The Myth of José Martí: Conflicting Nationalisms in Early Twentieth-Century Cuba

By Lillian Guerra | Go to book overview

SIX
Perceiving Populism in a
U.S. Imperial Context
The Paradox of Popular Nationalist
Struggles, 1906–1909

ON THE EVENING OF JUNE 6, 1907, several U.S. soldiers joined a large crowd of Cubans for an open-air concert in Cienfuegos’s Central Park. Nearly a year had passed since Liberal Party leaders launched a massive armed movement against the authoritarian state of Tomás Estrada Palma and the United States initiated a second military intervention in October 1906. With the help of 5,600 U.S. soldiers and 1,000 marines, Teddy Roosevelt’s administration had successfully installed Charles Magoon, a federal judge, as provisional governor of Cuba. By the summer of 1907, the outward appearance of social peace reigned over the island while inward turmoil bubbled just beneath the surface. For leaders of the Liberal Party who had demanded free elections and Moderates who had repressed them less than a year before, the business of resolving disputes over the nature of any future Cuban state and the character of the nation it served remained unfinished. Additionally, widespread anxiety over the implications that a renewed U.S. occupation might hold gripped Cuba’s popular nationalists. Listening to music in Cienfuegos that evening, concertgoers collectively expressed the frustration that percolated through Cuban society by showing a picaresque sense of humor in the face of political adversity. As one U.S. officer later reported, “On the Plaza last evening, the Cuban [municipal] band was playing on the ground, and there were a few [U.S.] soldiers listening to the concert. In the interval between pieces a member of the band took from his pocket a small United States flag, flirted it

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