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Occupied Cuba, 1898-1902: Photographs from the Theodore Roosevelt Collection

May 12, 2015—The third and final war of Cuban independence from Spain ended in 1898, but the end of the fighting only gave rise to a new kind of turbulence. From that year until the Cuban republic was proclaimed in 1902, the United States governed the island nation. Occupied Cuba, on exhibit at Pusey Library, brings together some documentary photographs of that time.


The Occupied Cuba exhibit

The materials for the exhibition were gathered from Houghton Library’s Theodore Roosevelt Collection. His Rough Riders regiment was raised for the Spanish-American war, as the third Cuban independence war was known.

Governor's Palace

At the close of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States took over the governance of Cuba. Havana was the political and financial hub of the country as well as the seat of the government. Here, the Governor’s Palace surrounded by US troops and topped with an American flag. (View in VIA)

Gen. Wood at work in his office

The first military governor appointed to Cuba was John Ruller Brooke, a veteran of the recent Spanish-American War. He served only a year (1899). Following him was Leonard Wood, a Harvard graduate and former commander of the Rough Riders. Wood served first as governor of Santiago (1898), then all of Cuba (1899-1902). As military governor of the city and province of Santiago, Wood instituted changes in city sanitation, improved medical, educational, and legal policies, and funded public works improvements. (View in VIA)

Santiago Street

In 1898, Santiago de Cuba was the principal city of eastern Cuba and its second largest. Much of the US military action during the war happened in this eastern part of the island, and Santiago de Cuba was the first US-controlled area. Note the American flag raised over one of the houses. From a hand-colored lantern slide. (View in VIA)

Santiago from hill

During occupation, Santiago de Cuba was a city of about 40,000 people living in the approximately 6,000, mostly stuccoed, buildings. Its well-protected harbor had easy access to shipping lanes, making it a strategic port economically and militarily. (View in VIA)

Cuban refugee

Refugees began leaving Cuba even before the start of the fight for independence during the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878), establishing themselves in the US and Europe. Many Cubans settled in Florida, first Key West and then Tampa, Ocala, and Jacksonville. Amorita Perey, pictured, was from a community of Cubans outside Tampa. (View in VIA)

Martinez Cigar Factory, Ybor City

Cuban cigar manufacturers began to move operations to Florida to escape harsh US tariffs and often employed Cuban refugees. Here, an interior of a Florida cigar factory. Along the right-hand wall can be seen a raised platform on which would stand a factory reader, a tradition brought from Cuba. This reader would read news and literature to the factory workers while they rolled cigars. (View in VIA)

Cuban volunteers with a Cuban flag

Cuban refugees in the United States, roused by activists such as José Martí, made their way back to Cuba to fight in the War of Independence. These Cuban volunteers are preparing to travel with US soldiers as part of the Cuban campaign of the Spanish-American War. (View in VIA)