Cultural History of Cuba during the U.S. Occupation, 1898-1902

Cultural History of Cuba during the U.S. Occupation, 1898-1902

Cultural History of Cuba during the U.S. Occupation, 1898-1902

Cultural History of Cuba during the U.S. Occupation, 1898-1902

Synopsis

In this cultural history of Cuba during the United States' brief but influential occupation from 1898 to 1902--a key transitional period following the Spanish-American War--Marial Iglesias Utset sheds light on the complex set of pressures that guided the formation and production of a burgeoning Cuban nationalism.
Drawing on archival and published sources, Iglesias illustrates the process by which Cubans maintained and created their own culturally relevant national symbols in the face of the U.S. occupation. Tracing Cuba's efforts to modernize in conjunction with plans by U.S. officials to shape the process, Iglesias analyzes, among other things, the influence of the English language on Spanish usage; the imposition of North American holidays, such as Thanksgiving, in place of traditional Cuban celebrations; the transformation of Havana into a new metropolis; and the development of patriotic symbols, including the Cuban flag, songs, monuments, and ceremonies. Iglesias argues that the Cuban response to U.S. imperialism, though largely critical, indeed involved elements of reliance, accommodation, and welcome. Above all, Iglesias argues, Cubans engaged the Americans on multiple levels, and her work demonstrates how their ambiguous responses to the U.S. occupation shaped the cultural transformation that gave rise to a new Cuban nationalism.

Excerpt

Passing through Cuba’s cities and towns a little more than a century ago, a traveler would have noticed bright new street signs that bore the names of the country’s political and military heroes, for this was a time in Cuba when the mambises (Cuban Liberation Army combatants who fought in the nineteenth-century wars against Spain) had yet to be turned into statues in public parks or become characters in comic strips and children’s histories but were still persons of flesh and blood, a time when the War of Independence (1895– 98) was not simply a tale in a school textbook but a vivid reality, when José Martí’s metamorphosis into the “Apostle” had only recently happened, and when General Máximo Gómez still walked bolt upright through the streets of Havana, encountered by its residents as a living man, not just as the figure depicted on a ten-peso note.

It was a time in the country’s history when documents were signed with the words “Motherland and Freedom [Patria y Libertad]” rather than “Motherland or Death [Patria o Muerte],” when the anniversaries of 10 October and 24 February, which mark the beginning of the wars of liberation against Spain, were not just “nonwork” days or days denoted on the calendar, but genuinely popular, festive celebrations, complete with street music and dancing in communities across the island; a time when the “Bayamesa” was a fashionable tune, hummed or whistled in streets and public places; when décimas (a form of sung poetry) composed in honor of the Cuban flag filled the pages of popular songbooks, when the Cuban coat of arms was stitched onto the handkerchiefs young men gave their sweethearts, and when belt buckles, or brooches pinned in the hair or on the chest, were decorated with the “single star.”

In those days, too, the flag of the United States flew over the fortress of El Morro, and English had replaced Spanish as the official language employed in Cuban government offices. Furthermore, in what seemed like an instantaneous transformation, Havana’s barberías had become “barber shops,” and many of . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.