Spanish-American War

A large crowd watches as troops leave for Cuba to fight in the Spanish-American War.

The Spanish American War was a conflicted that began late April of 1898 and end in early August of that same year; this conflict resulted in the Independence of Cuba from the Spanish with the United States being the other major participant.

This war originated in Cuba during its struggle for independence from Spain, which began around early 1895. The reason for Cuba’s insurgency against the Spanish involved the exploitation of labor and the colonization of their island for the benefit of Spain. But Spain wasn’t the only participant, the United States had major financial steaks invested in the island as well. When tensions were escalating between the pro-independence and the pro-occupation sides, the rebels sought to disrupt many of the lucrative businesses and wage war against properties that were owned by Spanish elites to hurt them where they would feel it. The destruction of sugarcane, sugar mills, and coffee farms affected not only the Spanish but also American backed businesses.

Cartoon depicting the grim reaper at a gravestone for soldiers from the Spanish-American War

This was a humanitarian plea for help, that caught the attention of the United States that become aware of the true horrors the Spanish were imposing on the Cuban natives. Many of the citizens of the island were forced unto re-concentration areas and camps that were meant to house and keep the masses under control, those that refused to allocate to new locations  around larger cities were labeled as enemies of the Spanish backed government. In these shelters there were not kept in adequate conditions for the residents, which lacked sufficient food, medical attention, and proper sanitation to provide for the people.

Theodore Roosevelt’s agenda during this time was to ensure that foreign European nations would no longer colonize and have control in regions located in the Western Hemisphere, especially those close to the  United States; As well as ensuring that the nation would solidify itself as the  dominant power in the region, capitalizing on the weaker ones in return for our “business” and “protection”. Many prominent government officials like Roosevelt saw this as an opportunity to get American’s to sympathize and fear the Spanish that were so close to home, and were oppressing a group of people that  sought to gain independence.

After some time of reporting on the status of the island and the chaos brought by the Spaniards, widespread demand for action and U.S. intervention became evident and grew during the months leading into the war. Cubans who became citizens pleaded for help, along with newspaper headlines, and other humanitarian reports were the major driving force for liberation of the Cuban people. This would later become one of the first major actions from America against a foreign nation after the establishment as a sovereign and independent country.

Roosevelt and the Rough Riders atop San Juan Hill, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War.