Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research

By Louis A. Pérez Jr. | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Intervention and Collaboration: The Politics of Cuban Independence, 1898-1899

As the battleship Maine steamed toward Havana harbor in February 1898, insurgents in Cuba prepared to commemorate the third anniversary of the renewed war for independence--a struggle launched first in 1868 and thereafter continuing intermittently in various parts of the island. By 1898 Cubans had fought nearly thirty years against Spain for the independence of the island.1

If an appeal to arms as the means of independence enjoyed general endorsement among Cuban patriots, the precise meaning of independence had failed to achieve comparable consensus within insurgent ranks. Beyond a commonly shared notion that independence involved at the very least separation from Spain, the final structure of Cuba Libre remained vaguely if not often incompatibly defined by the various sectors of the separatist movement.

For many separatists, independence from Spain signified the preliminary act of a larger drama in which Cuba would ultimately find fulfillment in union with the United States. Indeed, for the better part of the first decade of the thirty-year struggle, annexationist sentiment occupied a position of central importance within the body of separatist thought.2 Annexation received most support from patrician separatists, creoles for whom it offered the most practical resolution of contradictions arising from Cuba's growing economic dependence on the United States while it remained politically dependent on Spain. Detecting in the social and racial heterogeneity of the Liberation Army the sources of

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