Essays on Cuban History: Historiography and Research

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

Chapter 4
North American Protestant Missionaries in Cuba and the Culture of Hegemony, 1898-1920

The exercise of U.S. hegemony in Cuba has long constituted the single most salient theme in the historiography of U. S.-Cuban relations. It perhaps could not have been otherwise, for almost from the origins of this literature scholars have understood the inexorable dynamic of relations between two countries so near but so vastly unequal in size, population, and resources. That North American hegemony was the central element of U.S.-Cuban relations is almost nowhere disputed. Not all agree, of course, that the North American presence in Cuba was entirely baneful, or even slightly inappropriate. But few dispute the proposition that the United States did indeed dominate Cuba, in varying degrees, through a variety of means, for much of the twentieth century.

The historical literature is rich with recurring variations of this theme, all of which share in common the central motif of U.S. hegemony.1 It includes armed intervention and military occupation,2 diplomatic and political meddling,3 and economic penetration and dependency.4

Not as well studied, however, and less understood are the means through which North American influences expanded from within--that is, the ways ideological constructs, behavioral norms, and cultural values were transmitted, adapted, and otherwise legitimized from inside Cuba. Certainly the exercise of political control and the use of military force served as a powerful means by which North Americans obtained some measure of Cuban acquiescence. No doubt, too, U.S. control over property and economic resources had similar effects and acted as a

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