-century patriot and poet José Martí, rebel leader Ernesto “Che” Guevara, to whom Cuba gave special citizenship, and Fidel Castro, whose image will always be that of the bearded rebel shaking his fist impetuously at Yankee imperialism.It is no coincidence that Cuba has also been in the crosshairs of more than one imperial power almost since the Spanish first colonized the island in 1492. occupation and intervention during the first years of the 20 century compromised Cuba’s newly acquired independence.
This rejection of Spain led some Cubans, and especially the middle class, to look the United States as a better model, rather than rejecting imperial relations altogether. In 1823, John Quincy Adams, in a letter to the American Minister of Spain, articulated what would come to be known as the “ripe fruit” policy, citing “laws of political as well as of physical gravitation” that made Cuba’s separation from Spain and its union with the United States inevitable. offers to buy the island often worked alongside the logic of the ripe fruit theory.
century, the newly independent United States had moved quickly from colony to imperial power with particular designs on Cuba. Proponents of a union argued that while Spanish tyranny had done nothing to enlighten the Cuban people in the ways of civilization and religion, Cuba would benefit from a union based both on the common interests of the two countries and the superiority of the United States. Representative argued in 1852, the annexation of Cuba meant slavery would be “extended and strengthened in the United States.” Advocate of annexation and Governor of Mississippi John Anthony Quitman argued that the destinies so intertwined that if the government did not act to annex Cuba, individual Americans should, and he advocated and prepared, but never carried out, an invasion of the island in 1854. In 1854, the United States’s Ostend Manifesto offered Spain $120 million for Cuba.
It also meant that conflict between imperial powers often produced new anti-imperial actors.
Though a peace treaty returned the entire island to Spanish rule in 1763, the occupation had a number of lasting effects.
Given the legacy of the Haitian Revolution and abolitionist movements throughout the Caribbean, the Manifesto also put forth the possibility that it might become necessary in the future to wrest the island away from Spain if it did not agree to sell: We should, however, be recreant in our duty, be unworthy of our gallant forefathers, and commit basic treason against our posterity should we permit Cuba to be Africanised and become a second San Domingo, with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our neighboring shores, the fair fabric of our nation.
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Acquisition was thus presented as both inevitable and necessary to save the region and Cuba from being “Africanised,” which referred not to the presence of Afro-descendent people (annexation was meant to preserve slavery, after all), but instead to their emancipation and equality, which, as the Haitian Revolution suggested, would come at the expense of white lives, white authority, and white privilege.Inspired by France’s purchase of Louisiana from Spain, Thomas Jefferson offered to buy Cuba in 1808, when fluctuating world sugar prices made Cuba a particularly desirable acquisition. For advocates of this union, nowhere were common interests clearer than in the area of slavery. Though the Manifesto lost backing when the Democrats lost control of Congress that same year, its position represented the continuing annexationist sentiment in the United States.Aware that a popular revolution in Spain was gaining momentum, the United States hinted that Spanish refusal to acknowledge the inevitable meant losing not just Cuba but remuneration for it.While sugar monoculture brought modernization and prosperity, even its beneficiaries were frustrated with unwanted taxes by Spain and continued attempts to monopolize trade and public office.Moreover, many white planters blamed discussions about slavery in the Spanish Cortes in the early 19 century for slave rebellions on the island.Recognizing and identifying this dynamic, however, has not necessarily provided anti-imperialist movements with an easy way to escape from this dependence.Cuban nationalists both in Cuba and abroad have long negotiated these various imperialisms and struggled, with varying degrees of success, to maintain a purely anti-imperialist position.Making an analysis of imperialism even more complicated, these same imperial powers have made use of the rhetoric of anti-imperialism for imperial ends.At the same time, while anti-imperialist movements have used anti-imperialist rhetoric, in practice, anti-imperialist struggles in Cuba have looked less to disassociate themselves entirely from all imperial power and instead have focused on producing results that weaken empire, as a logic of European dominance and capitalist expansion, more generally.First, any particular imperialism operates in conjunction with other imperialisms, such that even when ostensibly at odds, they can they can in fact enable one another, both unintentionally and intentionally, since their interests are served not just by the maintenance of their empire, but by empire more generally.In 19-century Cuba, even if one or another imperial state was actually controlling the island through direct colonial rule, other forms of imperial control often operated simultaneously and often rival imperial states privileged empire in general over their own specific imperial interests. form, operates not just through control of a nation state’s land, labor, raw materials, capital and markets, but also through the colonization of domestic struggles, which, in the case of Cuba, have had to rely in one way or another on some imperial power (as a place of exile, economic support, or markets).