Recently we looked at the announcement that America was restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opportunities this brings to the country, the region and the world. We viewed the history of a country that had a suppressive and turbulent past and laid the foundation for a great sovereign nation to free it from its’ colonial yoke. Unfortunately the freedom also provided a conduit for American crime and corruption to control a large amount of the government and thus lead to a revolution that would polarize relations with Cuba and America for half a century.
In 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed and among shot and fire America was born. Then in 1789 mighty France, a leading colonial power, had its’ government overthrown. A successful Haitian revolt in 1791 led to a feeling that freedom for Cuba could be achieved. In the early 1800s Spain granted and then removed liberties for the island. Revolution was ongoing in the Americas. Simon Bolivar gained freedom for what was to be called Bolivia. By 1823 Cuba was looking for America to annex it so that it could retain slavery which was still legal in the United States. This never happened but shows the roller coaster ride that Cuba was on as it teetered between suppression and freedom. By the 1860s two liberal minded Cuban governors were ultimately replaced with a more reactionary governor so once again the thoughts of liberty were again dashed.
Finally in the late 1890s all out revolution ignited. Then a twist took place in the fight for Cuban freedom. William Randolph Hearst was a powerful media mogul on the west coast. Joseph Pulitzer had a media empire in the east. The two were in constant battle to be the premier provider of news in America. A revolution ninety miles from American shores provided a platform to sensationalize the news and increase paper sales and sensationalize it did. One drawing in a Hearst paper depicted a women stripped on the deck of a Spanish ship being searched for contraband. Eventually it was disclosed that the drawing was false and the incident never happened but the effect was there. Loyalist in America defied American laws and sent arms and men to join the revolution. America had also secretively offered to purchase Cuba from Spain and annex it. This offer was turned down by Spain.
America saw the revolution in Cuba to be similar to the American Revolution. This was fueled by the newspapers and caused cries for war. As a show of force the United States sent the battleship U.S.S. Maine to Havana Harbor. One day the ship blew up while at anchor. President McKinley had kept America out of the war but even though it was not clear whether the explosion was a Cuban mine or a boiler explosion, congress declared war on Spain.
This provided an opportunity for one of the most dynamic leaders of the 20th century to emerge. Theodore Roosevelt led the charge up San Juan Hill and guaranteed his place in American history while winning the Congressional Medal of Honor.

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