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A History of US-Cuban Relations (1700-1959)

Just 90 miles off the coast of Florida lies the nation of Cuba.  Beginning in the 1700's, the United States and Cuba forged an illicit solid trade partnership, so as to avoid colonial taxes, which benefited both parties.  In fact, in the late 1700's, Cuba was producing 25% of the world's sugar, and the U.S. was a natural market as it had no sugar market to meet such demand.  The US soon became the dominate trade partner with Cuba in the later 19th century, and Cuba accounting for 10% of the nation’s imports.

 All the while, the US had always had its eye on annexing Cuba one way or another.  For example, a letter to the Minister of Spain from Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1823 described that the likelihood of a U.S. annexing Cuba as extremely likely, for when Spanish connections inevitably dissolve, Cuba would graviate to the U.S.  Two years prior, Thomas Jefferson noted that Cuba could be "the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States".  In 1898, President William McKinley offered $300 to buy Cuba after rebel insurrection against the Spanish.  This, coupled with the sinking of the USS Maine, led McKinley and US Congress to declare was on Spain on April 25, 1898, without recognizing the rebel government in Cuba.  The US had lost faith in Spain to control the island nation, though it did not want to recognize guerilla forces.  US navy smashed the antiquated Spanish navy.  Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt's political career was forged in the war with his heroism at San Jaun Hill.  On May 20, 1902, Cuba achieved formal independence.

Despite Cuban independence, the United States became fully involved in Cuban politics and economics. Two early examples of this are in 1909 Jose Miguel Gomez becomes president after US-supervised elections and in 1912 when the US forces return to Cuba to put down Afro-Cuban revolts against discrimination.

Before Castro's revolution in 1959, American tourists viewed Cuba a haven for "illicit pleasure and risqué amusements.  Cuba was not a country to be taken seriously" (Perez Jr, 2002).  Only a 30 minute plane ride from Miami, Cuba was a honeymooner's destination, a gambler's paradise, and a haven for the mafia and those needing to flee the country. It was also a place of great adventure. The great American writer Ernest Hemingway called Cuba home from 1939 to 1960, its tropical paradise influenced many of his great works.  But as Fidel Castro's rebels gained momentum in the mid 50's, all of this would change forever.

A History of US-Cuban Relations (1700-1959)