Education and Imperialism at the Turn of the Century

Puerto Rico and Cuba, 1898–1930
  • Victoria-María MacDonald


American victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 launched the United States into the role of imperial power. American support for Cuban independence from Spain initially brought the U.S. military to the Caribbean in 1898. When the U.S. Maine battleship blew up in the Havana harbor, killing over two hundred U.S. servicemen, Congress authorized war against Spain. The intervention to free Cuba from the “tyranny” of Spanish colonialism expanded to include Spain’s Pacific colonies. The Treaty of Paris in December 1899 concluded the brief war and established the United States as an imperial world power.2 According to the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the United States acquired the Philippine Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Cuba itself was protected from outright acquisition in the 1898 Teller Amendment, which authorized the president to intervene in Cuba but did not grant him the power to establish rule over the island.3 In return, Spain received 20 million dollars. The treaty also guaranteed religious freedom in the new territories, but the U.S. Congress held the power to determine the “legal, civil and political status” of the newly acquired peoples.4 The former Spanish subjects of Puerto Rico and Cuba thus found themselves transferred from one imperial power to another.


English Language Instruction PUERTO RICO Imperial Power Regular Teacher Woman Teacher 
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    Quoted in Louis A. Pérez, The War of 1898: The U.S. and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), p. 112.Google Scholar
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© Victoria-María MacDonald 2004

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  • Victoria-María MacDonald

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