Cuba


Cuba
   The largest island of the Greater Antilles is located at the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Between 1511 and 1899, Cuba was part of Spain’s overseas colonial empire. During the nineteenth century, Cubans repeatedly struggled for independence of their island from the increasingly oppressive imperial center. The resulting Ten Years’ War (1868–1878) produced limited political reforms but caused widespread destruction and damage to foreign, in particular American investments. Beginning in the 1820s, the United States had become a powerful commercial and cultural presence on the island and replaced Spain by mid-century as Cuba’s most important trading partner with powerful investments in sugar, coffee, tobacco, iron ore and copper, railroads, telegraphs, and public utilities. This bilateral relationship, described by President William McKinley as “ties of singular intimacy,” held special significance for both sides: Americans were attracted to Cuba for geostrategic and commercial reasons. Many regarded the island as a “natural appendage” to the United States and several administrations since the presidency of James Madison made repeated unsuccessful attempts to purchase the island from Spain. Many Cubans were equally attracted to American political freedoms, economic power, and popular culture, whereas others feared domination by the United States. The annexationists hoped to defend their own social and political status through further integration with the United States; the interventionists worked for ultimate independence after a transitional period of U.S. control; the nationalists were repelled by North American contempt for Hispanic culture and wanted complete independence from Spain and the United States.
   Cuban rejection of Spanish rule resulted in two wars. Whereas the Ten Year’s War prompted tightened Spanish rule, the Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898) culminated with the U.S. intervention of 1898, ended Spanish colonial rule in 1899, and enabled the creation of a semi-sovereign Cuban Republic in 1902. The reasons for American military intervention of 1898 that resulted in the Spanish-American War, dubbed “the splendid little war” by Ambassador John Hay, encompassed public outrage over the brutal oppression of the Cuban population, in particular the strategy of forced removals, reconcentrado, initiated by General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau; the fear of geostrategic instability in the Caribbean; the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor, blamed on Spanish sabotage; and the desire to protect American commercial investments.
   As the Teller Amendment to the U.S. declaration of war prohibited annexation and limited military occupation to Cuba’s pacification, Americans developed alternative strategies for continued effective control over the island. The military occupation ended in 1902 after American troops had disbanded the Cuban revolutionary army, worked on infrastructure improvements, and laid the foundations for health and educational reforms. Through the Platt Amendment of 1901, which became part of the Cuban constitution, and the U.S.-Cuban Treaty of 1903, the United States reserved intervention rights, control over Cuban foreign and economic affairs, and base rights at Guantánamo Bay. Between 1906 and 1909, Cuba, which had effectively become a U.S. protectorate, was again placed under American military occupation with additional military interventions in 1912 and 1917.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898.
    Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999;
    Hernández, José M. Cuba and the United States: Intervention and Militarism, 1868-1933. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993;
    Pérez, Louis A., Jr. The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998;
    Pérez, Louis A., Jr. Cuba and the United States: Ties of Singular Intimacy. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997;
    Pérez, Louis A., Jr. Cuba under the Platt Amendment, 1902-1934. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986.
   FRANK SCHUMACHER

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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