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Spanish-American War: Interpretation 2

Louis Pérez

The War of 1898

Historian Louis Pérez provides an alternate perspective on the conflict of 1898. He points out that even calling the conflict the “Spanish-American” war excludes the place of Cubans. Rather, he would like to consider the war in the context of a global system, which includes a careful assessment of Cuban sources. Though the United States went to war behind a rhetoric that supported the Cuba Libre cause, domination of the island had long been a key to U.S. national security and interests. The leaders of the Cuban independence movement and their followers made decisive contributions to the war effort and the health and welfare of the U.S. soldiers, yet their contributions were dismissed by the U.S. military command. The Cubans were completely excluded from the negotiations that brought the war to an end. Thus, the Cuba independence movement became obscured and eventually thwarted by larger U.S. national goals and a policy that made "stability" a qualification for Cuban self-determination. The Platt Amendment ensured continued U.S. survaiillence over Cuban affairs. Pérez argues that the erasure of Cuban contributions to the war effort and of their claims to self-determination were key to the successful implementation of U.S. domination, and to the writing of that history. The result is a mainstream historiography that fails to recognize the U.S. involvement in the war as part of long-standing foreign policy goals and that fails to consider the essential place of the Cubans and their interests.

Louis A. Pérez, Jr., The War of 1898: the United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (University of North Carolina Press, 1998).