FFE Magazine

Today in Philippine hiStory: Spain surrenders to America

updated300It’s amazing how a simple document or paper can affect our life. For example, there’s our birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, our criminal records. There’s our bio-date and the contracts, under which we sign. More than a century ago, a similar document changed the fate of the Philippines. What made this document more scandalous was the fact that our ancestors never even knew about its existence.

I’m talking about the document that allowed Spain to step out of a war and America to claim a new turf in the Pacific; the paper that, basically, sold us out to another super power. This is the Treaty of Paris, and the date I have in mind is 10 December 1898.

 

Grab a chair, settle back with a cup of warm coffee or tea to keep the cold out, and listen…

 

Spain and the United States: what was going on between the two?

 

The Spanish-American relationship began in another island-nation almost similar to the Philippines in another side of the world: Cuba.

 

República de Cuba in the Caribbean island chain was known for its strong sugar industry and, well, its slaves. Cuba was colonised by the Spanish Empire round about the time the Philippines was, and they were occupied pretty much the same way we were. The huge difference was that a growing world power with interests in expansion was just a boat-ride away to its north, the United States of America.

 

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered the New World, was also responsible for invading Cuba in the name of the Spanish Empire

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered the New World, was also responsible for invading Cuba in the name of the Spanish Empire

 

America has long been eyeing Cuba. I am specifically pertaining to the southern States where the farming industry was the lifeline and where slaves were precious commodities. Africa has long been a key source of slaves for the Confederate States of America, but just think as an entrepreneur for a moment. Surely, a closer source of commodities means fewer expenses for delivery.

 

Slaves working with cotton. John W. Jones’ art inspired by Confederacy bills

Slaves working with cotton. John W. Jones’ art inspired by Confederacy bills

 

Even though America settled its issue with slavery through a Civil War, its interest in Cuba didn’t diminish. Why, now that they were a consolidated country, what’s stopping them from looking beyond their shores? With their long influence in Cuban economic and political affairs, it was simply a matter of taking Spain out of the equation. One mysterious event helped spark just that.

 

Spanish-American War

 

In Cuba, as in the Philippines, revolution was ripe in the air as of the 1800s. With impending war in the region, America was right to think about the safety of its sea routes in the region. Giving in to pressure inside and outside the country, and since America had the money, American president William McKinley offered to buy Cuba for $300m. But this offer was turned down. This wasn’t what caused the war — it was a ship, the USS Maine.

 

uss

USS Maine

 

The USS Maine was the American Navy’s baby. She was the country’s biggest ship to date, the Navy’s second commissioned battleship, and she served as America’s muscle at sea versus drifting European ships the growing naval forces of Latin America. Her launching changed the face of America’s navy fleet.

 

On January 1898 she was ordered to head to Havana, Cuba to protect America’s interests as Cuba fought for its independence from Spain. Three weeks after the order, on 15 February 1898, America’s most prized possession exploded, sending the country’s Navy fleet on their knees. The result was war.

 

A newspaper with the headline ‘Destruction of the war ship Maine was the work of an enemy.’ The public didn’t take long to put two and two together thanks to sensationalist newspapers

A newspaper with the headline ‘Destruction of the war ship Maine was the work of an enemy.’ The public didn’t take long to put two and two together thanks to sensationalist newspapers

 

The cause of the explosion had been connected to the Spanish antagonism, although the real reason has always been a mystery. But this uncertainty did not stop American sentiment to be very hostile. On 21 April that year, the US Navy started a blockade of Cuba.

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