1. Between the Volcano and the Sea, 1794–1810

Santa Anna must have known he stood a good chance of facing a firing squad later that month, as the chief prosecutor's words reverberated around the packed theater of Veracruz. The Zapotec constitutional president and iron-willed leader of the Liberals, lawyer Benito Juárez, was determined to exterminate anyone who stood in the way of his reformist project. He had shown no mercy toward the three iconic Conservatives who were executed outside Querétaro, on the Cerro de las Campanas, at dawn on 19 June. Letters had flooded in from Europe begging him to spare Maximilian's life. Juárez would have none of it. It did not matter that Maximilian was an Austrian prince or that the 1857 Constitution banned the death penalty for political offenses. Maximilian was tried by court-martial under the harsh law of 25 January 1862, found guilty of attacking the nation, and shot dead.

Juárez wanted the world to know that this was the fate that awaited those European imperialist adventurers who dared intervene in Mexico. He also wanted Mexicans to know that he was not prepared to spare the lives of those nationals who dared take up arms against his Liberal republic. Miguel Miramón, the dashing Conservative general who returned to Mexico to assist Maximilian in his hour of reckoning, knowing that his was a lost cause, and Juárez's Indian nemesis, the ultraCatholic nationalist Otomí general Tomás Mejía, both faced the firing squad alongside the ill-starred Habsburg archduke-cum-emperor of Mexico. What chance did Santa Anna have of escaping the death penalty when such eminent men had all been tried and killed?

On 8 October 1867, it was the turn of the accused to make his case. A

-3-

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