Cuba Gains Independence from the U.S.
When the United States drove Cuba’s cruel Spanish masters away by winning the Spanish-American War in 1898, the island’s people rejoiced: independence was at hand! A Cuban insurgency had been fighting for independence from Spain since 1895, and Americans had become increasingly upset with the harsh measures the Spanish military used to suppress the insurrection. But did the Americans really come as liberators?
Some historians say the Spanish-American War was an honorable affair, fought by altruistic Americans to free the oppressed Cubans from the yoke of Spanish colonization. Others say this was America’s foray into imperialism: its first war fought not to consolidate its holdings on the North American continent but rather to gain overseas possessions. Victory in the war turned over to the U.S. such Spanish possessions as Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Cuba did gain its independence, but not in 1898; not fully, in fact, until Jan. 28, 1909, when U.S. troops marched out of Havana and most of Cuba—retaining a foothold on the island by keeping the Guantanamo Bay naval base, which the U.S. still occupies today.
Cuba actually gained a tenuous independence on May 20, 1902, but American officials made sure that the new republic’s constitution guaranteed to the U.S. the right to intervene in Cuban affairs. America also controlled the republic’s foreign policy and its finances. Just four years later the U.S. used its intervention rights when there was a revolt against the American-approved president, Tomas Estrada Palma, in 1906. The U.S. re-occupied Cuba, appointed an American, Charles Edward Magoon, as provisional governor, and placed U.S. army officers in key governmental positions. The U.S. occupied and ran the country until Jose Miguel Gomez was elected president in the fall of 1908; American troops relinquished control on Jan. 28, 1909.
The following two newspaper articles are about Cuba gaining its independence. The first describes the inauguration of President Gomez. The second is an editorial anticipating that Cuba’s destiny is to become part of the United States. (Following the editorial is a list of related articles.)
This article was printed by the Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri) on the front page of its Jan. 28, 1909, issue:
Cuba’s New Fourth of July
A Second Natal Day Dawns for the Island Republic
Governor Magoon and the American Forces Marched out of Havana Today, Following the Inauguration of President Gomez
Havana, Jan. 28.—A new era of Cuban independence dawned today when the affairs of the island, which have been administered by American officials for more than two years as a result of the revolution against President Palma in 1906, were formally transferred to the newly elected island executives.
January 28 will hereafter take rank with May 20 as a natal holiday in Cuba, for it was on the latter day in 1902 that the island was first transferred to the Cuban people by the United States after a period of rehabilitation following the Spanish war.
The Celebration Began Last Night
The coming of this new day of Cuban liberty was signaled by a general display of fireworks, the screeching rockets and bombs sending down showers of golden rain and vari-colored lights. The streets of the city, which were brilliantly illuminated and garlanded with chains of incandescent bulbs, were thronged until an early hour this morning, and a carnival spirit everywhere prevailed. Thousands of persons gathered around the Clerks club throughout the night, where inaugural and farewell balls were held jointly in honor of President Gomez and Vice President Zayas and Governor General Magoon, all three of whom were recognized on entering the building and leaving it and loudly applauded. The balls constituted one of the most brilliant functions held here since the days of the Spanish occupation.
The ceremonies of today began almost with the dawn, and they will not end until long after nightfall.
The inaugural parade, in which only native troops, civil organizations and the rural guards participated, passed through El Prado, the main street of Havana, and under the magnificent triumphal arch erected in Monserrate square, facing Central park, and was reviewed by President Gomez.
When the Cuban Flag Was Raised
One of the first ceremonies of this morning was the placing of a wreath on the tablet marking the house in which Jose Marti, the Cuban patriot, was born. Next came the presentation of the new Cuban flag, which was raised on the flagstaff of the palace, marking the end of the American intervention.
The Cuban flag has flown throughout this period, the American civil governor and the American army officers detailed to supervise the various governmental departments having really served throughout as Cuban officials. The old flag will be sent to Washington and placed in the National museum.
General Gomez, who plotted against President Palma, and who was imprisoned by him for one month and released only when Mr. Taft, the Secretary of War, came to the island to settle the revolution of 1906, took the oath of office as president of the republic at noon. An hour later the provisional governor, Charles E. Magoon, and all the army officers who have served in an executive capacity were bound out of the harbor for home.
America Did Not Intervene
Jose Miguel Gomez goes into power as leader of the Liberal coalition party as result of the overwhelming choice of the Cuban people in the elections of last fall.
The Cubans always held it against President Palma that he was the choice of the American government. No such complaints can be made in the case of President Gomez, for the Americans studiously avoided anything savoring of advice or suggestion as to the candidates or the platform in the call for the last campaign.
When the United States government assumed control in Cuba it found the finances of the island so depleted that there was a deficiency of nearly 4 million dollars within a month after the provisional governor took charge. This deficit has been wiped out, all obligations paid, and there is a substantial balance in the treasury for the new government. Two large sanitary projects were undertaken during American occupation, involving the expenditure of 15 million dollars. These works were the sewering and paving of Havana and Cienfuegos. The American occupation restored the island to peace and prosperity, and the elections for the new government were conducted in an orderly manner. Brigandage was completely suppressed, due to the efficiency of the rural guard under American direction.
All of the laws which the peace commission of 1906 deemed indispensable have been either enacted or are now so far advanced in process of enactment that they will become laws with the inauguration of the new native government. Only two things remain to be done, in the opinion of Charles E. Magoon, the retiring governor, to insure a continuance of present conditions. They are to induce the large floating population of the island to settle down in permanent habitations, and to develop and expand industries so that a larger proportion of the inhabitants may obtain permanent employment and income for twelve months in the year.
This editorial was printed by the Idaho Daily Statesman (Boise, Idaho) on Jan. 28, 1909:
Then and Now
Eleven years ago Monday the gallant warship, the Maine, steamed into Havana harbor on what proved a fatal mission. On the 15th of February, 1898, it was blown up by Spanish treachery. At about the same hour the ill-fated Maine anchored in the Cuban harbor, the new Maine, last Monday, followed by the still later and more modern Mississippi, steamed into the harbor to the delight of the inhabitants. The new Maine saluted the pennant flying from the historic old fortress of Moro and was answered by the Cabanas battery from a nearby hill overlooking the harbor.
But there is a vast difference in conditions between the visits of the two Maines. Eleven years have wrought many changes. Then the power of Spain that had been going into an eclipse for more than a century was still supreme in Cuba and the Cuban people were engaged in a life and death struggle for liberty. The old Maine paid tribute in salute to the flag of Spain fluttering from the old fortress, while the new Maine hailed the symbol of the Cuban republic that arose by the aid of our nation out of the wreck of the long drawn out tyranny of Spain.
The salute of the new Maine spoke out right royally the joy American people feel that the power of Spain was at last broken and a new star in republics added to the bright galaxy of the centuries. The gallant contribution this nation made to aid the Cubans in establishing their republic, both in treasure and in the blood of some of our noblest and best, together with the more than parental and brooding care manifested toward the infant nation by our own in guidance and practical counsel, will for years be a distinct addition to our glory. It is in line with the ideals bequeathed by the founders of our government, and by and by, when the Cubans know more of what our government is and the vast and beautiful ideals that are still ours, when they have learned to know and love us and by experience and education have fitted themselves for such high estate, they may knock at the door to be welcomed into our sisterhood of states—and it is altogether likely the door will be thrown open wide for them. Then some new Maine in after years will salute, instead of the Cuban pennant, the silken folds of Old Glory.