The Purposes of Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Cuba and Hawai'i

The Purposes of Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Cuba and Hawai'i

The Purposes of Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Cuba and Hawai'i

The Purposes of Paradise: U.S. Tourism and Empire in Cuba and Hawai'i

Synopsis

For half a century, the United States has treated Cuba and Hawai'i as polar opposites: despised nation and beloved state. But for more than a century before the Cuban revolution and Hawaiian statehood of 1959, Cuba and Hawai'i figured as twin objects of U.S. imperial desire and as possessions whose tropical island locales might support all manner of fantasy fulfillment--cultural, financial, and geopolitical.

Using travel and tourism as sites where the pleasures of imperialism met the politics of empire, Christine Skwiot untangles the histories of Cuba and Hawai'i as integral parts of the Union and keys to U.S. global power, as occupied territories with violent pasts, and as fantasy islands ripe with seduction and reward. Grounded in a wide array of primary materials that range from government sources and tourist industry records to promotional items and travel narratives, The Purposes of Paradise explores the ways travel and tourism shaped U.S. imperialism in Cuba and Hawai'i. More broadly, Skwiot's comparative approach underscores continuity, as well as change, in U.S. imperial thought and practice across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Comparing the relationships of Cuba and Hawai'i with the United States, Skwiot argues, offers a way to revisit assumptions about formal versus informal empire, territorial versus commercial imperialism, and direct versus indirect rule.

Excerpt

Nowadays, Cuba and Hawai‘i seem worlds apart. Beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, eight successive presidential administrations regarded Fidel Castro and the Cuba he heads as the archenemy of the United States and antithesis of all things for which the nation stands. in stark contrast, these same administrations and most mainland citizens have viewed Hawai‘i as their “Aloha State” of love and affection and their nation’s own South Seas paradise. the present circumstances of Cuba and Hawai‘i and the ways U.S. citizens think about them render them so dissimilar as to seem incomparable. But for more than a century before the Cuban revolution and Hawaiian statehood of 1959, these islands figured as twin objects of U.S. desire, as possessions whose tropical island locales might support all manner of utopias, as necessary additions to the imperial republic, and as keys to the global projection of its power. Cuba and Hawai‘i occupied the same position or analogous places in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the mental and material geography of a U.S. empire in which they were contemporaries and neighbors between 1898 and 1959. Only after 1959 did the connected histories and what many saw as the shared destinies of Cuba and Hawai‘i come to seem so impossibly different.

This exploration of the ways travel and tourism reciprocally shaped U.S. imperialism in Cuba and Hawai‘i sheds new light on the forces responsible for this divergence and for divergence as well as persistence in U.S. imperial thought and practice. Travel writers and tourism promoters from all three places collaborated with a wide variety of imperial and anti-imperial agents to imagine and debate, perform and transform, contest and protest the place of Cuba and Hawai‘i in the U.S. imperium. Although especially focused on the period between 1898, when the United States took control of them, and 1959, when they respectively achieved revolution and secured statehood, this story begins in the early nineteenth century in order to trace the ways that century’s dreams and policies shaped twentieth-century . . .

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