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.
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.
-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.
Most significantly, its multiple wars of independence from Spain took place in the second half of the 19 century long after most former Spanish colonies in the Americas had gained their independence and when the United States began to assert its own imperial ambitions. The 1959 revolution promised to finally break from this legacy, but it took place in the context of a rise of the Soviet Union, which, while socialist, was not without its own imperial tendencies.
This history illustrates the complex workings of imperialism, which exercises direct control over a country’s economic, social and political spheres, but also over its ideologies, laws and domestic struggles, and often in the context of multiple imperialisms.
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.