfort and Juan N. Álvarez. He received the support of Benito Juárez, Melchor Ocampo, Ponciano Arriaga, and other liberals exiled by Santa Anna, who had gone into exile in the United States.

The document raised the need to overthrow the government of Santa Anna and replace it with an interim presidency of a liberal court and the convocation of a constituent congress.

The Ayutla Plan received the support of a large part of the country, for which a civil war beging between supporters and opponents of Santa Anna, which ended with the resignation and exile of the dictator.

Historic Context of the Ayutla Plan

In 1821, the Viceroyalty of New Spain became independent from the Spanish Empire and the First Mexican Empire was established, under the constitutional monarchy of the Creole military man – Agustín de Iturbide.

The empire did not last long since in 1823, General Santa Anna staged a coup and proclaimed the Republic. The following year, a federal constitution was enacted, which recognized the autonomy of the various Mexican states.

Since then, conflicts began between two opposing political groups: the conservatives, who were centralists and favorable to Hispanic influence, and the liberals, who were federalists and rejected any type of external interference.

In 1829, Santa Anna defeated a Spanish expedition in the battle of Tampico that sought to reconquer the country. This triumph allowed him to obtain great popularity, so in 1833, he was elected President of the Republic.

In 1836, Santa Anna replaced the federal constitution of 1824 with a centralist one that limited the autonomy of the Mexican states. This measure was resisted by several state governments, and had as one of its consequences the proclamation of the Independence of Texas in 1836.

The secession of Texas was supported by the United States, which incorporated it into its territory in 1845. This annexation started the war with Mexico, which ended with the triumph of the United States and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. By this agreement, signed in 1848, Mexico lost half of its territory.

After the defeat against the United States, Santa Anna‘s influence diminished, prompting opposition sectors to speak out against him. But Santa Anna did not give in and in 1853 he proclaimed himself a perpetual dictator.

Plan of Ayutla: Portrait of the perpetual dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna

Portrait of the perpetual dictator Antonio López de Santa Anna. Anonymous painting from the mid-19th century.

What did the Plan of Ayutla Establish?

The main provisions of the Ayutla Plan were the following:

  • Both President López de Santa Anna and all his officials were required to cease the exercise of political power.
  • It was proclaimed that if the liberal army were successful, representatives of all the Mexican states would be summoned to elect an interim president of the Republic. The latter would have broad powers to reform the public administration and attend to national security.
  • It was established that, fifteen days after taking office, the interim president had to convene an extraordinary congress in order to establish a republican and democratic government that would reorganize the country.
  • Generals Nicolás Bravo, Juan N. Álvarez, and Tomás Moreno were called upon to take charge of the liberal forces.
  • The commitment was made to make modifications to the plan if the majority of Mexicans so requested.

Causes and Consequences of the Ayutla Plan

Causes of the Plan of Ayutla

Among the causes of the Ayutla Plan, the following can be mentioned:

  • The authoritarian way in which Santa Anna ruled the country, especially since 1853, when he proclaimed himself a perpetual dictator and demanded that he be called “His Serene Highness“.
  • The social unrest due to the defeat suffered in the war against the United States, the acts of corruption of the dictator and his officials and the constant tax increases.
  • The conviction of a part of the political leadership that the only way to get Mexico out of the backwardness it was in was to overthrow Santa Anna and implement a series of reforms based on liberal ideology.

Consequences of the Plan of Ayutla

Among the consequences of the Ayutla Plan, the following stand out:

  • The Ayutla Revolution began during which the rebels, led by Álvarez and General Santos Degollado defeated Santa Anna‘s forces and advanced towards Mexico City.
  • Santa Anna was forced to resign on August 9, 1855 and go into exile in Cuba, from where he went to the United States, Colombia, and the Virgin Islands. The Ayutla Plan marked the end of his political career and that of his influence on Mexican society. He was only able to return to Mexico in 1874, to die, ignored by a large part of the population, two years later.
  • The Liberals took power and proclaimed Juan Álvarez interim president, who appointed renowned liberals to his cabinet, including Benito Juárez. After his resignation, in December 1855, he was succeeded by Ignacio Comonfort. This one implemented a series of political and economic reforms that generated the dissatisfaction of the conservatives and were the origin of the proclamation of the Plan of Tacubaya and the beginning of the War of Reform.
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