Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research

By Louis A. Pérez Jr. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 15
La Guerra Libertadora Cubana de los Treinta Años, 1868-1898: Research Prospects

The climax of the Cuban wars of liberation obscured the antecedents. El Caney, Daiquirí, Siboney, and San Juan Hill eclipsed Mal Tiempo, Mantua, Cacarajícara, and Guáimaro. Cuba's Thirty Years' War became the "splendid little war" of the United States. "It wasn't much of a war," Theodore Roosevelt resigned himself, "but it was the best war we had."1

When the smoke cleared in August 1898, the North Americans came to a startling conclusion: the Cubans had played no part in the defeat of Spain. "While the freedom of Cuba was being decided under their very eyes," one North American correspondent wrote, "they stood by inefficient, inactive. The rewards were theirs, but the Americans made the sacrifice. By the blood of Americans the victories were won."2 Theodore Roosevelt agreed: "They accomplished literally nothing, while they were a source of trouble and embarrassment."3

The conclusions had far-reaching and immediate policy implications and in part served to justify three decades of tutelage under the regimen of the Platt Amendment. But they also had wide-ranging and lasting consequences. Two generations of historians subsequently agreed and conferred upon policy constructs of 1898 an enduring historiographical legitimacy. The literature of the Spanish-American War, as the conflict became known, corroborated the official version of the war. Indeed, the very name of the war lent credence to the proposition that Cubans had played no part in the defeat of Spain.

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