Thursday, September 13, 2012

Santa Anna's Chewing Gum

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, or just Santa Anna, was the on again off again military leader and president of Mexico in the mid 1800's. OK, you all remember the Alamo, right? Well he was the Mexican general that totally wailed on the Texans and took the Alamo. After the fact he executed over two-hundred prisoners and did basically the same thing at Goliad. This embittered the Texas soldiers who finally defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto. The Texans found Santa Anna hiding in a trench and forced him to sign Texas away from Mexico, making it a sovereign nation (yes, Texas was its own country for nine years). Mexico City claimed that Santa Anna was not president anymore and therefore the treaty was null and void. This eventually led to the Mexican-American War, but I'll get to that soon. Santa Anna was exiled for his failure and spent some time in America. It was only when the French tried to force Mexico to pay them did the country plea for Santa Anna to come back. Santa Anna fought bravely in the Pastry War and for his troubles he lost a leg. He worked his way back into politics due to his rekindled hero status and became president again. Then he made a lot of bad decisions and had to step down because he feared for his life. He was captured and his life spared, though he was exiled in Cuba. Then, America decided to pick a fight with Mexico over the disputed land of Texas and Mexico again needed its military leader. Anna took over again as military leader and tried unsuccessfully to fend of the American forces. He was once again exiled and this time, it stuck.

Fast forward to 1866 where Santa Anna is living in Staten Island, NY. Sounds funny already, right? Since when does America let it's old enemy leaders just hang out in their country? Well, at that time he was 72, and no one really thought of him a threat anymore. Santa Anna apparently didn't grasp the English language very well because he required the services of an interpreter named James Adams. Adams noticed that the old general would constantly cut slices from an unknown tropical vegetable and place the pieces in his mouth. He was told by the general that the vegetable was called "chicle." Santa Anna left New York later that year and when he did, he granted Adam's request to gain his stock of chicle. Adams then began experimenting with the substance, adding different sweetening agents to bolster the flavor. Soon he had "invented" chewing gum. When Adams introduced his new product to the American public, he found a willing and hungry market. Adams went on to found the Adams Chewing Gum Company, the company that came out with the original Chiclets. Adam's company is now owned by Cadbury. So, in a weird way, we might not have had our many varieties of chewing gum had it not been for a crazy multi-deposed military dictator.