Juan José Ruiz de Apodaca y Eliza Gastón de Iriarte López de Letona y Lasqueti, count of Venadito (3 February 1754, Cadiz, Spain – 11 January 1835, Madrid, Spain) was a Spanish naval officer and viceroy of New Spain from 20 September 1816 to 5 July 1821, during Mexico's War of Independence.
Ruiz de Apodaca was born in Cádiz into a family of renowned Basque merchants. He entered the navy in 1767 and took part in the campaign against Algerian pirates. In 1770 he was promoted to the rank of ensign. He was in Peru from 1770 to 1778 and England in 1779.
From 1781 to 1790 he was a captain, in charge of ships of the line, and afterward he was in charge of the reconstruction of the harbor at Tarragona. In October 1802 he was named commandant of the arsenal at Cadiz. Now in command of a squadron, he made major improvements at Cadiz. When the French invaded Spain, he took command of the remnants of a Spanish fleet, which had been largely captured or destroyed in the Battle of Trafalgar, and captured the French squadron opposite his own. He was subsequently ambassador plenipotentiary in Britain and Captain General of Florida and Cuba (1812–15). His reputation was that of a man of tact and good judgment. For his services he was awarded the military crosses of San Fernando and San Hermenegildo.
As viceroy of New Spain
During a moment of great turbulence in the Mexican war of independence, he was named viceroy of New Spain at the beginning of 1816 but he did not take over the office from Félix María Calleja until September 20. As a new viceroy Apodaca offered amnesty to the rebels. Thousands of insurgents accepted, with only Vicente Guerrero in the south and Guadalupe Victoria and Nicolás Bravo in Veracruz remaining in active rebellion. The viceroy also reversed the harsh policies of Calleja and ordered that in no circumstances were rebel prisoners to be summarily shot.
He banned the flying of kites (as a safety measure, because they were generally flown from rooftops). He closely reviewed the public accounts, finding that Calleja had kept them accurately and carefully. He paid off the public debt, stopped relying on loans to fund the government, and relied instead only on the customs duties, taxes and other fees due the government. He revived the commercial and mining sectors of the economy, insofar as that was possible in a time of war.
On April 17, 1817, Spanish liberal Francisco Javier Mina and 308 volunteers arrived at Soto la Marina, Nuevo Santander, from London and New Orleans. Mina issued a manifesto saying he was not fighting against Spain, but rather against the tyranny of King Ferdinand VII and to restore the constitutional regime. On May 24 his troops began a march into the interior to join with rebels under Pedro Moreno at Fuerte del Sombrero, northeast of Guanajuato. Apodaca sent a strong column against Mina and his allies, under the command of Field Marshal Pascual Liñán. After active fighting, Liñán killed Moreno and took Mina prisoner at the Rancho del Venadito, near Silao on October 27. Mina was executed by firing squad on November 11. As the result of this action, the viceroy received the title of Conde de Venadito, which provoked much ridicule. Once again it looked as though the insurrection might be over.
The United States and Britain, which after the Napoleonic Wars were no longer war-time allies of Spain, and France were all interested in the commercial advantages they would gain by supporting the rebels in the Spanish possessions. Spanish agenets received news was received that Britons Thomas Cochrane and Wilson were preparing an expedition against New Spain, and that Mexican insurgents in New York had bought a gunboat, which they based in Matagorda Bay to attack coastal trading in the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, Apodaca was given instructions to redouble the vigilance on the coasts. The insurgents managed to capture an armed trading ship from Veracruz and executed the captain. American William Robinson managed to occupy Altamira and Tampico, hoping to give new impetus to the revolution, but Robinson was taken prisoner in Tampico and sent to Cádiz. He escaped to Gibraltar, with the assistance of the British. Later, Spain and the United States signed the Adams-Onís Treaty on February 22, 1819. The treaty established boundaries between the United States and New Spain, which had been in dispute since the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. obtained Florida and renounced its claim to Texas. Spain renounced its claim to the Oregon Country.
The previous viceroy, Calleja, had established a fort in the old tobacco warehouse in Mexico City, named La Ciudadela. Apodaca converted it into a storehouse for arms and munitions, but these were slowly being pilfered. He ordered Brigadier Francisco Novella to take charge of La Ciudadela and stop the thievery. Novella considered that task beneath his dignity, and was able to enlist the support of the Audiencia. The incident made Novella an enemy of Ruiz de Apodaca, and it was Novella who later deposed and replaced him in 1821.
The Plan de Iturbide
On January 1, 1820, Colonel Rafael de Riego rose in rebellion in Andalusia, Spain, demanding the restoration of the Constitution of 1812. Ferdinand VII was forced to reinstate the constitution on March 9, 1820 in Spain and all of the Spanish possessions. When the order arrived in New Spain, Apodaca delayed its publication pending the outcome of secret negotiations being carried out in the church of La Profesa. On March 7, 1821, the negotiators agreed on a declaration of independence for New Spain, accompanied by an offer to Ferdinand VII to rule as an absolute monarch, without mention of a constitution.
For this plan to succeed, the support of the military was necessary. To that end, the viceroy chose General Agustín de Iturbide to represent the cabal, at the same time freeing him from a court case involving accusations of misbehavior at El Bajío. The plan, ironically as it turned out, became known as the Plan de Iturbide. Iturbide had been given command of royalist troops in the south of the country on November 9, 1820. In the meantime Apodaca instituted the Constitution of 1812 on May 31, 1820.
The Plan de Iguala
In pursuit of his own ambitions, Iturbide corresponded with and then met with the insurgent general he was sent to fight, Vicente Guerrero on February 10, 1821. The two of them agreed to declare the independence of Mexico. This agreement was announced March 2, 1821, in the town of Iguala in the present state of Guerrero.
This agreement became known as the Plan de Iguala. It invited Viceroy Ruiz de Apodaca to become leader of the independence movement. The viceroy rejected the offer, and declared Iturbide a traitor and an outlaw. He sent troops against him, but everywhere the troops rebelled and went over to Iturbide. Lieutenant Colonel Antonio López de Santa Anna, for example, endorsed the Plan de Iguala in Xalapa on May 29, 1821.
The overthrow of Ruiz de Apodaca
The royalists, led by Brigadier Buceli, declared Apodaca inept and deposed him on July 5, 1821. Ruiz was sent to Spain to face charges, but he was absolved and returned to duty. He was captain general of the Spanish navy at the time of his death in 1835.
Apodaca in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, is named for him.
General Francisco Novella was made interim viceroy until the arrival of Ruiz de Apodaca's replacement, Superior Political Chief Juan O'Donojú, a short time later. The 300-year rule of Mexico by Spain was nearly at an end.
Notes and references
- García Puron, Manuel, México y sus gobernantes, v. 1. Mexico City: Joaquín Porrua, 1984.
- Orozco L., Fernando, Fechas Históricas de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1988, ISBN 968-38-0046-7.
- Orozco Linares, Fernando, Gobernantes de México. Mexico City: Panorama Editorial, 1985, ISBN 968-38-0260-5.