Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research

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

Chapter 3
The Imperial Design: Politics and Pedagogy in Occupied Cuba, 1899-1902

The education of a child of a small country [by] a people of an opposite character and
of superior wealth could make the child opposed to his native country where he must
apply his education--or lead him to the worst and most shameful human misfortune:
the scorn of his own people.

-- José Martí, 1892

January 1, 1899, noon: The ceremony in Havana was brief but solemn. The Spanish flag was lowered, and the U.S. flag raised. And after nearly a century of covetous preoccupation with the island, the United States assumed formal possession of Cuba.

It was not an unqualified possession. Nine months earlier, in a moment of precipitous selflessness, in an instant when Congress blurred the distinction between the virtue of the Cuban struggle for independence and the vision of North American national interests, the United States forswore all intention of imperial aggrandizement. "The people of the island of Cuba," the Joint Resolution of Congress proclaimed solemnly, "are and of right ought to be free and independent." But this was not all. The fourth clause of the Joint Resolution, the Teller Amendment, added purposefully: "The United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said island except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the island to its people."1

-35-

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